The University of Chicago News Office
May 15, 2003 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

Roundtable Discussion on Affirmative Action at the University of Chicago

The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago will present a roundtable discussion on Affirmative Action on Thursday, May 22. The objective of the roundtable is to provide both informed analysis of Affirmative Action policies, particularly those related to the University of Michigan Affirmative Action cases, and a forum to discuss the feasibility of new policy initiatives “Beyond” Affirmative Action. The roundtable will take place in the Assembly Hall at International House, 1414 East 59th St, Chicago, IL, from 7pm – 9pm. The event is free and open to the public.

As the discussion around Affirmative Action grows more heated every day, we at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture believe that some informed deliberation about the policy, the Michigan case, percentage plans and the broader intersection of race and class is called for immediately. Thus we are sponsoring a roundtable discussion on Affirmative Action with a group of experts on the subject. We have chosen the roundtable format to allow participants to engage directly with the arguments and thoughts of other panelists, and with the audience.

Our panelists are:

Karen Narasaki, President and Executive Director, National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium, which submitted an Amicus Brief for the University of Michigan Affirmative Action Cases. Narasaki is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, serving as Chairperson of its Compliance/Enforcement Committee, as well as the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. In addition, she serves on the Board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Independent Sector.

Adolph Reed, Professor of Political Science, New School University. Reed is the author of Stirrings in the Jug: Black Politics in the Post-Segregation Era (University of Minnesota Press, 1999) and The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon: The Crisis of Purpose in Afro-American Politics (Yale University Press, 1986). He is also a frequent contributor to The Nation, Village Voice and The Progressive. Reed challenges arguments against Affirmative Action policies that are premised on the notion that such policies require that trade-offs be made between merit and preference. He is also an advocate of publicly supported universal access to higher education.

Gerald Torres, Lawyer and Professor of Law at the University of Texas and co-author of The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2002) with Lani Guinier. Torres worked on several of the court briefs for the Michigan cases. He is a leading figure in Critical Race Theory. He is also an expert in agricultural and environmental law. He has served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and Counsel to then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

Theodore Shaw, Associate Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. Shaw is an Attorney on the University of Michigan Undergraduate Affirmative Action case, representing a group of minority students who, along with the University of Michigan, are defendants in the suit. He has litigated civil rights cases throughout the country at the trial and appellate levels, and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He has worked as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., litigating school desegregation and housing discrimination cases.


Barbara Ransby, Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Director, The Public Square. Ransby is the author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (University of North Carolina Press, 2003). She is also a regular contributor to WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s “Eight Forty-Eight” and has published in academic journals as well as The Nation and Knight Ridder newspapers.

Topics that participants will address over the course of the evening include, but are not limited to, the strengths and weaknesses of the Michigan case, alternatives to current Affirmative Action approaches, the prospect of using percentage plans to increase the representation of students of color at predominately-white educational institutions, and the feasibility of class-based strategies for increasing the presence of underrepresented groups.

This event is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. The Center is committed to moving the study of race and ethnicity beyond the black/white paradigm. The work of faculty affiliated with the Center explores different processes of racialization experienced within groups as well as across groups in sites as diverse as North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Asian Pacific, and Europe. Fundamentally, we are committed to producing engaged scholarship that rejects the false dichotomy between rigorous intellectual work and community activism. We seek, instead, to contribute intellectually challenging and innovative scholarship that can transform people’s thinking and their lives.

This event is being co-sponsored by the International House Global Voices Program at the University of Chicago. For additional information contact the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at (773) 702-8063 or Persons with disabilities who may need assistance should contact the Office of Programs and Special Events at International House in advance at (773) 753-2274 or e-mail  Their website is
Last modified at 01:55 PM CST on Friday, September 12, 2003.

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