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Affirmative Action after SFFA: Is the US in Violation of International Human Rights Law?

September 28th, 2023 @ 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm

Virtual In Person
Affirmative Action after SFFA flier featuring image of the US Supreme Court

Join the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University for the discussion “Affirmative Action after SFFA: Is the US in Violation of International Human Rights Law?”   

Date and Time: Thursday, September 28 at 12:30pm – 1:45pm ET

Location: This event is hybrid. Virtual participants can register on Zoom. HUID holders are invited to attend the discussion in person at WCC 2004, Harvard Law School. Lunch will be served to in-person attendees and advance registration is not required.

Event details:

Many are concerned that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Students for Fair Admission (SFFA) decision, which invalidated affirmative action in public and private college admissions, could open the door to similar challenges in other areas such as employment, public procurement, federal grant recipients, and voting rights. Affirmative action has been an important, though insufficient, tool in the struggles to overcome the consequences of chattel slavery and legally enforced systems of segregation and more recent discrimination.   

In addition to eroding the capacity of the United States to tackle de facto inequality, the SFFA decision may also result in failure to meet U.S. remedial obligations under international human rights law. Specialized human rights bodies of the United Nations and the regional body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have previously expressed concern over the systemic nature of racial discrimination in the U.S. and commended its use of special measures including affirmative action to overcome the legacy of racial discrimination. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has already issued a statement under its early warning and urgent action procedure calling on the U.S. to take effective measures to address the adverse impacts of the SFFA decision.    

The panel, composed of leading experts on the law of racial discrimination, will discuss the domestic and international legal implications of SFFA as well as its practical implications for the lived reality of those who face discrimination. 

Moderator:Gerald L. Neuman is the Director of the Human Rights Program, and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at Harvard Law School. 

Panelists:Guy-Uriel E. Charles is the Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School where he also directs the Charles Hamilton Institute for Race and Justice. Professor Charles was appointed by President Joseph Biden to the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States.  Gay McDougall is a distinguished scholar-in-residence at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice and Center for Race, Law and Justice of Fordham University School of Law. She is a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  E. Tendayi Achiume is the inaugural Alicia Miñana Professor of Law at UCLA Law, and former Faculty Director of the UCLA Law Promise Institute for Human Rights.  Justin Hansford is a Howard University School of Law Professor of Law, an Executive Director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, and member of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent.


Date: September 28th, 2023
Time: 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm
Calendars: University-wide Events
Event types: Lectures / Seminars / Forums


Cambridge campus
This event is hybrid. Virtual participants can register on Zoom. HUID holders are invited to attend the discussion in person at WCC 2004, Harvard Law School. Lunch will be served to in-person attendees and advance registration is not required.
Virtual In Person