Orthodoxy & threat of institutional punishment is what the UO is now about

UO President Michael Schill is a former UCLA law school dean. UO General Counsel Kevin Reed is a former UCLA general counsel. Eugene Volokh is a rather well known UCLA law professor, whom Reed has asked for advice on the proposed TPM free speech restrictions. Quoting from Volokh’s UCLA webpage:

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, tort law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, and a First Amendment amicus brief clinic at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Before coming to UCLA, he clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Alex Kozinski on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Volokh is the author of the textbooks The First Amendment and Related Statutes (5th ed. 2013), The Religion Clauses and Related Statutes (2005), and Academic Legal Writing (4th ed. 2010), as well as over 75 law review articles and over 80 op-eds, listed below. He is a member of The American Law Institute, a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel, and the founder and coauthor of The Volokh Conspiracy, a Weblog that gets about 35-40,000 pageviews per weekday. He is among the five most cited then-under-45 faculty members listed in the Top 25 Law Faculties in Scholarly Impact, 2005-2009 study, and among the forty most cited faculty members on that list without regard to age. …

Here is the start of his column in the Washington Post today on the UO administration’s decision that UO law professor Nancy Shurtz’s stupid and offensive halloween costume “and its resulting impact on students in the law school and university outweighed free speech protections provided under the Constitution and our school’s academic freedom policies.”

1. Last week, the University of Oregon made clear to its faculty: If you say things about race, sexual orientation, sex, religion and so on that enough people find offensive, you could get suspended (and, following the logic of the analysis) even fired. This can happen even to tenured faculty members; even more clearly, it can happen to anyone else. It’s not limited to personal insults. It’s not limited to deliberate racism or bigotry.

This time it involved someone making herself up as a black man at a costume party (as it happens, doing so in order to try to send an antiracist message). But according to the university’s logic, a faculty member could be disciplined for displaying the Mohammed cartoons, if it caused enough of a furor. Or a faculty member could be disciplined for suggesting that homosexuality may be immoral or dangerous. Or for stating that biological males who view themselves as female should be viewed as men, not as women. Or for suggesting that there are, on average, biological differences in temperament or talents between men and women.

All such speech at the University of Oregon will risk your being suspended or perhaps even worse. Orthodoxy, enforced on threat of institutional punishment, is what the University of Oregon is now about. …

Read it all here.

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111 Responses to Orthodoxy & threat of institutional punishment is what the UO is now about

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Devastating analysis of UO by the estimable Eugene Volokh. In the mainstream, establishment, liberal Washington Post, not some obscure rightwing rant space or crabapple patch. This case is now doing enormous damage to the academic reputation of UO. More than all the athletic scandals, more than the lack of funding. It is damage that cannot be undone by a $500 million gift, or ten such gift.

    Essentially, free discussion or discourse on controversial topics — he lists some of them — can get you fired or punished if you offend the wrong people. Even if you are a tenured professor with a chair. Free discourse is finished at UO under this regime, following the statement they have put out.

    UO is now absolutely one of the worst universities in the country for free exchange of ideas, again going by specific statements and actions of the top administrators. Schill and Coltrane have turned the place into an academic monstrosity. The regime deserves to be exposed, ridiculed, blasted into oblivion.

    Schill is the worst president UO has had, in my lengthening experience here. He is far worse than Gottfredson, because he is destroying the core of what a free university should stand for, should be.

    Read the entire piece by Eugene Volokh. Read the other pieces he links to, e.g. by Josh Blackman.

    How UO keeps hiring the people it does is beyond me. The Hat, Coltrane, Gottfredson, Schill. At least The Hat wanted the right things, as far as I could tell. The latter three, especially Schill, have done enormous and probably, for a long time to come, irreparable damage.

    This post may sound hyperbolic and over the top. It’s not. Read Volokh’s piece!

    • just different says:

      When I saw this in WaPo yesterday I knew I’d see it here this morning. WaPo is not “liberal,” it’s slightly left of middle-of-the road and has a number of regular conservative columnists, including Volokh.

      Given that Volokh basically believes that there should be no such thing as discrminatory harassment at all, it’s hard to take his opinion as anything other than the usual free-speech fundamentalism beloved by Constitution literalists.

      When is someone going to come up with an analysis that isn’t just the same series of alarmist talking points about liberals imposing a Maoist cultural revolution whenever someone recognizes that discrimination is an actual problem and tries to do something about it? Maybe for once we can hear from someone who has actually experienced discriminatory harassment?

      • uomatters says:

        The time-honored way to “do something about” free speech that you disagree with is for you to engage in free speech opposing it. I don’t know why the administration wasn’t satisfied with their many public statements condemning Shurtz’s stupid and offensive Halloween costume, and instead has taken employment action against her. The idea of allowing university administrators to draw the line on what is free speech and what is harassment with so much discretion is obviously problematic. Coltrane went after me for getting the UO archives. I was told my tenure was on the line if I didn’t back down. Other former presidents and interims have threatened to persuade faculty to file a harassment charge against me for things I’ve written on this blog.

