Chicano lawmakers Thursday called for the resignation of University of Texas law professor Lino Graglia, who said earlier this week that racial diversity adds little to students' education and that blacks and Mexican-Americans come from cultures in which "failure is not looked upon with disgrace."
"He should not continue to represent the state of Texas or educate the future leaders of our state in one of our premier public institutions," state Rep. Hugo Berlanga, chairman of the House Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, said in a written statement. "The fact that he and his opinions represent our tax dollars at work in a state as diverse as Texas is intolerable."
Graglia's comments drew quick criticism from lawmakers, Chicanos, lawyers, Graglia's peers and University of Texas alumni statewide. State Sen. Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi, said he is asking minority caucuses in the Senate to urge that the professor resign. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council No. 1 in Corpus Christi unanimously approved a resolution Thursday night demanding Graglia's resignation, and if he does not that the university use all available means to punish him. "Graglia believes that minority students come from a culture of failure," the resolution said. "He knows nothing of our culture and has never crawled down from his ivory tower to find out. "His lack of respect for the students who sit in his classes is unacceptable. His contempt for our leaders is intolerable."
About 50 of the law school's 60 professors issued a statement Thursday saying they disagree with Graglia's views, university officials said. Graglia spoke Wednesday during the announcement of a new student organization that supports a federal court ruling outlawing race-based admissions policies in Texas. Graglia is a faculty adviser for the student group "Blacks and Mexican-Americans are not academically competitive with whites in selective institutions," he said. "It is the result primarily of cultural effects. It seems to be the case that, various studies seem to show, that blacks and Mexican-Americans spend much less time in school. They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace." Graglia, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, has said it is unfortunate that a person can't object to affirmative action and racial preferences without being labeled racist. He also said he believes studies support his contention that minorities generally aren't competitive with whites, adding that the problem should be addressed at the elementary and secondary levels, not at colleges and universities.
Truan, who also called for Graglia's resignation, said he felt "utter disgust over the despicable language spoken by that law professor. "In my opinion, he is a discredit to his profession, the law school and the state of Texas," Truan said. "I believe in the First Amendment and freedom of speech, but this law professor is making a mockery of it and is bringing about the kind of problems that we have been trying to resolve for years."State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, sent letters to Peter Flawn, interim university president, and University of Texas Chancellor William Cunningham asking them to publicly distance the university from Graglia's views. Barrientos also called upon Graglia's law school peers to consider his remarks as a reflection of his academic qualifications during his post-tenure review.
In a written statement, Flawn said Graglia does not represent the university. "These statements were made by one individual speaking for himself," he said. "The university administration strongly supports diversity on our campus." Graglia's comments, while abhorrent to some, do not constitute grounds for forced removal from his position, said Stephen Monti, the university's provost ad interim. "Any university is a marketplace of very diverse opinions," Monti said. "Under the First Amendment, people have the right to have and express their views, be as unpopular as they may be."
State Bar of Texas President Frank Newton said Graglia's comments may spark discussion on the need to ensure that law schools are open to all ethnicities. Newton and other law professors, lawyers and lawmakers attended a seminar Thursday in Houston aimed at helping law schools maintain diverse student bodies."The State Bar of Texas underscores the importance of diversity by pointing out that a democracy which operates without reasonable representation of all segments of the public operates badly," said Newton, dean of the Texas Tech University law school. "If we fail to ensure that the bench and Bar look like the public, then our system is in grave danger.
Several Corpus Christi lawyers who attended law school at UT said they were embarrassed by Graglia's remarks. "Graglia's comments are so unbelievably ignorant that it casts a stamp of shame on the entire University of Texas System. It brings into question the integrity of the University of Texas School of Law and its commitment to diversity," said Ruben Bonilla, former LULAC national president. "What is so shuddering about this is the mentality that `because we're white, we're better than the rest.' That's what Graglia is saying. He's just saying it in a more sophisticated manner, but it is Hitler-esque." Bonilla said state lawmakers should rethink the university's funding as a way to get the attention of administrators and those who deride the value of classroom diversity. But Bonilla said he doesn't support calling for his resignation."Resignation will only make him more powerful because he'll become a martyr for the cause," Bonilla said.
Corpus Christi lawyer Joseph Huerta, who graduated from the UT law school in 1993, said he was a student in Graglia's constitutional law class.
"I learned shockingly little constitutional law in his class," Huerta said. "He used it as an opportunity to advance his personal views on the Constitution. It did not prepare me for the practice of law." Huerta said Graglia never made racist comments in class, although he added he wasn't surprised the recent remarks.
"I find it offensive that he could make generalizations about me as a student in his class and about my culture," Huerta said. In class, "he was not particularly sensitive and kind of went out of his way to let people know he did not like the language of political correctness. He was one of those types who enjoys creating controversy. We had all gotten used to ignoring him." William D. Bonilla Sr., a 1953 UT law school graduate, said he is proof that Graglia's comments about minorities being unable to compete are incorrect. After graduating high school at age 16, William Bonilla said, he went on to be an honor student at Baylor University, graduating in the top 5 percent of his class. He was a member of the law review at UT, tutored other students and worked as a clerk at a law firm in addition to his coursework. He took the bar and passed while still a law school student, he said. "If I did it, other people can do it," William Bonilla said. "He is wrong."
Berlanga said Graglia has a history of inappropriate remarks and that they cost him an appointment to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1986.
Berlanga was referring to Graglia's appellate nomination more than 10 years ago that was withdrawn by then-President Reagan after objections were raised to his use of the word "pickaninny" in the classroom, according to the Opponents also criticized published articles of his in which he seemed to urge Austin residents to defy court-ordered busing of public school students.
Corpus Christi lawyer Rene Haas, whose term on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board officially ended last month, said she was flabbergasted by Graglia's remarks. Her daughter is a first-year student at the law school. "I thought his comments were strange and unnecessary," said Haas, a former district judge. "I believe in academic freedom. He has the right to say that. But I think it's unfortunate that anyone would choose to say it or believe it."
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But some law school faculty members said the decision could put an end to reverse discrimination on campus.
"I feel quite good about it," said law professor Lino Graglia, who has written extensively about affirmative action. "It should very much ... limit racial discrimination in admissions."
Graglia added that he considers affirmative action "a euphemism for racial discrimination," and said the case probably will reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
He said the law school will benefit from the elimination of its current policy regarding minority admissions.
"If you stop the racially preferential admissions, ... you're going to raise the overall score of the class as a whole," Graglia said.