WASHINGTON, DC—Condemning recent efforts to punish a professor whose comments were deemed insensitive, the National Alumni Forum today called on university administrators to affirm their adherence to principles of academic freedom and free speech.
“The essence of a university experience should be the free exchange of ideas— from all viewpoints,” said Anne D. Neal, NAF Vice President and General Counsel. “It is wrong-headed for college administrators to condemn and intimidate professors simply because they have controversial points of view. The way to deal with speech—offensive or otherwise— is through more speech, not less.”
Press stories this week reported a furor over comments made by tenured professor Lino Graglia at the University of Texas. Professor Graglia has taught constitutional law at the University for 31 years. The controversial remarks were made at a news conference launching a new campus group, Students for Equal Opportunity. Graglia is the faculty advisor for the group which opposes race-based preferences in admissions criteria. At the press conference, Graglia suggested that minority students’ comparative inability to compete was due to “cultural effects. They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace.”
In the wake of his remarks, students, legislators and faculty have demanded that Graglia be reprimanded or fired. Hugo Berlanga, Democratic state representative called for him to step down. Two black students filed racial harassment complaints against him and nearly the entire law school faculty signed a statement denouncing his comments.
“Mr. Graglia’s comments are fully within the confines of permissible speech,” Neal said. “The fact is, Mr. Graglia is on the ‘politically incorrect’ side of the debate over race-based admissions. The university’s effort to intimidate him is tantamount to a declaration that the First Amendment requires freedom from speech and offense. This is dead wrong.”
The National Alumni Forum is a national organization of alumni and trustees dedicated to academic freedom and excellence. The Forum is based in Washington, D.C.