CAMDEN The Rutgers University School of Law-Camden has been fined for accepting students who took standardized graduate school tests other than the Law School Admission Test, the American Bar Association's accrediting arm announced Wednesday.
The LSAT is required under accreditation standards, unless a law school seeks a "variance" in advance to accept one of the other tests, such as the GRE or GMAT.
Rutgers-Camden has been fined $25,000, and a public censure document is posted on both the bar association's website and at the bottom of the law school's home page.
In a three-paragraph statement, the law school said it had violated procedural aspects of the bar association's standards.
"We were negligent in failing to seek a variance, regret and apologize for this procedural violation and accept the ABA censure as appropriate," the statement reads.
Between 2006 and 2012, the law school admitted dozens of students who took tests other than the LSAT. In 2009, the bar association sent a memo to all accredited law schools clarifying its policy requiring the LSAT, except with prior arrangement.
But Rutgers-Camden continued to admit students who did well on other tests. In October 2012, the law school applied for a variance from the LSAT requirement. The accreditation committee recommended it be granted, but the school voluntarily withdrew its application.
Over the six years, students accepted with non-LSAT tests made up an average of 6.7 percent of the first-year class, the bar association said; the lowest percentage was less than 1, and the highest was 9.58 percent.
That amounted to fewer than 80 students between 2006 and 2010, according to data compiled in an independent study for the school's 2012 variance application.
In its censure document, the bar association committee listed three explanations for the $25,000 fine: the benefit of admitting students without affecting reported LSAT scores, the law school's collection of data without being in compliance, and "the necessity to deter the law school and other law schools from disregarding the requirements of the standards."
The fine will go to the accrediting body's work on enforcing compliance with its standards.
A spokesman for the bar association said committee members were not available Thursday to discuss the sanctions.
Rayman Solomon, the dean of the law school, said most students admitted without LSAT scores had not considered law school until after the last LSAT registration date in May.
He said the acceptance of alternate tests was not intended to manipulate rankings, which often use LSAT scores, size of application pool, and size of the student body as criteria.
"It was not related to rankings at all. We reported every LSAT we had . . . we did this to round out the class, and to identify qualified people who decided to come to law school after the May registration, for the most part," Solomon said.
Solomon declined to comment on the censure document directly because the school had agreed to accept the sanctions.
The independent study prepared for the school found that the students accepted without LSAT scores were successful by such measures as grade point average, graduation rate, and passing the bar exam, Solomon said.
"The program, as designed and was implemented, was effective in identifying excellent students who graduated and were successful," he said, later adding that "the fact that they were successful in law school shows the benefit of the program to them."
Rutgers-Camden withdrew its application for a variance before it could be granted, Solomon said, because the school is preparing to merge with the law school at Rutgers-Newark. The Newark school does not accept tests other than the LSAT, he said.
"There's too many moving parts with the merger. Newark wasn't doing this . . . there was just too much going on," Solomon said.
"That doesn't mean, two years from now, after the merger is completed, we won't sit down as a combined law school . . ." he said. "We would get permission first, officially."