University reinstates professor after apology for racially charged incident

That would be the University of Virginia. The WaPo has the details here. He claimed the #blacklivesmatter movement which protests illegal killings by the police was like the KKK which committed lynchings. He learned the hard way how stupid, offensive, and racist this claim is, and he asked to be taken out of class for a few weeks.

Here at UO there is still no news on the report on the Halloween incident, where a liberal law professor dressed up as a black doctor, with black make-up, in a stupid and offensive attempt to honor him and make a point about racism in the medical profession. We were told the outside law firm’s report would be finished several weeks ago.

Prof. Ed Coleman talked to Shurtz, thinks law faculty & Schill reacted poorly

11/13/2016: In a podcast with a Black UO philosophy student, posted on the Daily Emerald website here:

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-7-58-12-am

Professor Coleman’s undergraduate work was in theater. He started the Ethnic Studies program at UO. He says the administration should have thought before condemning Shurtz. He connects white emcees making money off blackface to white coaches making money off Black basketball and football players.

He’s not impressed by the argument from the Black student in the interview that one professor wearing blackface at a halloween party in her own home, with a long history of supporting diversity at UO, trying to make an anti-racist argument, creates an unsafe space for students. Coleman talks about the difficulty of meeting the Black Student Union’s demand for hiring more Black faculty without first filling the pipeline with PhD students.

He believes that whoever sent the Shurtz photo to the newspapers shouldn’t have. He and the student seem to agree that Shurtz’s anti-racist intent matters. Shurtz has told Coleman that she has hired lawyers and will sue the university so that she can resume teaching. The student wants her to have a chance to talk to the students and explain her motivations. There’s more on Ed Coleman and Black history at UO here.

11/15/2016: Profs Ed Coleman & Ofer Raban school Dean Moffitt & 23 angry professors

Retired UO Professor Ed Coleman (English Lit) is still schooling us all in what it means to be a teacher. In the RG:

As a black child growing up in a southern town in Arkansas in the early 1940s, my father took me to several minstrel shows. A friend of his played violin in the pit band and gave him tickets. The shows, a major form of entertainment in the United States, were traveling throughout the South and had stopped in our hometown of El Dorado.

As always, the performers wore blackface, with the exception of “Mr. Interlocutor” (the director on stage), who was white. All the performers were almost always black men, except for the occasional times when black women performers also wore blackface.

As a retired English professor who taught black literature and folklore (including the cultural roots of Jim Crow and minstrel show evolution and influence), I, too, was initially appalled and taken aback after reading University of Oregon President Schill’s recent letter to the University community; seeing the published photograph of esteemed Prof. Nancy Shurtz, in costume and blackface further tweaked my concern.

However, and this is a big however, after learning about Prof. Shurtz’s account of her donning the costume, I realized she was attempting to show how many black doctors have been tragically trivialized by white people. She was holding and displaying a copy of the best-selling book “Black Man In a White Coat — A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine” by Damon Tweedy, M.D. This was a party in her own home with invited guests. After reading Nancy Shurtz’s academic profile, it was clear that she is a nationally eminent scholar whose teaching and scholarship are exemplary.

What I find troubling and painful is how quickly so many of the faculty and my former colleagues are ready to tar and feather her and run her out of the university. A reputation of decades blackened and bruised with blaring headlines and heated rhetoric in an uncritical rush to judgment. Shurtz did no immediate harm and I am embarrassed at the overwhelming display of instant but uncritical outrage directed at her with their online petition and various letters screaming to have her fired.

Please! “Methinks thou protest too much.”

Shurtz had no racist intent — just the opposite. My question is: Who took the photograph and why? And why post it, hiding anonymously, on social media? Was this “guest” trying to embarrass or damage her or what? Why needlessly cause deep personal pain, anguish and humiliation?

I am taking this stance because as a black man, I, too, could be subjected to unwarranted petitions and letters.

Edwin Coleman II, PhD., is an Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Oregon.

And the Oregonian editorial board thinks we need a straightjacket:

… But was Shurtz’ action malevolent? No. Racist? Unwittingly. Harmful? Yes, but not because it was so wrong-headed or because there was evidence offered by aggrieved individuals. Instead, the incident has become harmful to the brand of the law school, 23 of whose faculty members were so cowed by the event that they asked Shurtz to immediately resign. In shame. As an idiot. Significantly, as in: not one of them.