        • just different says:

          The sticks-and-stones argument about meeting free speech with free speech completely ignores power differentials and structural inequality, as is often the case with conservative thinking. Disagreeing with a differing opinion is not the same thing as having to continually swim upstream against a river of crap just as a result of who you are.

          I don’t think the administration’s actions were particularly laudable since they were mostly acting to protect their own reputations, but at least they didn’t just give Shurtz a free pass. If the broader university community doesn’t want the administration deciding what is and is not discriminatory harassment, then you should start by not staking out the extreme position that a professor’s right to free speech always trumps a student’s right to equal access in an educational environment. At the moment, only the university administration is making the idea of equal access concrete. If you don’t like how it’s playing out, then come up with your own solutions that actually protects all parties and not just the faculty.

          • thedude says:

            Structural inequality?

            Do you really think liberal young millennials minority or not face an upward stream to share their views at any major university in the US?

            WTF is equal access in an educational environment? Buzzwords alone do not an argument make.

            • feichangdao says:

              Define liberal.

              If they believe in the exact same kind of liberalism their professors believe in, then no, of course not. If they have different beliefs (about pronouns, or bathroom access, or the appropriateness of blackface), they are derided as crybaby “millennials” who don’t know how good they have it, albeit usually behind their backs.

            • PBF says:

              Thedude,

              The underlying assumptions in your statement is that all liberal, young, millennial, minorities think a like, all major universities in the US are liberal, and that liberals are exempt from racist/classist/sexist attitudes. None of these things are true.

              If you’re not sure about a term, try googling it. I hate how we’ve become a society that expects other people to do our own research.

            • thedude says:

              As far as I can more recent liberal attitudes are reminiscent of various purges such as the French revolution. It’s just a different brand of fascism and tribal mentality. Very little respect for actual discourse and absolutist attitudes.

            • PBF says:

              Thedude,

              I didn’t realize that not wanting to associate with someone who does blackface was the same as seeking someone out for an actual beheading.

            • feichangdao says:

              We live in interesting times when an academic (presumably) thinks that the French Revolution was a brand of fascism.

          • Oryx says:

            The flip side of the “sticks-and-stones” argument is the “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” argument.

        • OregonAlum says:

          Way to make it about yourself even though this subject has nothing to do with your ongoing conflict with the UO. If administrators are not the ones with discretion to create consequences of university employees, who should be? The faculty? That sounds a lot like law enforcement agencies that insist on policing themselves.

  2. Bob says:

    “The sticks-and-stones argument about meeting free speech with free speech completely ignores power differentials and structural inequality, as is often the case with conservative thinking.”

    Can’t agree. Free speech is the condition for everyone’s being able to expose and address power differentials and their effects, to explain and understand structural inequality, to propose and defend and criticize policies openly, policies that will have the right effects. Without free speech there is only the operation of power and hierarchy. This is a classically liberal idea, not a conservative one. Sometimes it takes fairly extreme speech to expose implicit and structural racism. The illiberal position of the administration stands in opposition to this.

    The “river of crap” argument is a separate argument. That river operates less in the policies and principles of the university and more in all the implicit biases and the ignorance and the lack of mutual understanding that is daily life, even in the university. This is greatly exacerbated if you belong to certain minority groups operating in a majority environment and culture. The equal access here has to be fought for on a daily basis by individuals and groups in the trenches of classrooms, meetings, social events, and so on.

    This is what concrete means–joining free speech that develops the best policies to everyday action that tries to clean up the river of crap. This is how we get the truest and best interaction of liberty and equality–not by the illiberal suppression of speech by power.

  3. Sun Tzu says:

    The Senate, for reasons that escape logic, has, for many years, allowed past University Presidents to get away with extremely poor decisions that have negatively affected the university. The report on Shurtz, a clear attack on faculty free speech, has chilling and long lasting implications for the entire campus. Our administrators have crossed the line with this report. Isn’t it time for the faculty to take back this university by passing a vote of no confidence in Schill and Coltrane first in the Senate?

  4. Off with their heads! says:

    Firing yet another University president will not solve the issue. Despite turning over a number of upper administrators, many of the lower level people remain the same. Remember that many of Professor Schurtz’s colleagues in the Law School also moved quickly to have her removed. If there’s a problem with freedom of speech, it doesn’t just exist in the office of the President.

    Schill may have made a very bad decision here, but isn’t a large part of the outrage here that one stupid mistake shouldn’t end a career at UO?

    • uomatters says:

      Comment of the week.

    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Good point about one mistake not ending a career.

      I note that Professor Shurtz admitted her mistake and made abject apology.

      I hope President Schill will admit his mistake and unwind the policy that has rapidly taken over here.

