Guinier to lead off spring Assembly Series

Influential civil rights expert and Harvard law professor Lani Guinier will begin the spring Assembly Series with the Chancellor’s Fellowship keynote address at 11 a.m. Jan. 25 in Graham Chapel.

Other spring Assembly Series speakers will include Cornel West, the preeminent African-American public intellectual; Steven Squyres, principal investigator for the Mars Rovers project; Super Size Me filmmaker Morgan Spurlock; and WUSTL faculty members William H. Gass and Wayne D. Fields.

Assembly Series lectures are free and open to the public.

Lani Guinier
Lani Guinier

Guinier’s talk, “Meritocracy INC: How Wealth Became Merit, Class Became Race, and College Education Became a Gift From the Poor to the Rich,” will be followed by a panel discussion at 2 p.m. in the Women’s Building Formal Lounge.

A graduate of Radcliffe College of Harvard University and of Yale Law School, Guinier became the first African-American woman to join the tenured faculty of Harvard Law School in 1998. Three years later, she became the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law.

She has dedicated her career to issues of racial justice, gender equity, and positive educational and democratic change within academia and the legal profession.

Before joining the Harvard faculty, Guinier worked as a special assistant in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division under President Jimmy Carter. She also worked for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, serving as assistant counsel and head of its Voting Rights Project.

During 10 years with the University of Pennsylvania, she researched the law-school experience of women, which resulted in the publication of her first book, Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law School and Institutional Change.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her for assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, only to have her nomination withdrawn amid controversy and without a confirmation hearing. She turned this experience into a personal and political memoir, Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback Into a New Vision of Social Justice.

Since then, she has become a well-known commentator and has co-authored five books, including The Tyranny of the Majority, about issues of political representation; Who’s Qualified? co-written with Susan Sturm, about undergraduate admissions and affirmative action; and her most well-known work, The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy, co-written with Gerald Torres.

Widely recognized as a leading intellectual figure, Guinier has received many accolades, including the 1995 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association, the National Women’s Political Caucus Champion of Democracy Award and the Rosa Parks Award from the American Association for Affirmative Action. She also has received teaching awards from Penn and Harvard.

The subsequent panel discussion, also free and open to the public, will continue the discussion of issues covered in her ad-dress. Panelists will include the School of Law’s Jane Aiken, J.D., the William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law, and Christopher Bracey, J.D., associate professor; Joel Goldstein, D.Phil., J.D., professor of law, and Camille Nelson, associate professor of law, both from Saint Louis University; and Frankie Freeman, a local civil rights attorney.

Other spring Assembly Series speakers are listed below. The talks will begin at 11 a.m. in Graham Chapel, unless otherwise noted.

Stephanie Coontz’s research debunks the myths surrounding our society’s contemporary, idyllic view of marriage. The professor of history and of family studies at The Evergreen State College is the author of several books on the history of marriage, including The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. Her talk will be Feb. 1.

At 4 p.m. Feb. 2, West will give a talk based on his most recent book, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism. The author of 16 books, West has also produced a rap CD and has been featured in The Matrix films.

If you can’t take a trip to Mars, the next-best thing is hearing Squyres speak Feb. 8. Squyres, professor of astronomy at Cornell University, will give his firsthand account of the inner workings of the Mars adventure.

Environmental historian William Cronon studies the ways human communities interact with nature and how they impact their environments. His talk, at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 in Steinberg Hall Auditorium, will examine how artists have documented changing landscapes. The lecture is sponsored by the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

On Feb. 15, damali ayo will give a presentation that is designed to provoke the audience into joining her in an examination of socio-political issues. A conceptual/performance artist, she uses visual, verbal, performance and audio art to make people experience a wide range of emotions, both good and bad.

She has also written How to Rent a Negro, a satirical take on the commodification of African-Americans in our society.

Educator and best-selling writer Jonathan Kozol has devoted his career to promoting educational reform and social justice. His first book, Death at an Early Age, sold 2 million copies and won the 1968 National Book Award. Many other books have followed, including his most recent, Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. He will give a talk Feb. 22.

Shakespearean critic Marjorie Garber will bring fresh views and scholarly insight into the Bard’s plays at 4 p.m. Feb. 23 with a lecture on “Bartlett’s Familiar Shakespeare: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Quotations.” Her talk will be presented in tandem with Arts & Sciences’ Performing Arts Department’s production Much Ado About Nothing.

For more information on the play, call 935-5858.

The March 1 Assembly Series lecture will be announced at a later date. There are no Assembly Series lectures scheduled for March 8 and 15.

Since 1987, Eugenie Scott has headed the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit, national organization dedicated to defending the teaching of evolution in public schools. She will present her arguments for the teaching of evolution on March 22.

Independent filmmaker Spurlock turned American fast food on its head with the release of the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me, his personal account of what eating McDonald’s three times a day for a month does to a human body. He will give a presentation March 29.

Gass, Ph.D., a distinguished novelist, essayist and critic, will deliver a talk on “Metaphor” at 4 p.m. March 30. He is the David May Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and founder of the International Writers Center (now The Center for the Humanities), both in Arts & Sciences.

A much-honored writer, Gass has received an unprecedented three National Critics Circle Awards for his collections of essays, as well as the prestigious PEN/Nabokov Award for writing of the highest quality.

It takes a successful businessperson to run a successful business magazine, and Earl Graves Jr. fits the bill perfectly. The president and chief operating officer of the monthly Black Enterprise magazine, with a circulation of 4 million and growing, Graves will give the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial address April 5.

Fields, Ph.D., another much-admired WUSTL Arts & Sciences writer, will present a lecture April 12. The Lynne Cooper Harvey Distinguished Professor in English and director of the American Culture Studies Program, Fields is the author of the memoir What the River Knows: An Angler in Mid-stream and an examination of political rhetoric, Union of Words: A History of Presidential Eloquence.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, will give the final spring Assembly Series lecture April 19. For many years, the esteemed civil rights lawyer and renowned children’s advocate has given a voice to the poor, minority and neglected children in America.

For a complete schedule and up-to-date information, go online to or call 935-5285.