This is dangerous, hive-minded stuff. It carries the whiff of fascistic decrees that act, over time, to crush individuals and tamp down fruitful disagreement. Meanwhile, it coddles the privileged: faculty, law students and prospective law students, whose protection both real and promised places them in a padded world immune from even perceived discomfort. …

11/14/2016: UO Law Professor Ofer Raban teaches his Dean & 23 angry law professors

In the Oregonian here. An excerpt:

I do not speak only for myself at the law school when I say that the dean’s response, and the faculty’s letter, were a disgrace. This was a failure of leadership and pedagogy, and opposition to it within the law school was expressed from day one.

This regrettable Halloween event was a teachable moment, but it ended up teaching many wrong lessons. Surely, this was a moment to teach about racial sensitivity and awareness of history, and of what it means to live as a racial minority in this country. But it was also a moment to teach other valuable lessons for law students: Do not rush to judgment. Deliberate carefully, away from emotions running high. Consider all the relevant factors. And show compassion for human fallibility.

At a time of an emboldened pernicious racism, the refusal to recognize the distinction between malicious racism and a stupid but well-intentioned mistake is not only a moral and legal travesty, it is also fodder for the real enemies of racial equality.

In full:

Ofer Raban

On Halloween night, a University of Oregon law professor hosted a private party at her home attended by some faculty and students. She donned a costume representing an African American doctor, including a hospital gown and the coloring of her face.

The professor in question had a long record of advocacy for the rights of minorities. She was even nominated for the university’s Martin Luther King Jr. Award. In fact, she wore the costume to honor an African American hero of hers (Dr. Damon Tweedy, author of “Black Man in a White Coat.”) There seems to be no doubt that there was no malicious intent in donning the costume.

The reaction of the law school dean and some of its faculty was swift: The dean placed the professor on administrative leave and a majority of faculty members signed a letter calling on her to resign.

“We are angry,” proclaimed the letter, twice. “You need to resign. It doesn’t matter what your intentions were. It doesn’t matter if (your conduct) was protected by the First Amendment.”

The idea that intentions don’t matter when evaluating a person’s culpability — which appeared both in the faculty letter and in an email written by an associate dean and circulated to the students — is not just wrong but also contradicted by what law professors preach daily in their classrooms

Measuring individual culpability by reference to one’s intent is a foundational principle of our criminal law, our tort law, our contract law, or our constitutional doctrine. In fact, that principle — absent from primitive legal systems — is considered one of the greatest civilizing forces of our law.

For law professors to claim that intentions don’t matter is, frankly, preposterous. (Even more ludicrous was the remark of another university professor, who wrote to the university president that the absence of a racist intent “makes it worse” in his view, because it showed ignorance and callous disregard for minorities.)

The event in question was attended by some students and faculty, but it did not take place in a classroom or even on campus. The costume was donned at an after-hours private party at the professor’s own home. This, combined with the fact that the costume was donned without any malice — to the contrary, in an attempt to celebrate an American hero — should have obviated any demand for giving up one’s livelihood, let alone a suspension. Moreover, let’s remember that we are dealing with a public university professor at a time that many of us fear might prove challenging to academic freedom.

I do not speak only for myself at the law school when I say that the dean’s response, and the faculty’s letter, were a disgrace. This was a failure of leadership and pedagogy, and opposition to it within the law school was expressed from day one.

This regrettable Halloween event was a teachable moment, but it ended up teaching many wrong lessons. Surely, this was a moment to teach about racial sensitivity and awareness of history, and of what it means to live as a racial minority in this country. But it was also a moment to teach other valuable lessons for law students: Do not rush to judgment. Deliberate carefully, away from emotions running high. Consider all the relevant factors. And show compassion for human fallibility.

At a time of an emboldened pernicious racism, the refusal to recognize the distinction between malicious racism and a stupid but well-intentioned mistake is not only a moral and legal travesty, it is also fodder for the real enemies of racial equality.

Ofer Raban is a professor of law at the University of Oregon.

