Lani Guinier speaks on supporting, valuing diversity in all forms
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:10
During the annual Louis L. Redding lecture on Wednesday, speaker Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey professor at Harvard Law School, compared the experience of African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans to the experience of the canary.
“They are suffering, they may not have the same developed respiratory system because they haven’t been given the opportunity to work and to be able to support themselves and their families,” Guinier said. “They are blamed for the atmosphere in the mines rather than acknowledged for signaling the toxicity of the atmosphere in the mines.”
The lecture, which took place at Gore Recital Hall at Roselle Center for the Arts, attracted an audience that included members of Redding’s family. Redding was the first African American attorney admitted to the Delaware bar and was involved in the desegregation of the university.
Guinier’s lecture was titled “Rethinking Race and Class,” part of which she framed around the metaphor of the canary in the mine. She said miners used to take canaries––which have fragile immune systems––into coal mines to signal to the miners to evacuate the mines when the birds started choking for breath.
Guinier emphasized the need to pay attention to and listen to the experiences of the “canaries,” and said their diverse outlooks and perspectives should be embraced.
Two days after the lecture was the dedication of the Louis L. Redding Residence Hall, a freshman hall on East Campus. Margaret Andersen, executive director of President’s Diversity Initiative, said Guinier was originally slated to come to campus last spring, but, due to bad weather, she was rescheduled to come this fall.
“As it turned out, that was very coincidental but lovely because it was wonderful to have her here as the Redding Lecturer during the very same week when we’re dedicating the Redding Hall,” Andersen said. “So I love that it worked out that way.”
Guinier said it is important universities have diversity in race, gender and economic standing so people with diverse experiences and perspectives can learn from each other. She also said institutions need to shift their attention away from who they are admitting to who they are graduating.
Guinier also touched on matters specific to institutions of higher learning, such as the use of standardized testing as a means of predicting college success. She said tests such as the SAT, LSAT and GRE do not predict performance except on the test. She said these tests do predict something else––the kind of car your parents drive.
Andersen said she thought Guinier touched on an important question about how standardized testing is considered in admissions.