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Rethinking the Value of Diversity after the End of Race-Based Admissions Decisions

The recent Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College has sparked great discourse in the week since the decision, and in particular, fear amongst those who worry about losing a key tool to fight the legacy of discrimination and the continuing disadvantages that impact people of color in the US. In its decision, the Court’s majority ruled that admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina violated the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. While a range of others, including Justices Jackson and Sotomayor, have laid out dissents and critiques of the decision, I have seen little discussion of the path forward for those who seek to ensure that more people from families and communities that have been impacted by racial prejudice over the nation’s history can benefit from a college education in the future.    You will read a different perspective here, building from experiences at four different univ
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Assault on the Capitol - This Cannot Stand

There are certain events that become burned in our memories for a lifetime.  These may be the untimely death of a loved one or a famous person for whom we felt a connection, or one that provides sudden confirmation of something that we hoped for or feared.  These are the "nothing will ever be the same" events.  January 6, 2021 is already one of those days after which things will never be the same.  New facts will continue to come out, but this much is clear:   the Capitol of the United States was attacked by those who were attempting to disrupt Congress from certifying votes of the Electoral College.  Federal legislators were forced to temporarily suspend their duties under threat of imminent physical harm, the home of our first branch of government was defaced, and people died .     While it is difficult to get into all of the causes, warning signs, and individuals who are responsible without getting into the politics of the moment, those facts seem clear. A complete list of

Removing Woodrow Wilson's Name from Princeton: Looking Back to Move Forward

I applaud the Princeton University Board of Trustees' decision yesterday to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson from the policy school and residential college that were formerly named for him. While this decision may appear sudden to some, the Board has carefully deliberated on this decision over a number  of years. For alumni like myself, the school's reputation as a place of a world-class education in public policy has long been at odds with the mixed legacy of its eponym. As the board states , "Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combating the scourge of racism in all its forms." An alumni lecture in Princeton SPIA's main auditorium  Over the years, alumni have expressed varying levels of pride, discomfort and shame over the decision to continue this honor of having one of the nation's foremost policy schools named after Wilson.  He was th

2018 Commencement Speech

Graduation speech as delivered to the graduates of the University of Maryland's School of Architecture Planning and Preservation by Dr. Rodney Harrell on December 19, 2018: Good afternoon graduates, faculty, staff, family and friends.   It is my honor to be with you today. They say the best graduation speeches are short, focused and future-oriented, so naturally, I’ll start with something over 200 years ago. I used to work with the Maryland Heritage Areas Program. It was there that I learned about Riversdale, a mansion from the early 1800s located just a couple of miles from here. You don’t see a lot of houses like that - It strikes you as odd to see this Federal period mansion with these great Tuscan columns just a few blocks from Route One, and then you realize the massive scale of the plantation that it belonged to, which includes the ground that we stand on today. It makes me think of how much has changed around here since that time – slavery and tobacco crops no longer exi

The "Boom" in Golden Girls-Style Shared Housing: Where’s the Beef?

NBC, Touchstone Television and their partners should be proud– it has been 22 years since the final episode aired, yet the influence of The Golden Girls   means that every year reporters ask about the boom in “Golden Girls Housing .”  This form of shared housing receives a great amount of attention, but we'll miss the big picture if we look for big numbers. For the last few years, I have looked at data from the Current Population Survey  (analyzed by the AARP Public Policy Institute ) to count households that are all female (or all male) with at least one non-related housemate or roommate, no spouses, and no one under 50 in the home. This is the classic “Golden Girls” formula.   The result has become familiar: a very small portion of the population lives in a “golden” situation, around one percent.  The small numbers of people in those situations means that it’s hard to figure out whether it has become more popular.  Though the percentage appears to be holding steady, th

What Is a Livable Community, and How Do We Measure One?

Today, I kicked off AARP Public Policy Institute 's Livability Index project with a blog and two papers on new project webpage: bi.tly/LivIndex .  The PPI blog, " What Is a Livable Community, and How Do We Measure One? " introduces the project to the world. You may have wondered why I haven't been writing as much lately, and this project is what has been keeping me busy recently. In a way, this has been keeping me busy for years.

AARP's Media Release for "What Is Livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults"

The AARP media release for one of my most recent reports, "What is Livable? Community Preferences of Older Adults":  April 25, 2014                                                                                                        Media Contact: Nancy Thompson (202) 434-2506 NEW AARP REPORT OUTLINES WHAT OLDER AMERICANS WANT IN THEIR COMMUNITIES, HOW MANY ARE THINKING OF MOVING Washington, D.C. – The vast majority of people age 50 and older plan to remain living independently in their communities, a new report from the AARP Public PolicyInstitute concludes.  The report which surveyed boomers and older adults found that both value secure neighborhoods, safety, good schools, safe streets for walking, access to transportation, parks and affordable housing as community qualities. With these resources in place, communities enhance personal independence and foster resident engagement in community civic, economic and social life, qualit