11/7/2016: Law School Dean explains blackface legal issues, criticizes Schill as unfair

That would be the Dean of the University of Illinois law school, Vikram Amar. In a nutshell, he explains that students have more First Amendment protections than faculty do. On balance he says Professor Schurtz may well still be protected by it, and quite possibly by other law. Read it all, I’ve only posted the ending:

On Academic Freedom, Administrative Fairness, And Blackface

… My second observation is that the First Amendment is not the only potentially relevant legal constraint. Due process (are faculty clearly told what they cannot say so they are not sandbagged?), contract law (tenure is often a contract concept), and state constitutional protections may give public faculty members more latitude than does the First Amendment. And these extra protections may be perfectly appropriate if we do take seriously historical notions of academic freedom.

My last observation is an important one, and that is that critics of Professor Shurtz have themselves erred. President Schill’s quick characterization of Professor Shurtz’s use of blackface as being “in jest” is at odds with her own explanation, and we need remember that there has been no process yet to determine any actual facts. Shurtz’s 23 faculty colleagues assert that her “intentions [don’t] matter.” But whether we are interpreting the First Amendment or deciding whether someone should be required to give up her very livelihood, intent ought clearly to matter a great deal. After all, the reason (correctly identified by those calling for her resignation) that Shurtz’s actions warrant serious scrutiny is that they may undermine her (and the university’s) trust and credibility with students, alumni and the community. But wouldn’t students, alumni and the outside world want to know why she did what she did in deciding how much less they like and trust her and the law school? If she did it to mock African-Americans (or merely “in jest” because she is flippant about race), aren’t they likely to be much more angry and disaffected than if she did it to support the cause of racial equality (like the author in Black Like Me who feigned blackness to document racism), even if her attempt was clumsy, ill-advised and ultimately counterproductive? Again, no process has yet found the full facts (I have no familiarity with Professor Shurtz and am not vouching for her sincerity). But the idea that intent is irrelevant when heavy consequences like resignation are being considered runs counter to most areas of law and moral intuition. And lawyers – especially law professors who are teaching students how to frame arguments — ought to take care to appreciate that.

Balancing Freedom of Expression and Diversity on Campuses

An account of a recent APLU meeting on this topic, from Inside Higher Ed here. A snippet:

Page, the columnist, said, “I don’t want to call your generation coddled,” but went on to share an example of what he said “troubles me about political correctness.” He cited the reactions of students at Emory University in March when some students chalked “Trump 2016” on campus. Some students said at the time that they felt threatened by the chalkings.

“If there is anything that the First Amendment is for, it is political speech,” he said.

Gillman, of Irvine, offered three strategies he said he hoped research universities would pursue in the wake of the election:

  • “Make it as clear as possible that we are doubling down on the values we have of diverse communities of mutual respect,” he said. “The level of rhetoric in this campaign truly created threats and ignited a kind of hate” that needs to be opposed. “Let’s not be shy.”
  • Academics need to recognize that there are people in the United States “who feel that they are not being heard,” Gillman said. Whatever scholars may feel about Trump voters, they need to find ways to “reach across the divide of opinion.”
  • “We need to remember our scholarly mission,” Gillman said. That means looking at the political trends in the United States and Western Europe, and remembering that “democracies are fragile things,” and that they are challenged by “authoritarian strands” in many countries. Gillman, a scholar of the Constitution, said that universities and their professors “need to spend a bit more time thinking about the conditions that sustain democracy and those that undermine democracy.”

Associate Dean makes sensible non-partisan proposal for safety pins

Some simple common sense –  something which has often been missing from the previous statements on the halloween incident and the Trump election – from CAS Natural Science Assoc Dean Hal Sadofsky, here:

I’m not someone who normally embraces symbols, but I want all our faculty, staff and students to feel safe and to feel they belong here, and I feel a need to communicate that. This is even more important at this moment. There is a lot we all try to do already to make this campus safe. But there is more work to do—and also work to do to help people feel safe, which is not quite the same thing.

This past summer the electorate of the United Kingdom chose to exit the European Union. That campaign, like the presidential campaign that just ended, featured nativism, white nationalism, and rhetoric that denigrated and dehumanized huge sectors of the population. The immediate post-election period included countless incidents of hate speech, threat, harassment, and sometimes violence aimed at immigrants and people of color. Those who wished to stand up and be counted as proponents of inclusion (regardless of their feelings about Brexit) chose to identify themselves by wearing a safety pin—code for wanting people to be safe.

