UT Law Professor Raises Pulses on Race in Admissions

In 1997, Texas Monthly called UT’s Lino Graglia “the most controversial law professor in America.” This week, he’s living up to that title by raising pulses with his comments in a BBC Radio interview on race in admissions.

In the interview, Graglia tells the BBC’s Gary Younge that he believes African-American students can’t compete in college admissions. Graglia cites single-parent households as one cause of this, saying that nearly three-quarters of African-American children are now born to a single parent: “I can hardly imagine a less beneficial or more deleterious experience than to be raised by a single parent, usually a female, uneducated, and without a lot of money.” Then the interview takes a personal turn.

Younge: I’m black. I was raised in a single-parent family. You’re saying I’m likely not as smart as a white person of the same age.

Graglia: Well, from listening to you and knowing what you are and what you’ve done, I’d say you’re rather more smart. My guess would be that you are above usual smartness for whites, to say nothing of blacks.

The exchange was swiftly picked up by Gawker, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post, among other outlets, while the Texas League of United Latin American Citizens (TX-LULAC) called for Graglia’s resignation.

“As far as I’m concerned, his statements are racist,” TX-LULAC Deputy Director Marcelo Tafoya tells the Alcalde.

University officials were quick to defend Graglia’s right to academic freedom, but also cautioned that his comments do not reflect the views of UT. “Professor Lino Graglia’s recent comments to the BBC do not represent the position of the law school,” said UT Law Dean Ward Farnsworth, “but we stand by his right to discuss his views.”

Graglia is standing by his comments, and he says the reaction to them has been a surprise. “I don’t know what’s controversial about saying that being born to a single parent is disadvantageous,” he says. “I’m certainly not against single mothers. My wife was raised by a single mother and she graduated from Columbia Law School.”

When asked whether he believes that intelligence varies inherently among racial groups, Graglia answers: “That’s what I avoid saying and I’ll never say. Reporters inevitably ask me, is it genetic or is it cultural? I’m not an expert on that, so I can’t say.”

Gregory Vincent, vice president of UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, called Graglia’s comments “a simplistic view of a very complex issue.”

“Professor Graglia’s assertions don’t represent the whole picture,” Vincent says. “For example, UT Law has produced more Hispanic and African-American graduates than any other law school in the country outside of historically black universities. Students of color are graduating from UT Law at very high rates, very close to those of Anglo students.

“[Professor Graglia] concentrates on differences in SAT scores, but that’s only one part of the picture of each student,” Vincent adds. “Students of color are not only qualified to attend UT, they are excelling.”

When it comes to race in admissions, all eyes remain on UT: a decision on the high-profile Fisher v. The University of Texas case, which could ban the consideration of race in admissions, is expected this spring.

Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes does not have a position on the use of race in admissions. We neither support nor condemn Prof. Graglia’s comments. Our aim is always to report on news relating to the University thoughtfully and with balance. 

Illustration by John Krause. Graglia photo courtesy UT Law.


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