UO Finds Professor Who Wore Blackface Violated Its Discrimination Policies

Dec 21, 2016
Originally published on December 22, 2016 3:41 pm

A University of Oregon Law Professor has been found to have violated the school’s policy against discrimination when she wore blackface for a Halloween costume. The UO released a report on the incident Wednesday.

UO Law Professor Nancy Shurtz donned blackface for a costume party she hosted on Halloween. She invited students, other faculty and alumni. After the event the UO received numerous complaints and calls for the professor to resign. The school put Shurtz on leave and conducted an investigation. Shurtz issued a public apology and explained she was inspired by the memoir, “A Black Man in a White Coat” by Dr. Damon Tweedy, and wanted to bring attention to racism in medical schools, not cause offense. According to the investigation, no one at the party told Shurtz her costume was inappropriate or offensive. The report finds Shurtz’s costume “constitutes a violation of the university’s policies against discrimination.” It finds the “actual disruption and harm to the University” that resulted from the costume outweigh academic freedom and free speech. The U of O did not disclose what disciplinary action will result.

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>> STATEMENT FROM UO LAW PROFESSOR NANCY SHURTZ REGARDING IMPROPER RELEASE OF INFORMATION CONCERNING AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION ABOUT A HALLOWEEN PARTY HOSTED IN HER HOME

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>> On Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, the University of Oregon improperly released a flawed investigative report into events surrounding a Halloween party that I hosted in my home.  This release violated rights of employees to confidentiality guaranteed by law.  In addition, the report contains numerous mistakes, errors and omissions that if corrected would have put matters in a different light. For example, it ignored the anonymous grading process, the presence of many non-students as guests, and the deceptive emails that created a firestorm in the law school.

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>> I, and my legal advisers, were preparing a response to the draft report. Although the University was aware of our intention to submit our corrections by noon (local time) yesterday and to deal with its errors in-house,  the Provost's office or its advisers cynically decided to try to publicly shame me instead.

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>> As the UO's press release itself notes, the University is prohibited by law from disclosing personnel matters.  But the press release and uncorrected Report act as a supremely public retaliation against me for seeking, even if clumsily, to raise issues of insufficient diversity in American professions.  My attorney and I are evaluating our legal options. 

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