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Edward V. Sparer Symposium

Sparer Symposium

Since 1984, the Edward V. Sparer Symposium has been one of the Law School’s cornerstone events. By focusing on urgent social justice issues of our time, the Sparer Symposium commemorates the life and work of the late Edward V. Sparer, Professor of Law and Social Policy. The Symposium brings together academics, practitioners, community members, activists, and organizers to provide insight into the dynamic relationship between scholarship and practice in the area of poverty law.

41st Annual Edward V. Sparer Symposium

2022 Sparer Flyer Image The 41st Annual Edward V. Sparer Symposium will be held virtually on Friday February 11, 2022 from 8:45 am - 5:00 pm EST.

This year’s symposium titled, “Moving Toward Liberation: Transportation and Mobility Justice”  will focus on transportation and mobility justice, centering on three critical questions: who can move, when, and under what circumstances? Through interdisciplinary conversations with lawyers, activists, and scholars from across the country, we will investigate how American transportation systems entrench inequality, racial segregation, and economic disparity. The symposium will take the form of moderated panels exploring the ways transportation and mobility injustice, in Philadelphia and beyond, impact the marketplace, access to resources, policing, and the rights of people with disabilities.

Registration for this year’s symposium is now open.

Register for the 41st Annual Sparer Symposium 

8:45 AM | Opening Remarks

Ayanna Williams

Associate Director, Toll Public Service Corps

9:00 AM | Bought-In & Gridlocked Out: Communities without Transportation Access

Transportation plays a key role in mobility but is not equitably accessible. Through a focus on “transit deserts,” a term coined by panelist Junfeng Jiao, this discussion examines the history, laws, and policies that contribute to transportation decisions, situates American transportation barriers and failures within a global context, and imagines what a future with greater access and mobility justice might look like.

  • Junfeng Jiao, Hampton K. and Margaret Frye Snell Associate Professor of Transportation, University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture
  • Noah Kazis, Legal Fellow, New York University Furman Center
  • Mimi Sheller, Dean of The Global School, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Gregory H. Shill, Associate Professor of Law, Iowa College of Law

10:15 AM | At a Crossroad: Mobility and Access to Resources

How do transportation systems perpetuate inequities within communities that historically have been underserved? Utilizing the mobility justice framework, this discussion critically examines the intersections of urban planning, transportation policy, and equity. By bringing to light the ways transportation systems inhibit mobility, we can begin to advocate for more equitable access to resources such as education, affordable housing, and healthcare.

  • Jesus M. Barajas, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis
  • Ariel H. Bierbaum, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
  • Alex Karner, Hampton K. and Margaret Frye Snell Associate Professor of Transportation, University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture
  • Kate Sablosky Elengold, Assistant Professor of Law, University of North Carolina

11:30 AM | Lunch


12:15 PM | Keynote Address

Deborah N. Archer, President, American Civil Liberties Union; Professor of Clinical Law and Co-Faculty Director of Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law, New York University School of Law; Co-Director of the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program, New York University School of Law

1:15 PM | “The Pretextual Traffic Stop:” How Policing Drivers Fuels Mass Incarceration

For drivers in America, being pulled over by police is a common experience. But given the deadly risk posed to Black drivers and the widely documented abuses of police discretion, do traffic stops make the public safer? This discussion explores the foundations of traffic policing practices and unpacks default assumptions about police power and the socio-legal history of “pretextual traffic stops,” as they are described by Professor Jefferson-Jones. By tracing the role of traffic stops in mass incarceration and state profit, we shed light on the impact of this form of spatial structural racism. By understanding how over-policing and road safety are compounded problems, we can explore what a future of freedom and safety really looks like.

  • Marco Conner DiAquoi, Political and Deputy Director, Transportation Alternatives
  • Jamila Jefferson-Jones, Professor of Law and Associate Director of Property, Equity and Justice, Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, Wayne State University
  • Sarah A. Seo, Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
  • Joshua Vaughn, Investigative Reporter

2:30 PM | Burdened by Design: The Harms of Inaccessibility

Structural inequities underscore that the very roads and transportation systems on which we depend were—and still are—unequally designed. Who bears the higher burden and greater risk of harm when commuting and why? This discussion explores how the design of our roads, sidewalks, and transportation systems disproportionately impacts individuals due to race, class, and disability, and harms those who sit at the intersections of marginalized identities.

  • Dara Baldwin, Director of National Policy, Center for Disability Rights
  • Claire Stanley, Public Policy Analyst, National Disability Rights Network
  • Destiny Thomas, CEO and Founder of Thrivance Group
  • Britney Wilson, Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic, New York Law School

3:45 PM | Zones of Exclusion in the City of Neighborhoods

Public infrastructure and policy continue to exclude the most marginalized communities in our nation’s poorest big city. As leaders of the fight for equitable access to transportation in Philadelphia, these organizers critically engage in a discussion about the city’s entrenched inequities and their manifestations on the city’s sidewalks, streets, buses, and trains. Following in the footsteps of Philadelphian and transit activist Octavius Catto, who organized to desegregate the city’s trolley cars a century before the Civil Rights Movement, this panel imagines a radical future of transportation possibilities.

  • Waffiyyah Murray, Indego Program Manager, City of Philadelphia
  • Patty Torres, Organizing Director, Make the Road Pennsylvania
  • Yasha Zarrinkelk, Coalition Manager and Community Organizer, Transit Forward Philadelphia



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Sparer 2019

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Sparer 2016

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Sparer 2014

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Sparer 2011

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Sparer 2009

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