Wearing the safety pin showed that you were a safe person to sit next to on a bus, walk next to on a street, and to have a conversation with. Wearing the safety pin showed that you were opposed to racism and wanted all members of your community to feel they belonged and to feel safe. It seems strange to have to identify oneself as explicitly opposed to racism and sexism, but perhaps this moment requires it. The events of the past weeks, coupled with the language of the presidential campaign, don’t send a message of safety and belonging. It feels vital to signal that we stand with the members of our community from other nations, people of color, immigrants, and everyone else who may feel targeted.

I’ve now heard stories (mostly second hand, some first hand) from people who feel frightened, and others who feel unwelcome. I try to imagine, for example, being a first-year undergraduate from overseas who may believe that half of the “white” faces on campus want them deported, or being an African American faculty member on a campus that has experienced two incidents of blackface in less than two weeks.

I will be wearing a safety pin on my clothing today. It is a tiny gesture and can’t change the behavior of bullies or those determined to harass others. But if widely adopted and understood, it could help people who feel isolated know that they belong. It is a way to express alliance with the forces of tolerance and inclusivity. As I wrote above, I’m not someone who usually chooses symbolism, but I feel the need for a symbolic gesture in the aftermath of the election and of incidents intended to make some of us feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

If this idea resonates with you, please follow suit! I’ve brought 400 pins, available in the CAS Dean’s office (114 Friendly) if you wish to pick one up. Andrew has ordered another 2,500 that we hope will be available sometime Monday.

Hal Sadofsky, Associate Dean for Natural Sciences

Count me in. OSU President Ed Ray also had a good statement:

Faculty, staff and students,

Many members of our university community are experiencing a range of significant, heartfelt emotions following Tuesday’s election.

Several faculty, staff and students have shared with me that they fear for their future and the futures of family members and friends, especially people from diverse backgrounds and identities. Other members of our community are expressing joy about political change.  Each of these emotions is personal and powerful.

As members of our university community, we must care for each other and support one another despite the turmoil of the moment. If you are in need of assistance or would like to talk to someone about what you are experiencing, and are a Corvallis student, please visit the Student Affairs Student Resources website at http://experience.oregonstate.edu/resources. OSU-Cascades students should visit http://osucascades.edu/student-wellness. Employees needing assistance may utilize the OSU Employee Assistance Program by confidentially calling 1-800-433-2320 at any time or by calling the Human Resources Department at 541-737-3103.

I ask you to join me in looking ahead.

At this moment of national transition, we reaffirm that Oregon State’s mission of inclusive excellence in teaching, research, and outreach and engagement has not changed. OSU’s mission to promote economic, social, cultural and environmental progress for the people of Oregon, the nation and the world remains essential, and we will not realize our vision for the future unless we find common ground with those around us and unless we persist in this effort.

Since its founding, this country has overcome division and uncertainty by people coming together to address challenges, by respecting differences, and by demonstrating compassion and leadership.

This is the 56th presidential election in our nation’s history and every transition of leadership has occurred peacefully. The need for us to support each other, celebrate our diversity and promote the success of every member of our community and America remains unaltered. This is at the core of who we are and how we need to go forward.

On Wednesday, I saw impressive, moving and peaceful evidence of this America among us as dozens upon dozens of OSU students gathered in the Memorial Union quad throughout the day, and where approximately 400 students and community members marched through the evening on campus to call for an end to hate and to focus on our common humanity.

Let each of us help and serve one another. Let each of us help bring America together, while we count on and challenge all of our country’s leaders to do the same.

Going forward, I encourage you to stay engaged in our nation’s political process and lead your own lives in ways that reflect our common values as a community.

I am here to help, care and, with you, lead forward.

Edward J. Ray, President

Black students press for UO strides on race

11/11/2016: In the RG here, read it all:

When Schill took the microphone near the end of the two-hour event, he agreed that “many students, faculty and staff do not feel included in the University of Oregon. Some have been victims of intentional discrimination. Some have been hurt by careless, thoughtless behavior by members of our community. This is unacceptable. It is intolerable,” he said.