      Instead, he and Coltrane seem to be doubling down, making a bad situation incomparably worse.

      That being the case, they must be opposed until they change course.

    • noob says:

      Exactly. The main outrage is, or should be, that one stupid mistake should not end a career at the UO. This is not an isolated incident, it is happening all over the country. Remember the case at Yale last year over just a suggestion that edgy free speech should be permitted and encouraged at universities. The person who said that was chased off in a brutal series of attacks. Our current crisis is a high point n a series of crises that seem to be ending free speech on campuses around the country. And it is so weirdly intertwined with the recent election “cycle”, making it so much weirder. Weird and scary, very bad for all of us I’m sad to say.

    • Sun Tzu says:

      Shurtz made a stupid, thoughtless mistake. Schill and Coltrane made an even stupider mistake by their immediate overreaction. However it is their willingness to save their own skins by destroying the career of a long-time, honorable professor and the university’s reputation as well as the First Amendment that has earned them a no confidence vote. At the very least let’s bring the motion to the floor of the Senate. I’d be very interested in hearing from those who would stand up publicly to defend the actions of the President and Provost.

      • OregonAlum says:

        Maybe the administration was concerned that students of color and their families would see the UO as an inherently racist institution with buildings named after prominent racists and faculty that seem clueless about the message they send to people in marginalized communities when they attempt to brush off blatantly racist behavior as “one bad day.” Another example of the largely white faculty attempting to frame the discussion about how people should react to outright racism on campus.

        • but... says:

          And if, as a result, minority students are discouraged from attending UO, then the overall diversity of ideas will be diminished. The ironies keep piling up.

  5. Mike Cavanaugh says:

    The hiring of Barran Liebman means only one thing to anyone who knows this firm: you are getting fired. They do not support employEE rights, they are an employER firm only.

    • former employee too says:

      All the more reason that Professor Shurtz’s legacy will be defined by how she chooses to respond. Her response so far has included public and private apologies (in both the explanation and mea culpa senses of that word) and bending-over-backward cooperation with the investigation. Now, just as important to her professional legacy, and indeed her legacy to higher education, public employment, and the legal profession, will be her decision on whether to litigate or to negotiate a settlement. The settlement route, while sensible, allows this institutional response to stand. Moreover, it will embolden other public and private institutions, as well as other types of organizations, to act similarly. There are many principles worth fighting for and important legal issues to be scrutinized here.

    • Conflicts R Us says:

      Did anyone honestly think this would somehow go down differently?

      AAEO conducted the internal investigation in conjunction with the external firm. Look at the UO organizational chart for which units are under the VPFA. Remember the relationship between the VPFA and the Dean of Law.

      One wonders whether any of this also bears on why AAEO was recently brought under HR to be reorganized, with a new director to be hired and with the longtime director demoted and reassigned within the office.

  6. reaction says:

    Schill could still step in and make a decision on this that supports free speech. The only official reaction to the AAEO / law firm report was made by Coltrane. If Schill took a more pro-free-speech stance, it’d be throwing Coltrane under the bus, but he’s on his way out anyway.

    • happy face says:

      Schill should point his finger at the person who is really to blame: the Dean of the Law School. Why Moffitt didn’t handle this matter privately, like any other sensitive employment matter, is beyond me. Moffitt should have addressed the problem, but in a more discrete manner. Moffitt’s choice to run straight to email to announce that Shurtz wore “blackface” was the #1 mistake. It caused all of the harm that followed. I feel sorry for Schill. He was handed a mess that was created by the law school dean.

      • Roger says:

        But it wasn’t a private matter. Before Moffitt even had time to make a decision, it was already all over Facebook, and a massive contingent of UO Law alums, many of whom are people of color, were calling for Schurtz to be fired. Not investigated. Not put on leave. They were calling for her to be FIRED, on the spot. I actually talked to a bunch of these folks, unlike (I think) Eugene Volokh or the vast majority of people commenting on this site.

        Do you think this was an easy decision? Do you think you or anyone here could have made a better one?

        • happy face says:

          What you say is not true. Moffitt’s email that mentioned Shurtz’s “racial insensitivity in a way that is inconsistent with our school’s values” went out at 3:50 p.m. on November 1. (The message that mentioned “blackface” went out at about 8:15 p.m. that same night (from Schill, Coltrane, Assensoh, and Moffitt)). I dare you to show us one Facebook post or any emails from UO Law alums that were calling for Shurtz to be fired BEFORE 3:50 p.m. on November 1. Rule #1 of good management is that one doesn’t broadcast to the world that an employee is demonstrating “racial insensitivity in a way that is inconsistent with our schools values,” especially when you admit that you don’t know the whole story (In the same email, Moffitt wrote, “I am in the process of gathering more information.”). In fact, I have even heard that the dean spoke to Shurtz BEFORE he sent the email and he knew what she was trying to do with her costume. Before things exploded, the dean had a “teachable moment,” but instead of treating it as such, he fanned the flames and created a fiasco.

