Harvard professor targets affirmative action as necessary component of education system

Rebecca Czaplewski

As soon as she walked into the reception room, Lani Guinier dispelled any thoughts that she might be an untouchable academic.
The Harvard Law School professor roamed from person to person, mingling and chatting with the handful of students attending the reception prior to her Monday lecture in Coffman Union on affirmative action in higher education.
Guinier came under the spotlight in 1993 as President Clinton’s appointee for head of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice. She was later withdrawn because of her strong stance for affirmative action.
Erin Ferguson, vice president of the Minnesota Student Association, said the lecture was something necessary for campus.
“There were a lot of misinformed and apprehensive views on affirmative action,” Ferguson said. “A lot of people don’t know what it means or how it’ll affect the University community.”
In conjunction with her new book, “Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback Into a New Vision of Social Justice,” Guinier came to speak at the University to explore the uses of affirmative action in higher education, which Guinier described as being at a crossroads in American universities.
She also discussed the reasoning toward the funding of universities and state prisons, citing a survey where prison guards were paid more than college professors in California.
“Our priorities are skewed –education is a scarce resource and we fight over the resource,” Guinier said. “We’re taking the education of our children and bankrupting it to pay for the failed educations of others’ children.”
Although her views are often considered controversial, Nikki Kubista, MSA president, hoped Guinier’s appearance would open the gates to more dialogue on campus in the future. When the student association decided to sponsor the event, some opposition was raised in MSA Forum regarding whether the student association should support such a controversial figure.
Holly Pettman, a first-year student in the College of Liberal Arts, felt Guinier’s lecture was needed on campus:
“I think that things like this make it known that it’s a good thing and benefits everyone.”