Constitution Daily

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Podcast: Bruce Ackerman, Richard Epstein on Affirmative Action

April 24, 2014 by NCC Staff


Two leading experts on affirmative action, Bruce Ackerman and Richard Epstein, pick apart the Supreme Court’s Schuette decision, and debate if it is a disaster, unrealistic for colleges, or a good thing in the long run.

750px-Supreme_Court_Front_DuskThe National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen moderated this 46-minute audio discussion between these two well-known legal experts.

Epstein, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law, called the Schuette decision a “rich, textured and confused set of opinions.

Ackerman, the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, called the Schuette case “a disaster for Chief Justice [John] Roberts.”

The justices said in a 6-2 ruling Tuesday in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action that Michigan voters are allowed to change their state constitution to ban public institutions such as colleges and universities from taking race into account during the admissions process. The justices overturned a lower court decision in the process.

Ackerman was cited by name in Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion, one of four filed in the decision. He labeled Scalia’s opinion as “extraordinarily dismissive,” and he believed the plurality decision in Schuette was a radical reworking of the law.

Epstein talked about the reality of affirmative action programs in the United States, based on his own experiences running such programs at private institutions. “You realize that some kind of an affirmative action program is needed not because of past discrimination, but for the peace and well-being of the institution.”

He also chided Scalia for stating that no affirmative action program can be run effectively.

For more on this fascinating discussion, where Ackerman and Epstein also disagree on some major points, click on the following link or use the player below: Download this episode (right click and save)

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