But he urged the dozen black student leaders to not let the events of the past weeks sabotage their education.

“Don’t let the actions of a clueless professor derail you from your studies. Don’t let some ignorant middle-schooler coming onto our campus take your eyes off the prize. Don’t let emotions of the nastiest political campaigns in history — or at least recent history — distract you. Each and every one of you belong here. This is your school. You are Ducks. That means something,” he said.

10/11/2016: Black Student Organizations to hold community rally, 2PM at EMU

Friday November 11th at 2pm in the EMU Amphitheater we will be holding
a Community Rally hosted by the Black Student Organizations (BWA, BMA,
BSU, BSTF, Black Law Students Association). The purpose of this rally is
to demonstrate unity and strength in expressing our desire for a safe
campus for current and future Black students and insist on forward
movement in accomplishing the Black Student Task Force list of demands.
In the event that it rains we will move to Straub 154. This rally will
be an opportunity for us to stand in solidarity with one another as
Black students, community members and our allies. We have strength in
numbers.

My comment on CAS Dean Andrew Marcus’s blog post about the blackface incident.

The post from CAS Dean Andrew Marcus on his blog is below. He doesn’t allow public comments, so I’ll respond here. You can too. There is also a change.org petition, with 232 signatures so far.

To: CAS Dean <casdean@uoregon.edu>

Andrew, your post is outrageous. Yes, dressing up in blackface, in an attempt to honor a Black doctor, was stupid and offensive. But why do you feel the need to pile on? Where’s your defense of free speech, privacy, due process, common sense, and basic human decency and compassion towards a colleague whose life’s work for UO has now been left a ruin? I know you are better than this. 

Bill Harbaugh

His post:

Dear Colleagues,

I woke up on this post-election morning to a new world, one I never expected to see. As I thought about communicating with the college, I worried that the message I’ve been planning to post—about the blackface incident and my responsibility as dean—might be the wrong focus on this day.

But the more I thought about it, the more I came to think that this is exactly the time for this communication. I want everyone in our university community to know that the College and the UO want to be a safe harbor for individuals and their creativity, a place that welcomes and embraces all, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, political creed—or however we differ from each other.

I woke up this morning with each and every one of you on my mind. In this time, in this moment, I am even more inspired to work with, help, support, and cherish all the light you bring to this world and to our university.

Andrew Marcus
Tykeson Dean of Arts and Sciences

__________________________________________________________

The past week has been hard. The blackface incident, even experienced from afar as I traveled, was illuminating in a very painful way, bringing focused attention to a seething, underlying set of issues in our campus and in society at large.

Over the past week, I have wondered: What is the role of a dean in responding to an incident like this? I know my obligation is more than that of one individual; I also need to step forward on behalf of the college. But how?

There are many things I—and anyone—can do. Like others, I can express outrage and support for those who feel attacked. Thankfully, many of our campus leaders have already done this, making clear that this incident is utterly unacceptable (see President Schill’s post on this topic, which completely captures my sentiments and intents). Or I can address the many reasons why wearing blackface is so wrong—but again, others have already done this with more historical insight than I can provide (for example, see Professor Matthew Dennis’ post).

Rather than repeat what others have done, I want to do what others cannot do on behalf of the dean’s office, or for me: State the basic principles and actions I personally will follow—principles and actions that I hope will help lead to a better day. Those principles are:

Listen and learn. During the past week I immersed myself in the public commentary, open letters, and campus-wide messaging that the blackface incident generated. I also heard from you personally, or heard your voices through messages conveyed by my associate deans. And finally, I have taken private time to reflect and listen to my heart, to work at understanding the experiences and perspectives of others.

As I heard the pain, anger and anguish—and, in some cases, criticism of me and my office—I strove not to be defensive. Instead, I sought to listen, understand, and adjust my actions and those of the dean’s office to respond to the individual and college-wide needs that you expressed.

