Harvard scholar Lani Guinier to headline UW–Madison Diversity Forum

Oct. 9, 2012

by Valeria Davis

Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier, the university's first tenured Jewish African-American law professor and one of the nation's top scholars in the areas of access to higher education, race conscious policy and civil rights law, will give the keynote address at this Friday's (Oct. 12) daylong annual UW-Madison Diversity Forum.

Photo: Lani Guinier

Guinier

Guinier's speech will be at 3:30 p.m. in Union South's Varsity Hall. Her visit is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer.

Guinier's keynote comes as opening arguments are set to begin in the Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case further considers the implementation of holistic admission processes that consider race as one of multiple factors along with community service, leadership potential, grades, gender, standardized test scores, and other variables in competitive admissions decisions.

"This is a timely discussion regarding the future of diversity in higher education," says UW-Madison Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Damon Williams. "With nearly 600 people signed up for the forum and another 300 students expected at the keynote, we are fortunate to have a scholar of Professor Guinier's eminence to share her perspective as such an important case is launching at the national level."

Guinier's keynote address will cap off a day scheduled to begin with Interim Chancellor David Ward speaking on diversity in the life of the university. The annual forum, which is free and open to the public, also will offer break-out sessions on diversity priorities at UW-Madison, including religion, the UW-Madison faculty diversity initiative, the university's human resources redesign project, Native American student achievement, and an update on the LGBT Campus Center.

"Forum participants will take part in an important opening discussion on the university's continuing commitment to diversity and our next steps as an institution," Williams says.

Also at the forum, Williams will formally announce his new title — Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer — and the name of the newly created division under his direction, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement.

"This renaming of the division more accurately reflects the mission and goals of the activities overseen by my office and the units in the division," Williams says. "The change was very carefully considered and vetted to position not only my office, but the entire institution for campuswide innovation and growth. We are on a journey as an institution toward building an inclusive learning environment that prepares our students for a global economy and this means that everything that we do has to focus on educational achievement and academic excellence."

Associate Vice Chancellor Steve Stern agrees with the focus of the new title.

"By focusing on key interrelated goals including our core mission of educational achievement, the new name signals a comprehensive approach within the division to inclusion, and embraces collaborative work across divisions and departments to achieve these goals," Stern says. "Through a comprehensive approach and collaborative practice, we can do a better job of achieving educational inclusion with excellence in our increasingly diverse and globalized 21st century society."

The decision to change the name of the division is in response to the evolving strategic framework, mission and national discussion surrounding diversity, including a heightened focus on the key factors implicit in a productive and inclusive learning environment, Williams says.

"The new name reflects the breadth of the mission of the division and its focus on critical issues of equity, opportunity and success," says Law School Dean Margaret Raymond.

More information on the 2012 Diversity Forum can be found here.