In the 2003 landmark Supreme Court case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court upheld affirmative action in the University of Michigan Law School admissions process as constitutional because the program furthered a compelling interest in obtaining “an educational benefit that flows from student body diversity.” During the case, the legal team for the Law School put forth evidence that a diverse student body provided educational benefits to the School, and that “diversity promotes learning outcomes and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce, for society, and for the legal profession.” In the nearly two decades since, research has deepened our understanding of how, why, and under what conditions diversity yields educational benefits. At the same time, new investigations into the social aspects of racism have shown how systemic racism and implicit bias affect the everyday lives of marginalized groups and contribute to destructive campus cultures that reduce diversity and retention at every level. The racial divide in lives lost to COVID-19, in police violence, and the resurgence of nation-wide protests for racial justice have shown us that the U.S. still has a long way to go to achieving real equity.
Over this same period, an explosion of research in neuroscience has brought us increasingly closer to the neural underpinnings of our innermost thoughts and emotions. Brain imaging and other emerging technologies can not only predict some of our behaviors--in some instances, they can alter how we behave.
If improving diversity, equity, and inclusion is one of our most urgent societal concerns, and neuroscience provides some of the most advanced tools to understand the brain and behavior, how should we be thinking about and shaping the future of diversity research? Is neuroscience the right tool? What does future research need to address? This panel will discuss what research and practice from psychology, education, and neuroscience can tell us about achieving the benefits and promises of diversity articulated in this seminal Court ruling.
Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University and Faculty Member at Columbia Law School
Dana E. Crawford, Clinical Psychologist and Scholar-in-Residence, Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University
Wanda Holland Greene, Head of School at The Hamlin School and Vice Chair of The Trustees of Columbia University
Elizabeth A. Phelps, Pershing Square Professor of Human Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Harvard University