As I listened, I came to realize that the open letter Professor Michael Hames-Garcia sent to President Schill was particularly instrumental in affecting my thinking, in helping me learn. In referring to the practice of white people wearing blackface, Professor Hames-Garcia stated, “It’s impossible to understand why black people are so angered by its use unless one knows what it is that black people see when they see white people in blackface.” This simple statement shifted my focus, caused me to reexamine the event from a different perspective. It brought to life for me how frightful the blackface caricature is, not just for African Americans, but for all who experience systemic discrimination.

Reveal and respond. The blackface incident revealed something I think we all know already, that different individuals on this campus have radically different experiences. These lived experiences, these truths, need to be revealed by the people living them, but often those individuals feel they cannot share those experiences safely. As dean, my job is to make it safe and easy for everyone in CAS to communicate their perspectives and concerns to me, and to respond productively to what I hear—particularly as it pertains to improving our work climate and our hiring practices.

Other truths take the form of cumulative metrics. Such reports are stripped of personality, but are still impactful. Two years ago I produced an Elements of Diversity in the College of Arts and Sciences poster as part of Yvette Alex Assensoh’s 2014 Showcase Oregon event. This data analysis again reveals what we already know—that different pockets in our college experience diversity, or lack of diversity, in very different ways. In other words, there are many areas where we have a long way yet to go in terms of equitable representation.

In the future, I commit to working with Institutional Research and the Office of Equity and Inclusion to update these data on a more regular basis and to provide them to all departments within CAS. Just as we have a publically posted Budget/FTE/SCH Dashboard and a Graduate Program Dashboard for the entire college and each unit, so we will have a Diversity Dashboard. Let’s be open about the makeup of who we are , and who we should become.

Less talk, more action. Unless acted upon, the above principles are just words. What our college community deserves is sustained, focused action. To that end and well prior to the blackface event, Senior Associate Dean Karen Ford began writing a blog post on Thinking about Diversity. We intend to post this in the near future.

Karen’s posting will outline the strategies that we have launched and plan to launch from the CAS dean’s office. Activities we have already supported include: launching an African American Studies cluster of excellence; recruiting and hiring top-level faculty from underrepresented populations through the Target of Opportunity process; mandating implicit bias training for search committees; supporting an ethnic literature postdoctoral program in English; and more. But this is only a start; many challenges remain for us to overcome. All of us in the dean’s office look forward to working with you on these challenges.

The blackface incident has been hurtful, but it has—with your help—forced me to think about the urgency of diversity issues in a deeper, more personal way. The pain and anger I have heard have deepened my commitment to diversifying our college; to improving the climate for our underrepresented faculty, staff and students; and to learning more from all of you in the days and years ahead as we work to make our public university one that is truly a university for all.

As always, please share your suggestions with me via the Suggestion Box, or e-mail me directly.

UO hires Harrang’s Bill Gary and Sharon Rudnick to investigate blackface prof

Just kidding, that’s who Interim President Scott Coltrane and Interim General Counsel Doug Park hired to investigate me over the presidential archives, along with Hershner Hunter’s Amanda Walkup.

President Schill and GC Kevin Reed have hired Edwin Harnden (http://www.barran.com/our-team/edwin-a-harnden/)  and Shayda Le (http://www.barran.com/our-team/shayda-zaerpoor-le/) to investigate the professor over the blackface incident.

They sure look expensive – so I expect the professor’s settlement will be too:

 screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-11-07-48-pm

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-11-09-38-pm

I wonder why AAEO Director Penny Daugherty and our GCO can’t handle this, in house? Are we not spending enough money on them?

Timely training on prohibited discrimination

Does UO policy prohibit faculty from wearing blackface? There’s training for that:

Prohibited Discrimination Reporting

Category: Diversity Department: VP Student Life Administration
Description:

Prohibited Discrimination Reporting: Understanding Your Role in Reporting Prohibited Discrimination and Harassment.

In this introductory training, we will discuss University policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment, types of behavior that constitute different treatment or discriminatory harassment and your role in helping to create a community in which such behavior is not tolerated.  We will also discuss employee reporting obligations, response to typical scenarios and the resources that are currently available to you and/or to the students you serve. This course will include Title IX, Title VII, Child Abuse Reporting and Clery Campus Security Authority obligations.

Session Information

Access registration page

There are currently 60 seats free.

