The Stanford Center for Racial Justice offers courses to students across campus that investigate the role of law and policy in perpetuating or dismantling racial disparities and explores recent legal decisions and policy initiatives impacting racial equity. In each course, students are encouraged to unsettle existing beliefs about the variety of issues covered to develop a deeper understanding of the nuances, difficulties, and possibilities for advancing racial justice. Our courses allow students to engage in open and respectful discussions, be exposed to diverse perspectives, and think critically and empathetically about the complexities of race in America.

LAW 809D Policy Practicum: “What’s Next? After Students for Fair Admissions”

    Course Description

    Autumn 2023, Winter 2024

    Wed 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
    Room: LAW 320D

    The Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions has upended nearly a half century of precedent. Universities that had long relied on race-based affirmative action in their admissions policies will no longer be permitted to do so.

    This policy lab will take up the question with which universities across the country must now grapple: What next? The orientation of the lab will be forward-looking and inclined toward innovation. New principles. New goals. New ideas.

    Rather than merely try to accomplish indirectly what the Supreme Court has prohibited universities from doing overtly, the practicum aims to treat the Supreme Court’s prohibition of race-based affirmative action as an opportunity to reconsider more broadly the goals of selective college admissions and the ways in which America’s leading educational institutions may reform admissions and associated practices in order to improve higher education broadly. Advanced education is crucially important both to national well-being and to racial justice. There is no path to racial justice that does not entail an educational system that works better for people of all backgrounds. The recent Supreme Court decisions regarding race preferences in admissions, and also student loan forgiveness, create an uncommon opportunity to fairly radically rethink how universities make good on their implicit bargain with the American people: to receive public patronage in exchange for enhancing educational opportunity and social mobility.

    Two understandings of the issues inform the scope of work. One is that race-based affirmative action is far from the only aspect of university activity that has been or will be subject to criticism. Thus, we will not limit our focus to the one practice the Supreme Court has already prohibited. Rather, the entire array of marketing, recruitment, admissions and outreach practices and principles should be up for re-examination. The other important point to understand is that a school’s admissions practices are connected to broader questions about the role of prestigious colleges and universities in American society. Only through engaging those broader questions can one think clearly about the normative aims that selective colleges and universities should seek to further, through admissions, financial aid and otherwise.

    In considering the issues, the lab will squarely confront a salient feature of American higher education that has received too little attention: the extraordinary stratification of American colleges and universities. The institutions at the apex of the hierarchy are the envy of the world; they are wealthier, more influential, and more sought after than ever before in our history. Yet, they educate a minuscule percentage of all students, most of whom struggle at less well-resourced institutions, which themselves struggle financially among other operational and educational challenges. The lab will consider the extent to which this extreme stratification is incompatible with the educational needs of our nation and will explore and develop strategies to counter it.

    The work product of the lab will be a guidance document for universities, policymakers, and stakeholders across the country that serves as a road map for how to promote learning and advance racial justice after Students for Fair Admissions. The report will synthesize and evaluate the most successful higher education reforms and offer robust analysis, innovative policy development and recommendations for how to forge better systems of learning for all students. Accomplishing this goal will require the participants in the lab to understand and assess a wide array of issues concerning the structure and goals of higher education, and to take arguments that emanate from conservatives as seriously as those that emanate from liberals.

    Students in this policy lab will research, identify, and design strategies and policy solutions to entrenched racial inequities within our higher education system, particularly at our most elite universities. Students will take a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving in the lab, researching and interacting with a wide range of experts and relevant fields, including but not limited to government, law, business, education, psychology, sociology, health, and technology.

    This class is open to Stanford Law School students, and available for cross-registration for undergraduate and graduate students from across campus. We highly encourage students from outside the Law School to apply, particularly students from the Graduate School of Education, the Graduate School of Business, and those interested in developing their design-thinking skills. Students will be working together in small teams. Grading will be based on presentations, class participation, group work, and written assignments, including a final paper. The long-term client for this policy lab is the Stanford Center for Racial Justice. Please note this lab is a fall quarter 3-unit commitment with the option for a winter quarter extension. The winter quarter extension is a variable 1-3 units.

    CONSENT APPLICATION: To apply for this course, students must complete a Consent Application Form available at SLS Registrar Additionally, students must submit a resume, transcript, and brief policy exercise via email to Dionna Rangel at Applications are due by Sunday, September 17 at 11:59 pm. Directions for the policy exercise are below.

    POLICY EXERCISE: You are a senior advisor to the president of a small university that has relied on using race as a factor in their admissions process. The president has expressed major concerns about the implications for the school after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action in Students for Fair Admissions. They have asked you to draft a policy memo to help them navigate the uncertainty brought on by this landmark decision, specifically:

    • Briefly summarize Students for Fair Admissions, including what the decision says is prohibited and what is permitted.
    • Identify potential avenues for the university to respond to the decision that might be worthy of further investigation, including innovative policy ideas and reforms but also anything the administration should be thinking about more broadly as a higher education institution.
    • Include a short bibliography of select readings that can help the president stay informed about the issues, ideas, and responses post-affirmative action. The memo should be no longer than two pages, single-spaced, and use 12-point font.

    SKILLS TRAINING: Students who enroll in a Law and Policy Lab practicum for the first time are asked to participate in the full-day methods boot camp typically held on the first Saturday of the term. If you wish to earn course credit for developing your policy analysis skills, you may formally enroll in “Elements of Policy Analysis” (Law 7846) for one unit of additional credit. As you will see from the course description, credit for Law 7846 requires your attendance at the full-day methods boot camp plus at least two additional lunch-hour workshops. If you enroll in a practicum but prefer to audit the supplemental skills class — rather than receive formal credit — please let Policy Lab Program Director Luciana Herman ( know and she will contact you with more details. Elements used in grading: Attendance, performance, class participation, written assignments, and final paper.

PSYCH 180B: Practicum on Racial Bias and Structural Inequality in the Law

    Course Description

    Winter 2023

    What role does race and bias play in creating, maintaining, and magnifying inequalities in how the law is made, applied, and enforced? In this course, we will examine how racialized perceptions, experiences, and affordances can become entrenched in our customs and institutions in ways that perpetuate racial inequality. This course is offered as a practicum through the Stanford Center for Racial Justice. Over the course of the quarter, students will spend 10 hours in class (4 hours in week 1, 3 hours apiece in weeks 5 & 6). Each week, they will spend an additional 3-6 hours (according to the units selected) on research and/or Center initiatives pertaining to racial justice in law and policy. Limited enrollment by permission only.