A Debate: Does America Still Need Affirmative Action?

February 29-29, 2024
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
7pm CST

Does America Need Affirmative Action?

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Students for Fair Admission vs. Harvard overturned affirmative action in college admissions. Though affirmative action has long been unpopular with the American public, the policy, which is designed to improve minority admission rates to colleges and universities, strikes at a bedrock principle of American politics since the civil rights revolution: diversity. The majority opinion in Students for Fair Admission ended affirmative action, but did not prohibit considering race or other features of diversity as part of universities’ admission policies; thus, the question of diversity and merit is still in play. How important is diversity in college admissions? What criteria are appropriate and fair for deciding who attends which college? What is the remedy for past discrimination? What does racial justice look like?

Join ISI at the University of Alabama Student Center Auditorium as we ask these timely questions. We will debate at 7pm whether equitable admissions are necessary for a racially just society. The pre-debate reception begins at 6pm, so come early and bring your friends for what will be a historic and memorable night!

Email Tom Sarrouf at tsarrouf@isi.org with questions.

Your Debaters

Randall Kennedy

Randall Kennedy is Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations. He was born in Columbia, South Carolina. For his education he attended St. Albans School, Princeton University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School. He served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States. Awarded the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Race, Crime, and the Law, Mr Kennedy writes for a wide range of scholarly and general interest publications. His other books are For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (2013), The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency (2011), Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal (2008), Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption (2003), and Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (2002). A member of the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Association, Mr. Kennedy is also a Trustee emeritus of Princeton University.

Jason Riley

Jason Riley is an opinion columnist at The Wall Street Journal, where his column, Upward Mobility, has run since 2016. He is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and provides television commentary for various news outlets.

Mr. Riley, a 2018 Bradley Prize recipient, is the author of four books: Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders (2008); Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed (2014); False Black Power? (2017); and Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell (2021).

Born in Buffalo, New York, Mr. Riley earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has also worked for USA Today and the Buffalo News.

Christine Emba (moderator)

Christine Emba is a staff writer for The Atlantic. Christine is a brilliant writer and sharp observer of the complexities and absurdities of modern life and culture. She has written memorably about relationships, masculinity, sex, race, wealth, and much more. She was formerly with The Washington Post, as a columnist and a member of the Editorial Board. Before that she worked as a criticism fellow at the New Criterion and as a deputy editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, focusing on technology and innovation. She is also the author of Rethinking Sex: A Provocation.

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