Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Evening With Randall

My account of Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy's visit to Carleton this Friday.


Blogger Anthony Ciolli said...

I'm not sure I understand why you say that the first event described in your blog post was "negative." So someone asked Prof. Kennedy a question about affirmative action when his speech was about race betrayl... literally every speaker event I've attended at law school where audience questions were allowed has involved at least one person asking something that's only tangentially related. It sounds like the student asked his question politely, Kennedy answered the question politely, and the student, while perhaps not agreeing with Kennedy, acted appropriately after the answer was given. I'm not even sure why you refer to this exchange as an "altercation," unless the student did something inappropriate that wasn't mentioned in the blog post. Or are you just upset that a student dared to even raise the possibility that affirmative action is not justified?

As for the second incidence, I agree that it's very unfortunate and what those students did was uncalled for. Unfortunately this sort of thing happens a lot more frequently than it should -- just look at how John Yoo, Robert Delahunty, Justice Scalia, Alberto Gonzales, Ann Coulter, etc. have been treated by students who disagree with them.

1/20/2007 7:29 AM  
Blogger David Schraub said...

"Isn't Affirmative Action reverse racism" is not "tangentially related" to "race betrayal," in any meaningful sense (or at least no more than a lecture on Johnny Appleseed invites the question "what's your favorite way of making apple pie?"). There are plenty of fora to debate the merits of affirmative action, not every single discussion on racial topics should it have to come up (especially when there was only time for 3 questions, of which Mr Questioner knew he was the third and final).

1/20/2007 6:30 PM  
Blogger Anthony Ciolli said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/20/2007 8:27 PM  
Blogger Anthony Ciolli said...

I still think you're making far too big of a deal about this than you shoiuld. Like I said, I've never attended any sort of lecture where audience questions were allowed that didn't result in one or more people in the audience asking "unrelated" questions of the speaker. One event I organized last year on the Solomon Amendment ended up with multiple audience members bringing up things like gay marriage even though it was never discussed by the speakers; similarly, an event on the Mohammed cartoons resulted in the speaker being asked about things ranging from the war on Iraq to the water buffalo incident at Penn. Maybe the events you've attended at Carleton so far have been more focused, but I'd say that's the exception rather than the rule, and Kennedy, as a law professor, must have expected to be questioned about things beyond his stated topic, especially as they relate to race.

I also wouldn't be so quick to claim that affirmative action is in not related to race betrayal in any meaningful sense. I can think of several ways they could potentially be related off the top of my head (Is a black applicant who refuses to check the black box on a law school application because he does want want an affirmative action boost betraying his race? Do Asians have a duty to oppose affirmative action to benefit their community? etc.). It seems like the problem here is not the question, but the fact that for some reason questions were limited to three for the entire event. Given that the person who asked this question likely had no idea what questions other people in the audience wanted to ask, I can't see why he should be blamed for asking ihs legitimate qu4estion.

Also, since Kennedy apparently had a second event after that one in the Alumni House where people were free to ask him questions in a more relaxed setting, I'm not sure what the loss was here.

1/20/2007 8:31 PM  

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