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ABA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Center's Affirmative Action Path Forward Series

The Path Forward: Discussions and Strategies in Ensuring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion post-SFFA v. Harvard Webinar Series

Affirmative Action, policies aimed at increasing educational and workplace opportunities for people who are underrepresented in various areas of our society, were created to address historical systems that have prevented the equal participation of certain communities, generally women and communities of color. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in SFFA v. Harvard banning the consideration of race as a distinct factor in admissions has created questions around programs aimed at ameliorating past harms in the quest to promote equity in education and employment.

This series of workshops was created to provide an avenue for meaningful discussion about the path forward for programs that seek to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Each session is focused on distinct groups and the unique challenges they face post-decision. The goal of the series is to share information, facilitate discussion, and to provide concrete recommendations to sustain the ongoing quest toward a more equitable society for all.

The State of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Beyond Affirmative Action in Admissions

October 27, 2023, 3:00-4:30 P.M. Central Time

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The Supreme Court's decision did not address affirmative action or other ameliorative programs beyond admissions. However, shortly after the decision was released, there was an immediate effort to expand the decision beyond its intended scope to apply to all diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in both education, government and the private sector. While the decision did not address a valid expansion of the decision, there are legitimate concerns about how to address these efforts. This session provides an opportunity to discuss these concerns, including best practices, and how to continue to move DEI efforts in employment forward.


  • Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund


  • Richard Lewis, President, New York State Bar Association
  • Brad Karp, Chair, NYSBA Task Force on Advancing Diversity; Chairman, Paul Weiss LLP
  • Sunu Chandy, Senior Advisor, Democracy Forward
  • Jill Rosenberg, Partner, Orrick, Herrington, Sutcliffe LLP
  • Lisa Velazquez, Partner, Paul Weiss LLP

Guideline Makers: The Role of Institutional General Counsel following SFFA v. Harvard

November 7, 2023 12:00-1:30 P.M. Central Time

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The general counsel offices of educational institutions are the first line for determining how educational institutions can and should move forward following the SFFA v. Harvard decision. This session will address issues as general counsels advise institutions in their quest to promote DEI, including admissions, scholarships and other pipeline initiatives. Participants will learn from the experiences of institutions in states that have already addressed restrictions on affirmative action, as well as have the opportunity to collaborate and discuss legally permissible strategies to ensure that the goal of equal participation by historically underserved and underrepresented communities is met.


  • Ruthe Ashley, Chair, California Legal Pathways Collaborative


  • Kevin R. Johnson, Dean, UC Davis School of Law
  • Kellye Testy, President, Law School Admission Council
  • Allison Woodall, Deputy General Counsel - Education Affairs, Employment & Governance, UC Legal Office of the General Counsel

Defending Access: Persevering Diversity Pipeline Programs

November 16, 2023 12:00-1:30 p.m. Central 

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Pipeline programs focused on creating greater exposure and access to diverse students are at an interesting crossroads. On one hand, these programs are critical to increasing access to higher education and law school for diverse students. However, these programs are also potential targets for those seeking to challenge the validity of programs centered on increasing educational opportunities for underrepresented students. This program will provide an opportunity to discuss this dichotomy in an effort to maintain the integrity of pipeline programs into the future.


  • Patricia Lee, Chair, ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline


  • Juan Carlos (J.C.) Polanco, CEO, The Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.
  • Cindy Lopez, Founder, Legal Education Access Pipeline, Inc.
  • Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund
  • Antonette N. Smith, Executive Director, Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization
  • Oyango Snell, Esq., Certified Association Executive; Former Bar Association Executive

Empowering Diversity: Navigating Admissions After SFFA v. Harvard

December 5, 2023 12:00-1:30 p.m Central


This session will address the unique concerns of diverse applicants. The session will specifically address the impact of the Supreme Court's decision for diverse applicants to undergraduate institutions and law schools, including the concerns of the students who may be questioning whether to apply or if there is still a place for them in higher education.


  • Tamara Nash, Director of Experiential Learning and Lecturer, University of South Dakota; Chair, ABA Young Lawyers Division


  • Shani J. P. Butts, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, Columbus School of Law
  • Kevin Johnson, Dean, University of CA Davis School of Law
  • Ericka Matthews-Jackson, Senior Director of Admissions, Wayne State University
  • Tracy Simmons,  Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs, Howard University School of Law

Note: Additional Programming May be Added