Penn students may debate among themselves whether affirmative action is racial justice or reverse discrimination. But rarely do they get the chance to sit in a studio audience and listen to two experts express their views on national radio. Seven undergraduates, all Harrison College House residents, traveled to Center City Monday night to watch a taping of the public radio show Justice Talking. Inside Carpenters' Hall in Olde City, Law professors Frank Wu of Howard University and Gail Heriot of the University of San Diego argued for more than two hours on the effectiveness and legitimacy of affirmative action measures. The two constitutional law scholars focused on a recent court case brought several white students against the University of Michigan for using racial preferences in the admissions process. Wu, who has authored several books on the benefits of affirmative action programs, claimed that showing favor to minority applicants is a measure necessary to promote equality. "The question here is how we will remedy racial discrimination," Wu said. "We've seen that we can do some things about it." Heriot, however, said she believed that such programs have had largely negative effects on colleges due to the admission of students who she said are underqualified. "Preferences have tended to foster separatism," she said, "and the reason for it is this mismatch in academic credentials" that results from preferential admissions. The Penn students attended the taping as part of a house-sponsored series called "Finding Philly," which seeks to expose residents to a variety of cultural events in the city. Harrison House Dean Art Casciato, who created the series, said he thought Justice Talking was a perfect addition to it. "Nothing could be more Philadelphia than Carpenters' Hall," Casciato said, referring to the building's history as a meeting place for America's First Continental Congress. "If you're going to find Philadelphia, this is the place to do it -- around the historic district where it all started," Casciato said. Though the seven students said they enjoyed the show itself, not everyone was pleased with some of the answers given by the speakers during an audience question-and-answer session. "She didn't respond to my question," College sophomore Melissa Ganz said of Heriot. "I thought a lot of what she said was skirting the issue." Justice Talking, hosted by National Public Radio correspondent Margot Adler, is produced by Penn's Annenberg Public Policy Center. It is currently broadcast by more than 60 public radio stations around the country. The show aims to "enable the public to understand the issues and why our laws are the way they are," said Executive Producer Kathryn Kolbert, who is also a senior fellow at Annenberg. "Too often, these issues are cast in three-minute sound bites," she said. "We can provide depth to them in a better way than any other medium." Tapings for Justice Talking are held on Monday nights during the academic year. Topics for the rest of this season include hate speech, juvenile prosecution and gay rights.Comments powered by Disqus
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