Cost
Instructor
Darci Heroy
Location
EMU – Crater Lake North, Room 146
Internet Based
No
Size Limit
70
Open Registration
09/15/2016
Close Registration
11/29/2016

Professor Hames-García’s Open Letter on blackface

11/4/2016 update: In case you are confused about why this blackface incident was so genuinely disturbing, Michael Hames-García (Professor of Ethnic Studies) has an excellent Open Letter to Pres Schill (and us all) in the Daily Emerald. Read it all, here is an excerpt:

… Part of the problem with blackface is that white people don’t know why it’s a problem. It’s impossible to understand why black people are so angered by its use unless one knows what it is that black people see when they see white people in blackface. From the perspective of the harm done, it doesn’t matter what the white person’s intention was.

Nothing about the history of what white people have done to black people and other people of color is shocking to people of color. We know that white people hung, burned alive and dismembered not hundreds, but thousands of black men and women, indigenous men and women, Mexican men and women, Chinese and Japanese men and women, and others for well over a hundred years. We know it was done with impunity. We know it was done publicly. We know they took genitalia from lynched men and women and collected them as souvenirs. We know they posed for pictures and made postcards to commemorate the events. We know that blackface and other racial impersonations were forms of entertainment for white people that were part of a larger dehumanizing process that made lynching possible. We know that these impersonations never honored us.

Unfortunately, many white people don’t know these things. They come to college and take a class about who-knows-what to fulfill a multicultural requirement and come away singing “Kumbaya” and decide to have a “Mexican gangster” or “pimps and hos” party at their sorority and don’t know why people of color are so sensitive about it.

The possibility that Shurtz’s act was done with no deliberate racist intent to harm makes it worse in my view. It confirms everything I suspect and fear daily about the ignorance and callous disregard for black humanity among my colleagues and students. It makes me less likely to trust my white colleagues. It makes me dislike them. In that sense, you need to understand that Shurtz has injured you.

At the same time, I am taken aback by the University’s swift suspension of Shurtz. I don’t know if the suspension happened in consultation with her, and I understand that the University has stated that this was not a disciplinary action.

Let me be clear. Shurtz is not a young, uninformed undergraduate. She has been a professor almost as long as I’ve been alive. She grew up during the civil rights movement. I find it very hard to accept any protestation of ignorance or statement of good intent from her. Do I find Shurtz’s behavior to be vile? Emphatically. Do I buy her protestations of goodwill? By no means. Do I join my Law School colleagues in calling for her to resign? With gusto. Her resignation would be the best, most productive action she could take, sparing the University, our students and her colleagues further trauma and embarrassment.

However, I fear there is a risk of scapegoating, with the effect that Shurtz is punished for the sins of many and outrage over her behavior evades discussion about what is, unfortunately, a common practice in U.S. society. This is the “bad apple” phenomenon that one sees in discussions of police shootings: You deal with the bad apple and pretend that the barrel isn’t rotten. …

Professor Hames-Garcia also wrote one of the most courageous statements I saw come out of attempted cover-up of the basketball rape allegations, here. He’s got a gift for turning disastrous events at UO into teachable moments. That said I disagree with his call for Shurtz to resign.

11/3/2016 updates: UO faculty union & Chicago Law’s Leiter weigh in, professor issues statement

The Faculty Union Exec Council has released a statement condemning the use of blackface, supporting the professor’s right to due process, and pointedly *not* demanding a resignation. Noted University of Chicago Law Professor Brian Leiter has ripped into those 23 UO law faculty (the law school is not part of the union) who called for the professor to resign. And the professor who put on the blackface has explained why. All below, starting with Leiter:

UPDATE:  Now 23 of the professor’s colleagues have called on the faculty member to resign if the allegations are true.  That reflects poorly on them, and suggests they have no regard for  contractual and constitutional rights to academic freedom, including the right to engage in racially insensitive extramural speech.  Absent a finding that the professor treats students or colleagues in racially discriminatory ways, there is no reason for the faculty member to resign (apologizing might be a good idea though!).

The Union:

Dear Colleagues,

The Executive Council of United Academics condemns the use of blackface as inherently racist. We find such actions anathema to our aspirations for a just community at the University of Oregon. We furthermore believe all faculty, in our bargaining unit or not, are entitled to a fair hearing and hope that any actions – including any suspension from duties – in response to allegations of misconduct or unethical behavior will be undertaken according to established procedures of due process and, under our CBA, with just cause.  We object to any administrative actions that violate these rights.