          • Roger says:

            ” dare you to show us one Facebook post or any emails from UO Law alums that were calling for Shurtz to be fired BEFORE 3:50 p.m. on November 1″

            I looked briefly through Facebook and couldn’t find the thread I was referring to. You might be right that comments calling for her firing weren’t made before the 3:50 email. I’m almost positive they were before the 8:15 email. Largely irrelevant either way–my point is that the matter being public, and people being livid, weren’t caused by anything the administration did. As such, I find your assertion that the dean could have treated this as a “teachable moment” rather than “fan[ning] flames and creat[ing] a fiasco” somewhat ludicrious (no offense). Do you (or the people who upvoted your comment) seriously think people were outraged at Schurtz because of what Schill, Coltrane and Moffitt said?

          • Roger says:

            “Rule #1 of good management is that one doesn’t broadcast to the world that an employee is demonstrating “racial insensitivity in a way that is inconsistent with our schools values,” especially when you admit that you don’t know the whole story.”

            I agree with you on this point. In his shoes, I would have said “we’re taking this matter very seriously,” but I wouldn’t have made an allegation of wrongdoing against Schurtz.

  7. Old Man says:

    For Sun Tzu:
    The Senate cannot pass any motion until a member of the Senate or of the Statutory Faculty (active or emeritus) has introduced the motion and it is has been seconded and debated. I suggest that Sun Tzu find a like-minded Senator (for an assured second) and introduce a suitable motion. The debate and vote could be interesting.

  8. Roger says:

    To everyone here who condemns the University’s undermining of academic freedom and expression:

    How would you have dealt with this situation differently in a way that wouldn’t have alienated all the people, many of whom were people of color, who felt deeply alienated and threatened by Prof. Schurtz’s actions and felt vigorously like she needed to be removed from the university?

    • Fishwrapper says:

      Well, I suppose a careful reading of many of the posts made on this blog alone would provide plenty of answers.

      • Roger says:

        Can you give me an example of such a post?

        I don’t see a lot of recognition here of the extremely difficult situation the administration was placed in. Do folks here not realize how incredibly offended so many people were by what Schurtz did, that many of those who were offended were black or another minority, and that it’s a university administration’s legal and moral responsibility to condemn racism? Or do you realize it but just aren’t saying so? Honest question.

        • Focused anger cuts says:

          Obviously the “stupid and offensive” crew do not as they can’t bring themselves to use the on-point term “racist”, dancing around the obvious and compounding the harm for those coming here and seeing people, many faculty, repeating the rhetorical dodge over and over and over.

          Whether conciously or not, they are framing racism (a word they can’t bring themselves to utter about their “stupid and offensive” colleague) as fundamentally or only a problem of individuals and their particular intentions.

          Only people privileged enough to think about racism now and then, when they want to or as part of their “teaching moments” view racism this way.

          All that said, I do not think Shurtz should be fired. I much more think there are a lot of people who need to update the state of their thinking about the sources and structures of racism.

          All the UO matters, not just self-congratulatory liberals in the faculty club.

          • Roger says:

            Thanks. To be honest, I don’t really understand it either. I just know from conversing with people that their hurt and outrage over Schurtz’s actions was very real.

          • anon5 says:

            How does Shurtz’s Halloween costume, with supposed intent to admire a black author, fit into ‘racism’? This is meant as a serious question.
            A lot of people who take these things seriously do not understand how this action falls under racism. They will not understand it unless it is spelled out, because the standard definitions of racism, below, don’t seem to apply to this case.
            Racism via Webster online: ‘Definition of racism for Students. 1 : belief that certain races of people are by birth and nature superior to others. 2 : discrimination or hatred based on race.’
            Racism via Wikipedia: ‘Racism is discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity.’
            Thank you.

            • just different says:

              I’m going to assume that you are asking in good faith, although I’m far from convinced that the people who are maintaining that it’s not racist (or at least not racist enough to get upset about) just have a gap in their understanding.

              Dressing up in black greasepaint and a dollar-store wig is racist because it represents a human being as a crude, ugly caricature of his race. It’s racist because it’s patronizing and because of the long history of whites dressing up like this, or making images like this, as entertainment for other whites. She didn’t need blackface to portray Damon Tweedy; she could have worn a paper mask of his face or done any of a number of other of things instead.

              She did it for the shock value, without thinking of why it was shocking. She did it because she assumed she was only addressing white students. She did it because she had no idea what it’s like to continually be on the receiving end of ugly stereotypes. She did it because she didn’t think it was worth spending five minutes imagining how a Black student would feel if they saw her, their teacher, in that outfit.

              I am white, so I have no doubt that I am missing a great deal about why Shurtz’s actions were so hurtful. But I hope that gives you some idea.

