Friday, September 13, 2013

Dr. Randall Kennedy

I'd like to start with a review of a talk I heard a few days ago, actually nearly a week.  Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law Professor, esteemed, spoke about race and affirmative action.  Describing himself as an "affirmative action baby," Dr. Kennedy laid out quite directly, humorously, and logically, the arguments for and against racial affirmative action, specifically in the realm of higher education.  In his discussion, he mentioned the tension between "intent" and "effect," something I assume is a massive component of a law program.  In addition, he used the term "pedagogical hunch," with emphasis, which I appreciated.  In all, Kennedy laid out (complete with autobiographical, statistical, and anecdotal perspectives) his argument in favor of racial affirmative action in higher education in the US.  He mentioned Fisher vs. UT.  He spoke, in this case, of whether or not the intention of the UT system is to discriminate against white applicants, which, if passed in the Texas State Senate, would not fly.  He received questions, some of which went on way too long.  Kennedy handled them deftly, as much as was possible.  In response to the question from a white African-American from Angola, Kennedy essentially stated that the policy should lean towards greater inclusiveness than exclusion which comes with strict policing.  It seemed to satisfy the young lady somewhat, and we were left with the notion that we may have the power in these instances to choose how we identify, given the circumstances and potential consequences for that choice.  

All in all, I was incredibly pleased with the talk.  Dr. Kennedy is incredibly solid in his explanations, and is a wonderful speaker.  Probably not the most radical fella in the world, but a great experience nonetheless.  

The talk was sponsored by the unaffiliated Harvard Book Store (thus far my favorite), and the $5.00 ticket earned me not only the talk, but also a $5.00 coupon to the book store.  How's that for a deal?

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