Guinier Named Keynote Speaker of Upcoming Civil Rights Conference

Kevin Sliman
February 28, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.—Lani Guinier, the Bennett Boskey professor of law at Harvard Law School, will be the keynote speaker at the Penn State College of Education’s interdisciplinary civil rights conference on June 6–7, 2014. Her areas of interest include constitutional law, voting rights, race and the law, civil rights and civil liberties.

The goal of the conference, titled “Education and Civil Rights, Historical Legacies, Contemporary Strategies and Promise for the Future,” is to address the inability of many students of color to access high-quality education, from pre-k through higher education. The conference seeks to explore what strategies have been effective in expanding educational opportunities for these students and how to implement best practices that will ensure equity in public education for the future.

Liliana Garces, a Penn State assistant professor of education who worked with Guinier as a doctoral student at Harvard, said it is an honor to have Guinier share her perspectives on education and civil rights at the conference.

“She possesses a unique and critical insight into the topics we seek to cover in the conference,” said Garces, who is a member of the conference planning committee. “We couldn’t think of a better speaker to help illuminate the path going forward and inspire transformative action in education and civil rights.”

Erica Frankenberg, assistant professor of education, is chairing the conference planning committee. She said that she is delighted to have Guinier as the keynote speaker.

“Having Lani Guinier as our speaker for the conference can help us think about new strategies for pursuing civil rights in education,” said Frankenberg. “Her scholarship and professional experiences situate her well to help us contemplate a renewed push for equity amid our changing legal, policy and demographic environment.”

Prior to her Harvard appointment, Guinier was a tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Formerly, she worked in the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and then headed the voting rights project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in the 1980s. Guinier was also President Bill Clinton's nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights in 1993.

During her career, Guinier has published numerous articles on issues of race, gender and democratic decision-making and has sought new ways of approaching questions like affirmative action while calling for candid public discourse on these topics. Her latest book, “The Tyranny of the Meritocracy,” will be published later this year.

Guinier’s leadership has been recognized with many awards, including, the Champion of Democracy Award from the National Women's Political Caucus; the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession; and the Rosa Parks Award from the American Association of Affirmative Action. She has received 10 honorary degrees from institutions such as Smith College, Spelman College, Swarthmore College and the University of the District of Columbia.

The conference will be held in the Lewis Katz Building on Penn State’s University Park campus. It will feature 30 new papers on topics related to the conference theme by leading experts from various backgrounds. There also will be a graduate-student symposium on Friday morning, June 6, prior to the conference. Guinier's keynote address on Friday night will be held at the Ramada Conference Center, and limited tickets for the public to attend the dinner and keynote are $25. For more information, contact Outreach at 814-863-5100.

For more information or to register for the conference, visit

  • Lani Guinier

    Lani Guinier is the Bennett Boskey professor of law at Harvard Law school.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 04, 2014