Like many, we do not have details or a full understanding of the recent incident, but regardless, the use of blackface evokes America’s racist history in a way that understandably offends and harms many in our community. When a white person puts on blackface, they invoke a history of brutality against black bodies as though the white person were putting on black skin for entertainment. The revulsion in this is found across a spectrum of racially discriminatory and violent actions, from the many racist media stereotypes of people of color to the horror of lynchings. For someone to evoke this history without being corrected by others is a collective harm that degrades all of us. Such actions damage the trust, respect, and safety we seek in a diverse community regardless of how they may have been intended….

The professor has also made a statement to the RG:

“During a Halloween party I hosted at my house, I wore a costume inspired by a book I highly admire, Dr. Damon Tweedy’s memoir, ‘Black Man in a White Coat.’ I intended to provoke a thoughtful discussion on racism in our society, in our educational institutions and in our professions. As part of my costume, I applied black makeup to my face and wore a white coat and stethoscope.

“In retrospect, my decision to wear black make up was wrong. It provoked a discussion of racism, but not as I intended. I am sorry for the resultant hurt and anger inspired by this event. It is cruelly ironic that this regrettable episode began with my admiration for a book that explores important aspects of race relations in our society, but ended up creating toxic feelings within our community. I intended to create a conversation about inequity, racism and our white blindness to them. Regrettably, I became an example of it. This has been a remarkable learning experience for me.

“I hope that all who are hurt or angered by my costume will accept my apology. I meant no harm to them or others.

“Out of respect for all involved, I will make no further comments to the media until the University’s investigation is completed.”

11/4/2016: More on blackfaced professor and Dean Moffitt’s decisions:

I’m still rummaging around for the law school letter criticizing Dean Moffitt’s past management. Meanwhile,

The RG Editorial Board:

… UO President Michael Schill responded quickly and forcefully. Law school colleagues and others have signed letters and petitions calling for the professor’s resignation. Schurtz has been placed on administrative leave, and the UO Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity is investigating.

Lesser reactions would condone offensive actions and imagery, and invite worse ones. But what the UO needs is not one fewer law professor, but more understanding. Shurtz’s experience offers an opportunity to explore the lines between self-expression and hurtful messaging, between cluelessness and consideration, between privilege and vulnerability. A university exists to teach students how to think, not what to think — and here’s a chance to do just that.

And, from Scott Jaschik in IHE:

… “It doesn’t matter what your intentions were. It doesn’t matter if it was protected by the First Amendment,” the letter says. “Blackface is patently offensive. It is overtly racist. It is wildly inappropriate. It reflects a profound lack of judgment. There is no excuse. We are angry that you would alienate our students, staff and faculty of color. We are angry that you would destroy what others have worked hard to build …. If you care about your students, you will resign.”

If Shurtz does not resign, some legal experts believe her actions — however foolish — are in fact protected by the First Amendment.

“Simply dressing in blackface or as an African-American at a party is indeed constitutionally protected expression that UO, a government agency, cannot punish,” said Robert L. Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

He cited a 1993 decision by a federal appeals court to block George Mason University from punishing a fraternity that held “an ugly woman contest” fund-raiser in which some fraternity members posed as caricatures of black women. The appeals court found that this event, however offensive, was protected by the First Amendment. “If such a skit is protected expression, this professor’s expression surely is as well,” Shibley said.

John K. Wilson, an independent scholar who writes regularly about academic freedom issues, agreed. Via email, he said, “When dealing with an extramural activity, there’s generally no valid punishment unless it shows incompetence in doing their work. That obviously doesn’t apply in this case. There’s no reason why wearing an offensive costume makes you a bad law professor.”

Michael Dreiling is a professor of sociology at Oregon who is president of United Academics, the faculty union at the university, an affiliate of the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers. Via email, he said, “Blackfacing is not only negligent, but hurtful, regardless of intentions. Even as we condemn blackfacing for the racist history the action evokes, we believe all faculty are entitled to a fair investigation and due process. We hope the university will recognize and respect these important rights in this case.”