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Professor's Remarks Spur Denunciation by Jesse Jackson

September 17, 1997|From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — The Rev. Jesse Jackson told University of Texas students Tuesday to skip classes taught by a law professor who said black and Mexican American students can't compete with white students.

"We're not the problem, he is the problem," Jackson told the nearly 5,000 students assembled below the steps of the campus' tower. "You have no obligation to be in his class."

Lino Graglia, a 67-year-old professor of constitutional law, made his remarks last week during the announcement of a student organization that supports a recent federal court ruling preventing race-based admission policies in Texas.

He is the group's faculty advisor.

"Blacks and Mexican Americans are not academically competitive with whites in selective institutions," Graglia told them.

"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."

State legislators have demanded his ouster, but Jackson said that would only make Graglia a martyr.

"What we must do is isolate him as a social pariah," Jackson said.

He added that Graglia and university officials still must answer for what he said.

Graglia, in a statement Tuesday, stood by his opposition to affirmative action programs, but he said his comments were misinterpreted and he "regrets that the result has been an emotional confrontation."

"I realize now, especially after being called by some cordial Mexican American and black parents, that it was carelessly put, and I regret it," he said.

Marc Levin, president of the student group, said Tuesday that Graglia's comments were blown out of proportion.

He said his group supports diversity but not affirmative action.

UT Law Dean Mike Sharlot said an investigation concluded that there were no grounds for disciplinary action against Graglia, who is tenured, and no evidence that he discriminates against students based on race or ethnicity.

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