Defending Affirmative Action: Confronting Distortions in the Public Debate

The African American Policy Forum (AAFP) in conjunction with the Columbia University Center for Public Interest Law and Vassar College Invite you to two very important affirmative action events.

Confronting Distortions in the Public Debate

(To read the conference transcript, click here.)

1) Affirmative Action Teach-In
Thursday, March 27th from 3PM-7PM
Jerome Green Hall, 116th St. and Amsterdam Ave.
Open to the General Public

PANEL: Understanding Grutter v. Bollinger, (3-5PM Rm.103)

This panel will engage in a dynamic and informed discussion challenging narrow and erroneous assumptions about the pending Supreme Court cases involving affirmative action. Panelists include: David Leebron, Dean, Columbia Law School; Stanford University Professor Claude Steele, researcher on “stereotype threat,” and Professor Eric Foner, historian at Columbia University, both expert witnesses in the Michigan case; Ted Shaw, Associate Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; University of Texas Professor Gerald Torres, expert on Texas’ 10% plan; and Erica Woods, Student Coalition Against Resegregation in Higher Education (SCARE).

Roundtable: Reconstructing the Rhetoric of Affirmative Action (5:15-7:15PM Rm.106)

This Roundtable will foreground distortions and fallacies in the public debate on affirmative action. Drawing on the wealth of research and other information about the contours of affirmative action, the Roundtable will undertake to reframe that debate and to model effective responses to the distortions and commonly heard criticisms of affirmative action policies. Moderated by Columbia/UCLA Law Professor and AAPF Chair Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw; Roundtable participants include Janine Jackson, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, (“FAIR”); Luke Harris, Chair, Political Science, Vassar College; Cheryl Harris, UCLA Law School; Sumi Cho, DePaul Law School; Marianne Lado, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest; Devon Carbado, UCLA Law Professor; Lee Cokorinos, Research Director at the Institute for Democratic Studies; Jory Steele, Committee of Concerned Black Law Graduates, and Anthony Solana, SCARE.

2) Affirmative Action Strategic Intervention Media Workshop
Friday, March 28th from 9AM-6PM
Jerome Green Hall, Room 106, 116th St. and Amsterdam Ave.

Drawing on themes from the previous day’s teach-in, this workshop will address the question of how most effectively to counter anti-affirmative action rhetoric in the mainstream and alternative media. We will begin with a morning roundtable discussion on media research conducted by Janine Jackson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) who will provide a critical overview of the various ways in which the affirmative action debate has been framed in the media. A video presentation of excerpts from recent public discourse on affirmative action will be screened as a focal point for a round-table discussion among a panel of experts. In the afternoon participants will break into thematic workgroup sessions designed to integrate existing knowledge about the rationale and reality of affirmative action into discreet and responsive defenses of these important social policies. Media facilitators will include: Laura Flanders, Working Assets radio program; Walter Fields, Northstar Network; Rob Tarver, former Legal Correspondent MSNBC; Makani Themba, The Praxis Project; and Sheryl Flowers, Executive Producer, The Tavis Smiley Show. Expert discussants include: Eva Paterson, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights; Rasheeda Kilpatrick, SCARE; Sidney Majalya, Committee of Concerned Black Law Graduates; Eric Alterman, author, What Liberal Media; Al Ross, Institute for Democracy Studies; Gerald Torres, Luke Harris, Claude Steele, Sumi Cho, and Jory Steele.

Note: There are a limited number of seats for this workshop! To register, please send the following information to

1) Name:
2) Email:
3) Institutional affiliation:
4) A brief statement of what you would like to learn at the workshop:

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