BY LEA SHERMAN
HOUSTON - In response to mounting attacks on affirmative action, some 5,000 students and others demonstrated at the University of Texas at Austin September 16. Hundreds of students also held a sit-in at the law school after the rally. The protest came amid a growing fury over remarks made by Lino Graglia, a tenured university law professor, against affirmative action.
Graglia spoke at a September 10 press conference launching a student group that supports the Hopwood decision, a court ruling that overturned affirmative action programs at the University of Texas (UT). "Blacks and Mexican-Americans are not academically competitive with whites in selective institutions," the professor declared. "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."
The debate on affirmative action has been heating up as the impact of the Hopwood decision has become clear. The case was originally filed as a challenge to affirmative action policies in admissions at the law school. Since implementing the court ruling, the UT Law School this year expects only four Blacks and 26 Chicanos among its 468 new students, compared to 31 Blacks and 42 Chicanos last year.
The September 16 rally was the largest such action in many years and one of the biggest response here to the current attacks on affirmative action. It was sponsored by Students for Access and Opportunity, a newly formed campus group opposed to the Hopwood decision. Speakers included Jesse Jackson, state legislators, students, and teachers.
Students and faculty speaking at the rally outlined a list of demands, including an apology from the chancellor and Board of Regents for Graglia's remark, that the university work to get a new interpretation of the Hopwood ruling enabling the university to reinstate affirmative action policies, and that students be required to take a course on "critical race and gender studies."
There has also been a lot of discussion and debate on what action to call for against Graglia and on his right to express his views. Some state legislators called for the university to fire or force the resignation of Graglia, threatening to withhold funds for the university if some such action was not taken.
Meanwhile, in Houston an initiative has been placed on the November 4 ballot that would dismantle any city-mandated affirmative action programs, affecting primarily minority contracting requirements.
The Socialist Workers candidate for mayor Patti Iiyama,
whose campaign supporters have just finished collecting
1,000 signatures to place her name on the ballot, stated, "I
will make defense of affirmative action a center of my
campaign. I will join actions to support the demand of UT
students that the university reinterpret Hopwood and
reinstate affirmative action. My supporters and I also will
campaign for the defeat of the so-called Houston Civil
Rights Initiative, which would outlaw affirmative action
programs of the city. Defending affirmative action is in the
interest of all working people as it can help to unify us by
guaranteeing equal access to jobs, education and housing.
Unity of the working class is key to allowing us to fight
together to demand an expansion in educational
opportunities, jobs for all, and an end to cuts in social
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