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Furman alumna Brown-Nagin responds to affirmative action ruling

Tomiko Brown-Nagin ’92 delivers commencement address in May 2023.

Last updated July 5, 2023

By Tina Underwood

In a collection of opinion pieces appearing in The New York Times about the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision, Tomiko Brown-Nagin, a 1992 Furman University alumna and Harvard University professor, wrote an introduction. In her piece, “Why We Can’t Give Up on Difference,” she noted that while the majority of justices opposed race-conscious means for admissions, “they did not ban pursuit of the goal of diverse campus communities.”

“If we appreciate this,” she wrote, “we can start to see last week’s ruling as not only a challenge but also an opportunity. In a world on fire, with flames fanned by yawning income and wealth inequality, enduring racial and ethnic divisions and huge educational opportunity gaps that start at birth, all institutions of higher education should recommit, in the decision’s wake, to awarding the college diplomas prized in our knowledge economy to a broad array of students. Our teetering republic depends on it.”

Brown-Nagin is a professor of constitutional law and history at Harvard and the dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. She graduated summa cum laude from Furman with a bachelor’s in history in 1992 and earned a law degree at Yale Law School in 1997 and a Ph.D. in history at Duke University in 2002. She delivered the commencement address for Furman’s class of 2023 and received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony. She is the author of Penguin Random House book, “Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality.”

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