Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Video: Debating Affirmative Action

December 4, 2015 by NCC Staff


In a live debate conducted by Intelligence Squared U.S. and the National Constitution Center, four legal experts debated the topic: Does the Equal Protection Clause forbid racial preferences in State university admissions?

IQ2US456The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that: "No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Yet many state universities give substantial preferences to certain races in their admissions decisions.

In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court approved such preferences, but the case was close, and controversial, and the question will be back before the Supreme Court this term. One side may argue that these preferences level the playing field, remedy prior discrimination, and enhance diversity within the classroom, thus redeeming the true promise of equal protection. But the other may say that these preferences – in favor of some races, at the expense of others – are racial discrimination pure and simple, the precise evil that the Equal Protection Clause was intended to forbid.

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity and Stuart Taylor, Jr., senior fellow at the Brookings Institution will argue for the motion. Deborah Archer, director of the Racial Justice Project and professor at New York Law School. and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California's Irvine School of Law, will argue against the motion. John Donvan of ABC News moderates.

This program is made possible through the support of a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed during the program are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

To watch the video, use the following link:


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