            • thedude says:

              For just different, I agree with her costume being dumb. If she wanted to dress as him, she should have shaved her head based on the google images I’ve seen. The dollar store afro was indicative of a crude satirical attempt at black face.

        • Hester Prynne says:

          You make a good point that the situation was difficult for admin (handling difficult situations with grace is perhaps one reason they get paid so handsomely?) and also that there was true harm and offense taken — but here is some of what we don’t know: how many people were offended (or at least more offended than they would have been) because they thought Shurtz did what she did in “jest” as the administration’s first letter implied? Did admin not exacerbate the difficult situation? And how many people (whether they did or did not understand the full context) who were offended could have turned that into positive action through a restorative justice approach in which the community validated the harm, took corrective and growthful action, and behaved like grown-ups? There is a history of racism and sexism at the UO and particularly at the Law School (racism and sexism that Shurtz has in her career tried to confront) — the real problems are covered-up by the administrative shaming and scape-goating of one woman. Now no one dare mention those real problems without fear of retaliation from the central administration.

        • Fishwrapper says:

          To Roger,

          Here’s one by just different on Christmas Eve.

          The day prior, former employee typed this.

          There are many more, but I shouldn’t have to do your work for you. Like I said, a little careful reading of many of the posts – but perhaps I should have added, and the responses – will reveal a discussion of how this entire affair was mishandled, with suggestions of alternatives that could, or should, have been considered to avoid the mess created by the top brass.

  9. Simplicius Simplicissimus says:

    Really? How about something like this (a quick and admittedly clumsy, 5-minute draft):

    Prof. Shurtz’s actions were naive, ill-advised, thoughtless, and although unintended – can be interpreted as racist. We sincerely apologize to anyone who felt offended. The University does not support wearing costumes resembling blackface, nor do we support or tolerate any form of discrimination or racism in the UO community. Therefore, we distance ourselves from Dr. Shurtz’s actions in this matter.
    However, we support free speech as much as we support a non-discriminatory, welcoming environment for everyone, staff, faculty or student. We support unorthodox teaching styles if they are effective but this may be an example how not to do it. Teachable moments should be limited to the auditorium or appropriate teaching environments. Halloween parties and costumes may not be ideal because the intent is ambiguous.
    Despite the difficult situation, we encourage everyone in future to immediately speak up and engage in a polite, respectful conversation about whatever they perceive as inappropriate, and how they are affected by it. We will protect staff and students in the free expression of opinions and hope that such discourse always remains civil, even if controversial.

    We have asked to meet with Prof. Shurtz and will discuss the events with her. We also invite anyone involved to meet with or send comments [email here]. After hearing all sides, we will also evaluate at an appropriate time whether corrective action is warranted.

    Not perfect. Quick pitch, but something like this? If anyone wants to add to this – by all means – let’s draft a letter/memo our administration MIGHT have issued.

    • Bob says:

      Here’s another idea. Since so much of this controversy is propelled by different kinds and amounts of knowledge and different perspectives on freedom of speech, academic freedom, equality of access and inclusion, the varieties and sources of racism, blackface itself—its history and meaning—the importance and unimportance of intent, the very idea of discriminatory harassment, and related issues, I would think that the leadership of the university might have activated the university to do what it has up until now done best: educate. Our leaders might have announced support for a year long series of symposia, conferences, panels, interviews, and other kinds of educational events that work through these controversies, offering knowledge, openly examining different perspectives and rationales for different positions on the issues, tracking down the reasons people have very different feelings about things, with the aim of increasing mutual understanding supported by knowledge.

      Would the new illiberal progressivism and the old blindness to racial injustice and the experience of suffering under it undermine such an effort? Probably to some degree, but that’s part of the process. Folks who already have all the answers to hard questions and know what’s good for everyone else and operate purely strategically will always get involved in these efforts. Risky? Yes. Unlikely, yes—especially given that the university has given signs that it no longer supports the freedom of speech and the academic freedom that would have to underlie such an effort. But this is something it might have done. Announce a project like this. Be an institution of learning.

    • PBF says:

      If I read this, my response would be:

      “What the heck are you talking about? She’s a tax professor who did blackface in her private home, what does that have to do with her lesson plan, much less academic freedom? Since when did the school give the okay to have lesson plans that involves trips to someones private home where alcohol is served? If you’re going to pretend to care about how the Black students in the school feel about this situation, at least try harder.”

      As a Black student in the law program, if the school said that Schurtz was protected under Freedom of Speech laws or the separation of personal and professional life, I would get that. I would no longer wish to associate with Schurtz but I could respect that argument. Nevertheless, if you try to argue that this is an issue of academic freedom, my question would be, “Why does the tax professor need to be in blackface?”

