The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

An Embarrassingly Unbalanced Law School Webinar on Affirmative Action

Seattle University is hosting eleven speakers for the webinar, all of whom support racial preferences.


Seattle University Law School is promoting a "webinar with national legal experts to analyze upcoming SCOTUS affirmative action decisions," to take place the day after the Supreme Court releases its opinion in the pending cases challenging racial preferences in admissions at Harvard and UNC.

Putting aside Seattle U. lawprofs who are participating, for whom I'll give the law school a pass, every single one of the eleven invited participants is a supporter of racial preferences. There is ideological diversity, but only in the sense that some of the participants are "mainstream" liberals, and some are Critical Race Theorists. Several of the panelists are known for arguing that current affirmative action policies, especially under the diversity rationale, are too conservative.

It strikes me that regardless of one's ideology, or what one thinks of affirmative action, a webinar on a decision to be issued by a conservative Supreme Court, which very likely will significantly restrict affirmative action preferences, should include experts whose views align to some degree with the Court (and, as a matter of public policy, with around 75% or so of Americans…)

The panelists are certainly diverse in terms of complexion and continent-of-ancestral-origin. But for an academic institution, a panel on a Supreme Court affirmative action decision that ranges in views from something like the far fringes of the left to just-to-the-right-of-Bernie Sanders is embarrassing. (And note that the two types of diversity need not be in conflict; there are plenty of Asian, Hispanic, and African American experts who are skeptical of or hostile to affirmative action, on both constitutional and public policy grounds.)

Seattle U's choice of speakers, ironically, suggests why the "diversity" rationale for affirmative action is a sham. Academic institutions that purport to be pursuing diversity rarely care about having the sort of diversity most important for such an institution, a diversity of worldviews. If anything they tend to prefer what one might call the Seattle University version of ideological diversity, views that range from merely "progressive" to "far left."