Latino students were described as “mediocre” and “pretty bad” in an email that was accidentally sent by a professor to students registering for a mock trial class at the University of Maryland.
Mark Graber sent the missive Thursday to students in the class, inadvertently including remarks from Abigail Graber, identified by the Diamondback student newspaper as his daughter and a lawyer who volunteered as an assistant coach for the team. The university then asked the two to resign, which they did, according to an email sent to students.
When asked to comment Friday evening, Mark Graber wrote in an email to The Washington Post: “Regrets, other than to note responsibility is entirely mine.” He declined an interview request because he considered “the incident closed.”
In the email to students, Abigail Graber wrote that she had a question about diversity. While lamenting that they had “almost no Latino students on team,” she proceeded to say that the Latino students were not very qualified for the class.
“If I were to rank purely on performance, I would probably only take 1 of them. Should I take 2? All three? None have mock trial experience,” Abigail Graber wrote. “The mediocre one is extremely involved in community activism/organizing (she’s the one I would probably take no matter what, what she lacks in skill she makes up in confidence, although she may be too busy for this commitment).”
Jocelyn Nolasco, a Latina student who received the email, said she was shocked. The 20-year-old thought she was being referred to as the “mediocre one.” Mark Graber is a University System Regents Professor, a prestigious recognition, and Nolasco said she had been looking forward to his mock trial class.
But then she received the email.
“Are you serious?” she recalled thinking. “I had to read it over and over again to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing.”
Graber is a visiting professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, where this fall he was scheduled to teach Mock Trial and Topical Investigations; Mock Trial, according to the university’s class schedule.
Graber inadvertently included his daughter’s remarks at the bottom of an email notifying students they were accepted into the class. Seven minutes later, he emailed them to apologize.
“Huge apologies to Abigail and all of you. I thought I had edited the email so that all that was on the forwarded email was names and emails,” he wrote to the class. “Please ignore the rest and accept my apologies. Jet lag.”
In an email to the mock trial team, Abigail Graber wrote that she was “terribly sad to leave the program and all of you this way.”
She complimented the students on their intelligence, commitment, professionalism and talent and said they had helped her become a better lawyer.
“I can’t wait to see you make waves in the law, in politics, in science, or in whatever field you choose.”
Abigail Graber could not be reached to comment Friday.
Mark Graber emailed Nolasco to apologize. Nolasco is president of the Latinx Student Union and holds a leadership position in the campus NAACP chapter.
Mark Graber wrote that he was “sick to my stomach” about the email.
“A special apology to you, because while other students could only guess their confidential assessment, yours is obvious from the context,” Mark Graber wrote. “I am sending this message to you because I sincerely hope you stay in the program (and I am happy to talk about our commitment to diversity as well). You clearly wish to be a voice for equal rights. This program is about finding that voice.”
Nolasco wasn’t persuaded. She said Graber apologized for the students seeing the email, not its content.
Monday was the first day of classes at the University of Maryland, and students returned to a campus that was fraught with racial tension last academic year. A noose was found in a fraternity house, white supremacist fliers were posted on campus and a coalition of student groups issued an extensive list of demands to the administration, calling for better representation of marginalized communities.
Laura Ours, a university spokeswoman, said associate dean Katherine Russell has reached out to students who received the email and let them know that they can discuss concerns with her and with the chairman of the Government and Politics Department.
“A new head mock trial coach will be announced shortly,” Ours said. “We are sorry for the coaching transition at the beginning of the semester.”
The university’s chief diversity officer has also “begun conversations and outreach to students and leadership within the college on the matter,” university spokeswoman Katie Lawson wrote in an email.
After the fatal stabbing of Bowie State University student Richard W. Collins III in May, University President Wallace Loh emphasized the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in a Baltimore Sun op-ed.
“These are fraught times on our campus, across the nation and around the world. It is on all of us to stand up and fight racism, extremism and hate,” Loh wrote. “They are cancers in our body politic.”
Nolasco said it’s a “waiting game” for the next offensive incident to occur.
“What happens next?” she asked.