  10. Bully Detector says:

    So many interesting elements to this.
    First it is disastrous to UO academic reputation and likely to Schill’s career ambitions (unless he does a fast repair). [Side note: a good leader has to learn who to trust, and Schill repeatedly makes the mistake of trusting those who give him bad information He needs fewer yes-men and more men and women who tell him uncomfortable truths.]
    Second, one question we cannot answer with certainty but should ask: How much of the reaction to Shurtz is related (perhaps due to implicit bias) to her gender, age, and past history confronting social injustice? Women in their 60s are one of the most discriminated groups in employment contexts (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/women-over-50-help-not-wanted/) — is that one reason they are bullying her?
    Third, the UO admin is (perhaps unintentionally) behaving as wolves in the clothing of sheep. The Volokoh post illustrates how the administration suppression of one professor will harm social justice and liberation efforts (and thus academic excellence too). This is a double whammy really — the admin response manages to both give ammunition to those who want to discredit claims that harassment of minorities is a real problem requiring at times real action AND it manages to restrict future speech that those in power do not like. Don’t kid yourself — today it may be they don’t like speech that offends some members of racial minorities but the truth is this: tomorrow they won’t like speech that offends big donors to athletics. Shut up, professors, or get gas-lighted, bullied, and shamed at the UO.

    • Simplicius Simplicissimus says:

      “Don’t kid yourself … tomorrow they won’t like speech that …
      …or is critical of administrators and their actions…

      I agree on your point regarding gender bias. I was wondering all the time whether or not the first reaction by the LD was so out of proportion because of gender bias (or maybe some specific personal issues) against her.

      • thedude says:

        Really? If it was a WM prof who had done this in the current environment he’d already be fire, tenure or not.

        • Kitten says:

          Highly unlikely, dude. When was the last time a WM was fired for anything?

        • Hester Prynne says:

          You express a very popular viewpoint but this is an empirical question at the general level (hard to know for any given instance). The systematic data clearly indicate that older women are much more likely than older men to suffer employment discrimination. Read the literature.
          We do have at the UO a case of a WM being fired recently — and he was paid $11 million dollars to go away. And we learned after he was fired that perhaps he was involved in covering up sexual assault? Speaking of that, did the UO admin send out any sort of statement about how upset they were that a woman was sexually assaulted and upset that a coach perhaps covered it up?
          Oh and a few years ago we had a president fired and he was paid nearly $1 million dollars to go away. Again, any statement of distancing from anyone for his misdeeds? No, no, he was publicly thanked for his service.
          But an older woman who make a mistake — she is set on fire so everyone can feel better and forget all about the context of systemic racism and sexism and sexual violence.

          • Leporillo says:

            Best post on this topic.

          • thedude says:

            I think the differences in outcomes are largely driven by occupations (presidents and coaches, highly public figures with prenegotiated golden parachutes) vs regular old faculty.

            Pretty sure we’ve sale male professors around the country fired or publicly reprimanded or threatened for basically generating bad PR due to public hurtful/distasteful speech.

            This includes

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/steven-salaita-fired/

            http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/drexel-university-professor-fire-white-genocide-tweet-article-1.2924629

            I’ve read at least some of the literature. Its not clear, as most cases with employment discrimination, how much is driven by differences in occupation specific effects, and how much of occupational differences in outcomes is driven by supply vs demand in the labor market.

            We’ve seen at UO police officers, professors, or librarians fired, threatened or intimated for not keeping the company line, both male and female. This issue affects all of us who are not part of the golden parachute class.

  11. justAworkerBee says:

    I’ve wondered for some time if some of the outrage over this incident hasn’t been exacerbated by all the hoopla following it – the moral outrage by law colleagues, administration CYA, news coverage – leading to students who are so upset they are unable to take tests, withdraw from Shurtz’s class and so forth.

    Let’s play out a little scenario, shall we? Imagine that students were invited to a party and they felt compelled to do so, given the teacher/student power hierarchy. Imagine that a racist act happened at that party. Imagine that students were rightly appalled, mortified, fearful, upset. Now what?

    Students have an outlet in the law school and there are many qualified, caring faculty to whom they could report this. Demand action. I hear there were faculty at the party, perhaps one or more might have also brought this up? Shurtz could have been questioned; I am going to assume that she would admit to her action. Could not at that point a dialog be initiated? Shurtz would be given the opportunity to explain her actions and apologize to all affected. Law colleagues would be given the opportunity to discuss with her and within the community how this act affected them. Students would be given the opportunity to discuss in a respectful, mediated setting (or one-to-one if they prefer) the effect of her actions. And UO administration would, of course, denounce this racist action and engage in practices that helped the UO community to learn about, recognize, discuss, and transform our concepts and understanding of racial inequity and diversity. The action was bad, we all agree. But we also had an opportunity to do something good with it.

    Instead we get a morass of finger-pointing, infighting, lawsuit-pending (you know this will happen), armchair quarterbacking over what supposedly happened, how it was handled, what should have happened and how this bodes for the future.

