Hostile words in Texas – campus rallies against University of Texas law professor

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by James E. Garcia

Campus Rallies Against Law Professor Who says Blacks and Latinos Can’t Compete

AUSTIN, Tex.
Led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, about 10,000 students
rallied last month to protest comments by a White University of Texas
law-school professor who said African Americans and Hispanics cannot
compete academically with Whites. University of Texas officials have
criticized Professor Lino Graglia for his remarks, but say he will not
be disciplined.

Graglia recently told a group of students that Blacks and Latinos
cannot compete with Whites because their cultures do not look upon
“failure with disgrace.” Those comments were taped and broadcast by a
local television news crew.

In a speech to what many described as among the largest crowds to
attend a UT protest in decades, Jackson said, “(Graglia) may have the
legal grounds for free speech, but no moral grounds and no scientific
grounds for racist, fascist, inaccurate speech.”

Jackson encouraged students to boycott the professor’s classes, but
stopped short of demanding that UT fire Graglia and suggested that
would make the law professor a “legal martyr” to those who agree with
him. Instead he called upon students to “isolate” Graglia as “a moral
and social pariah.”

A coalition of minority faculty members called The Faculty of Color
Caucus said they want university administrators to investigate whether
Mr. Graglia has “racially harassed” students in violation of the UT’s
anti-discrimination policy.

“We want to call attention to the fact that, while the First
Amendment protects individual rights to free speech, racial harassment
is not a First Amendment right,” said Lisa Sanchez-Gonzalez, a
spokesman for the Faculty of Color Caucus.

Sheila Walker, director of the Center for African and African
American Studies at UT, noted that Graglia has also disparaged the
importance of African American studies programs. The irony, she said,
is that most African American studies professors, and the students
taking their courses, are White.

“If he’s going to start talking about the inferiority of those
courses, then he’d better start with those teaching and taking African
American studies,” she said.

After the rally, a group of students called Students for Access and
Opportunity staged a sit-in in the lobby of the law school until a
committee of the UT Board of Regents agreed to meet with them to
discuss their concerns about growing anti-affirmative action sentiment
on campus.

A federal court ruling last year in Hopwood u. the University of
Texas School of Law ended raced-based affirmative action programs at
Texas’s state-funded colleges and universities. California voters also
have approved a ban on state-funded affirmative action programs.
Graglia is a staunch opponent of affirmative action.

UT officials have issued a statement saying Mr. Graglia’s remarks
“demean minority students,” but they defended his Constitutional free
speech right to express his opinions.

Mike Sharlot, Dean of the UT School of Law, told the Austin
American-Statesman, “despite a few student complaints over the
thirty-three years he has been on faculty, there are not, given
applicable First Amendment protections, grounds for considering any
disciplinary action.”

Graglia, a longtime critic of affirmative action, told students in a
recent class: “Blacks and Mexican-Americans are not academically
competitive with whites in selective institutions. It is the result
primarily of cultural effects. They have a culture that seems not to
encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace.”

After the uproar created by his earlier comments, Graglia issued a
written statement saying, “While I stand by my opposition to racial
preferences, which necessarily implies differences in academic
competitiveness, I fully support the university and law school efforts
and wish to do what I can to assist them.”

Several minority lawmakers attended the rally, including Sens. Gonzalo Barrientos, (D-Tex.), and Royce West, (D-Tex.).

“Let us not forget there are First Amendment rights, and Mr. Graglia
has the right to say whatever he wants to in America, but so do we,”
said Barrientos.

“We want something done, and we want it done now, or in the next [legislative] session we will do it.”

Referring to Graglia’s comments and the recent end to affirmative
action programs at state-funded universities, Sen. West, who is African
American, said, “I would hope that the governor of our state, who all
of us work with on a day to day basis, would not preside over the
resegregation of higher education in the state.”

Jackson lauded the students attending the rally, most of whom were
White, for turning out to protest Graglia. “This is a great moment in
the history of Texas because you’re turning a minus into a plus. You’re
making a charge today to go forward by hope and not backwards by fear.”

James E. Garcia is editor and publisher of Politico, a national weekly newsletter covering Latino politics.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com

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