2003 Founders' Celebration Events

Debating the Virtues & Vices of Affirmative Action in Higher Education

March 31, 2003

This panel of scholars debated the constitutionality, integrity, and morality of race-conscious admissions programs in higher education. The panelists offered their criticisms of higher education admissions programs like the University of Michigan's programs challenged in the Gratz and Grutter "affirmative action" cases before the Supreme Court on April 1, 2003. They speculated on the likely decision of the High Court and argued under what rationale the Court would make its ruling. The panelists challenged each other and fielded questions from the audience in a non-traditional format. This debate was for everyone interested in the legacy of racism, the hope for a "truly color-blind society," and the achievement of the best America, which seeks to judge all people "not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character."


7:00 pm
Registration & Welcome Reception

8:00 pm
Opening Remarks By Dean Claudio Grossman

8:05 pm
Dynamic Debate & Q&A Session

10:00 pm
Closing Remarks

Guest Speakers


Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Author of "The Sixth Circuit and Grutter v. Bollinger: Diversity and Distortion" and "Ten Fallacies of the Affirmative Action Debate."; Former Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of North Florida; Former Adjunct Professor of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law; Former Adjunct Professor of Law, Western State University College of Law; Former Adjunct Professor of Law, Southern Institute of Law

"I predict that the Supreme Court will rule against Michigan in both pending cases based on problems at least three levels: (1) The threshold question whether Bakke, specifically Powell's diversity ruling, is controlling authority; (2) assuming that it is, whether diversity as presented in these cases can satisfy the ends prong of Equal Protection analysis, and (3) assuming that it can, whether the means Michigan uses are narrowly tailored to advancing that diversity."

Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
Author of The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action, "Class-based Affirmative Action in College Admissions," and "Class-based Affirmative Action."; Executive director, The Century Foundation Task Force on the Common School Former Fellow, Center for National Policy; Former Visiting Professor of Law, George Washington University; Former legislative assistant, Senator Charles S. Robb (D-VA)

"My central argument is that we should replace racial preferences in higher education with economic preferences -- a leg up to high achieving economically disadvantaged students of all races who have overcome obstacles. The thesis is outlined in my book, The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action (Basic Books, 1996)."


Visiting Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law

Professor Hutchinson is a Visiting Professor at the Washington College of Law and an Associate Professor at Southern Methodist University School of Law. After his visit at WCL, Professor Hutchinson will join the faculty as a Associate Professor with tenure. Professor Hutchinson teaches and writes in the areas of Constitutional Law, Critical Race Theory, Law and Sexuality, and Identity Politics, and he has written several articles on Equal Protection jurisprudence.

Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law

Author of Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court versus the American People and "Wise or unwise, affirmative action clearly is constitutional."; Co-director, Program on Law and Government, American University, Washington College of Law; Founder, Marshall-Brennan Fellows Program, American University, Washington College of Law; Former General Counsel, National Rainbow Coalition; Former Assistant Attorney General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

"Whether you like affirmative action or despise it, all Americans ought to agree that the Supreme Court should only prohibit affirmative action in college admission if the U.S. Constitution itself forbids it. . . . Any serious reading of the Constitution tells us no. Conservatives used to know the difference between a constitutional question and a policy question. But that was long ago. The Rehnquist court, drunk on its own power, sorely will be tempted now to force all 50 states to drop any use of racial and ethnic diversity as a factor in higher-education admissions. The justices think they will be striking a blow for color-blindness, but they really will be striking a blow for “Constitution-blindness."