    Shurtz made a stupid mistake. The UO community is responsible for what happens afterward.

  12. Publius says:

    The Law School has become the Anthony Weiner of our University. At this point, the only solution is for the administration to immediately reach an agreement with Nancy that, among other things, acknowledges mistakes on all sides. Anything less will mean that–whatever your field at the U of O–everyone you meet will greet you with this ongoing fiasco, with a smirk on their face. As Gerald Ford said, it’s time for the nightmare to end.

    • thedude says:

      The only way to get the bottom of what really happened is to get everybody’s emails. Where’s the laptop???

  13. anon5 says:

    Just Different- yes, I am asking in good faith why Shurtz’s actions were actually racist. I meant it as a query to ‘Focused Anger Cuts’ (FAC) who states that anything but a claim of racism is a rhetorical dodge. The things that you list, Just Different, are assumptions about Shurtz’s intent or lack of thought, and expressions of outrage about damage caused by her actions. I think it is important to express these things and was hoping to hear from FAC why these actions need to be categorized as truly racist rather than mistakes about the influence of a costume.

  14. Clueless says:

    I’m missing something, here. Why should this form of speech be protected?

    • thedude says:

      Because all speech should be protected. Especially the stuff we hate, because that’s where the slippery slope begins.

      • environmental necessity says:

        But not all speech is protected, right now, in the status quo.

        So either the slippery slope argument is the fallacy we typically take it to be OR we are already on our way due to the many existing limitations, in which case this episode is of little unique consequence vis-a-vis the slope.

  15. Old Man says:

    For Anon5, who writes: “I think it is important to express these things and was hoping to hear from FAC …” On this campus, FAC is usually understood to mean “Faculty Advisory Council.” Anon5 will never hear from the FAC. The Faculty Advisory Council is not allowed to make decisions related to governance and, when it does, is certain to keep them secret.

  16. Concerned Citizen 27 says:

    I was in the law school as all this played out after Halloween. I was absolutely shocked that Shurtz pulled the blackface stunt, and DO NOT support it. As others have noted, it was stupid and thoughtless (and/or displayed a mind-boggling lack of awareness). But I never thought she should be fired because of it.

    At a town hall-style meeting of the entire law school community, I remember thinking the whole school had come unhinged. Students were weeping, shouting, angrily wagging fingers—and the one student who dared to mention free speech was angrily shouted down by others.

    The general level of hostility I felt coming from students and some faculty (toward Shurtz, towards white people) was very disturbing. It felt like a lynch mob mentality, and I seriously believe had Professor Shurtz shown up she might have been physically attacked. No, that’s not hyperbole—one faculty member who defended Shurtz in an email and suggested that perhaps we should hear her side of the story was promptly attacked by other administrators and faculty, who (in essence, not literally) called him an idiot for not getting it.

    As others have suggested, it was crystal-clear that Shurtz was a scapegoat and flashpoint for long pent-up tensions and frustrations—the presence of which points to a far deeper, systemic issue than can be purged by mere punishment.

    It was all distressing and saddening to see in a law school—of all places—where people are trained to be level-headed, to not assume someone is guilty before proven innocent, and to recognize that intent *does* matter (in spite of the many faculty who said “it doesn’t matter why she did this”).

    I think discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, etc. is horrendous. I do not support it. Am I guilty of implicit biases that make me a racist? Possibly, because—this is important—we are not aware of these biases (that’s why they are called “implicit”—many people don’t seem to understand this).

    So in the wake of this incident, aside from free speech issues, should I be losing sleep worrying about how I am somehow directly complicit in all discrimination against people of color, LGBTQ, etc? Should I be flagellating myself for hate crimes I wasn’t even aware I committed? Where does this even begin or end?

    My point is simply that excoriating Nancy Shurtz does not help anything. Not at all. So everyone at UO now knows that anything deemed insensitive will result in the harshest, most extreme punishment? Oh that’s REALLY productive and will correct everyone’s thinking forthwith! LMAO! That’s a CAPITAL way to eliminate racism and biased thinking from the world—yes, let’s PUNISH everyone!

    In the end, the ONLY thing that will make the university—and the world—a better place is TOLERANCE. And this incident has laid bare the shocking lack of tolerance in EVERYBODY. The prevailing attitude from all sides seems to be, “Let’s f*cking FIGHT IT OUT!” Because that’s the kind and adult way to deal with it.

    • uomatters says:

      Comment of the year. Thank you for writing it.

      • OregonAlum says:

        Holy shit, you are thanking this poster for comparing law school students upset and pissed off about a professor being openly racist to a “lynch mob?” This has to be the height of white fragility: white professor wears racist costume, students are rightly pissed, white people talk about the need for tolerance and people to be more level headed. LOL. This website, which I value, has been home to some of the most hyperbolic and rantish behavior on campus, but when it affects other people then it is time to promote tolerance being level headed. Sure.

