October 24, 2003
Lani Guinier to Deliver Thomas Lecture, Oct. 31
Lani Guinier '74, the Bennett Boskey Professor at Harvard Law School, will deliver the James A. Thomas Lecture on October 31, at 4:00 p.m. in Room 127 of Yale Law School. Her talk is entitled "Out of the Grutter and into the Mainstream: From Adversity to Diversity" and is free and open to the public.
Lani Guinier will use the recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action in higher education admissions, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, as the beginning of a deeper consideration of the social responsibilities of universities.
Admissions decisions at elite universities are critical to the constitution of the institution, but they also "have a special political impact: rationing access to societal influence and power, and training leaders for public office and public life," she writes in a forthcoming paper in the Harvard Law Review.
Much of the debate in recent years over admissions decisions has centered on the issues of race and affirmative action. The Grutter decision affirmed the use of race in admissions and the importance of diversity in higher education. Guinier argues, "And because it embraces democratic legitimacy as a justification for diversity, the opinion also offers a long-overdue opportunity to refocus the conversation on the distributive and functional role of higher education in a democracy."
She continues, "Used as a lens to peer beyond the pretense of the debate, race helps detect the deeper issues confronting public institutions of higher education." Guinier says that the measures of merit currently used in the admissions process, such as test scores and school rankings, "have failed to allocate scarce educational opportunities in a manner that is consistent with democratic values." She suggests that examining the underlying inequalities in the admissions process could create "opportunities for grassroots coalitions that include both people of color and poor and working-class whites, and that unite urban and rural constituencies."