A University of Maryland visiting professor and a lawyer who were both involved in this university's mock trial team resigned Friday following an accidentally sent email exchange discussing how many Latino students they should add to the team.
Mock trial coach Mark Graber sent an email Thursday morning to students who had been admitted into his class. Along with a message listing the selected students, the email also included an exchange with his daughter, Abigail Graber, a lawyer who volunteered as an assistant coach for the team.
"I've started sorting the unregistered students," Graber wrote to her father in the email. "The question I have is about diversity. There were three (obviously) latino students who came; 1 was mediocre, two were pretty bad (1 of the two bad ones didn't seem to take it especially seriously). But we have almost no latino students on team.
"If I were to rank purely on performance, I would probably only take 1 of them," Graber continued. "Should I take 2? All three? None have mock trial experience."
Jocelyn Nolasco, one of the students who received the email, posted the exchange on Twitter Thursday afternoon and wrote, "A racist email and it's only the fourth day of classes.. […]"
Nolasco told The Diamondback Graber is referring to her as the "mediocre" student. Mark Graber emailed her a personal apology Thursday afternoon, saying "while other students could only guess their confidential assessment, yours is obvious from the context."
"These issues are so common," said Nolasco, a junior government and politics major. "I'm used to seeing it with other people. When it … was about me, I was like, 'Oh, okay. This is not new, but this is new to me.'"
Graber and his daughter both wrote emails to the class Friday morning announcing their resignations.
"The administration has asked that Abby and I resign in light of today's events," Graber wrote. "We have."
A university spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday on the resignations.
Graber wrote he was "sick to [his] stomach" that his carelessness had cost the team and remarked how he was "nevertheless proud of our program, of what we have done for our students and, bluntly, our commitment to diversity."
Mark Graber declined to comment on his resignation Friday morning.
Abigail Graber could not be immediately reached for comment. She wrote in her resignation email to the class that she was "terribly sad to leave the program and all of you this way."
The behavioral and social science college's dean, Gregory Ball, called the content of the email "troubling."
"While it is obviously the case that faculty and coaches have to make evaluations and judgments related to performance, students should never feel as though they are the targets of demeaning characterizations of any kind —especially for reasons based on race, ethnicity, or other identity characteristics," Ball wrote in an email to the college Monday night. "I will continue to work with our departments, programs and center chairs and directors to make sure that every member of our faculty clearly understands these basic principles."
Mark Graber followed up the initial email exchange with an apology to the class on Thursday.
"Huge apologies to Abigail and all of you," Graber wrote. "I thought I had edited the email so that all that was on the forwarded email was names and emails. Please ignore the rest and accept my apologies. Jet lag."
Nolasco said his apology did not sufficiently address the issue.
"Not only was it unprofessional, but it was so unapologetic about what was said because he blamed it on being jet lagged," Nolasco said. "It's a backhanded apology."
Katherine Russell, the behavioral and social sciences college's associate dean, contacted the students who received the email and invited them to reach out to her or Irwin Morris, the government and politics department chair, to discuss any questions or concerns, according to an email from Laura Ours, a spokeswoman for the college.
A new mock trial head coach will be announced shortly, Ours wrote.
This story has been updated to include an apology Mark Graber sent to Nolasco in an email Thursday afternoon.