    • Just a Thought... says:

      Given that the UO school has endured such self-inflicted damage – damage that may even harm its ability to successfully hire a high-quality dean through the national search…

      and

      Given that the current dean is a lame duck who – let’s face it – contributed to this mess by how he handled it…

      and

      Given the now-evident organizational climate problems that must be remediated and cannot begin to be remediated under his leadership…

      and

      Given that UO (not just UO law school) has become synonymous with racial insensitivity, intolerance, illiberalism, speech suppression, and dysfunction…

      Would it not be a good idea, for the sake of the law school and the entire university community, for the President and Provost to send him back to the faculty a few months ahead of schedule, appoint an interim dean to hold down the fort, and allow the needed changes and healing to begin?

    • PBF says:

      Concerned Citizen 27

      I’m going to tell you what I told Prof. Raban: Consider blackface a strict liability.

      You remember strict liability from both Tort and Criminal Law right? They still do teach that in law school, correct? I only just graduated this past May so the curriculum couldn’t have changed all that much.

      By the way, one of the more interesting phenomenon I’ve seen develop over the past few years is the policing of how people express anger over anti-Black racism combined with the idea that instances of Black anger will lead to violence. Think about that when you use to term ‘lynch-mob’ to describe how angry people where at the meeting.

      • Oryx says:

        PBF: Your statement, “Consider blackface a strict liability” avoids the explanation of why we should consider it a strict liability, which is a key point of all this debate. Does intent matter or not? Your statement posits that it doesn’t. Many, including me, say that it does. Plus, as you know, even aside from all that, there is a very real issue of free speech and free expression that many have brought up.

        • PBF says:

          Gone Girl,

          I was thinking about how if Concerned Citizen 27 argument ignores the full spectrum of how intent is actually taught in law school. Sometimes, intentions are the bases of a law, sometimes they are completely ignored in favor of whether a person did a certain act or not (strict liability), and sometimes they are only considered when two parties failed to follow relevant codes (Contracts, Sales, Commercial Law).

          As far as how strict liability plays out in the realm of employment law, that is irrelevant to this discussion. The conversation isn’t about what is taught in a specific practice of law, but what is taught in law school in general. I only used the example of Tort and Crim Law because those are mandatory 1L classes, thus ensuring that Concerned Citizen 27 was actually exposed to the material regardless of his year at law school. In other words, every law student does learn that sometimes intent does matter when deciding who is guilty of what.

          Oryx,

          So even after the picture, the fact that the tag for this on UOMatters is ‘blackface professors’, and the fact that she admitted to dressing up as a Black man, you’re not sure if this is an incident of blackface or not? If you put on makeup for the purpose of looking like a Black person, you’re actions fall under the category of blackface. The only intention that matters is whether or not you willing wore the blackface make/costume; I don’t care what type of mental gymnastics people have decided to engage in to say otherwise. Even Bobby Berger, who has defended blackface as a part of his act for the past 40 years as something that isn’t racist, recognizes that what he is doing is blackface. This is not a situation where Schurtz fell into some paint and just didn’t wipe her face.

          Furthermore, saying that the statement avoids an explanation of why is only valid if you’re conflating how I label someone’s action with how I respond to said actions. Consider this hypothetical: a day after Schurtz’s party, a theatre history professor showed up to class wearing blackface as part of a lesson on how minorities are portrayed in the industry. Even though I disagree with the use of blackface and find both guilty of it, I support a different response toward each incident from the school. Because the theatre professor was teaching a lesson that is legitimately relevant to the context of the class, I think a strong warning would suffice. In contrast, Schurtz is a law professor trying to get her TAX LAW students to think about the lack of diversity in the MEDICAL FIELD. I may not want her fired, but I have limited pity for her current circumstances.

          Finally, this quote: Plus, as you know, even aside from all that, there is a very real issue of free speech and free expression that many have brought up.

          Yes, there is a real issue of free speech and freedom of expression, but that is irrelevant to what I’m saying. Labeling Schurtz’s actions as blackface regardless of her ‘intentions’ doesn’t deny her free speech or freedom of expression.

      • Gone Girl says:

        I wish I could edit my previous comment to avoid posting 2 in a row. At any rate, PBF, I’m not sure what UO law school class is teaching students the strict liability doctrine in the employment law context. I teach employment law, including employment-discrimination law, and don’t know of any Title 7-related rule that would impose strict liability on an employee in this (or really any other) situation. Perhaps you are thinking of the respondeat superior doctrine?

      • Concerned Citizen 27 says:

        (This is in reply to your post PBF, but not directed at you—rather said generally to all.) There is an enormous amount of injustice and resultant anger in this world. It is innate to humanity—particularly fear of the Other. Does this justify racism and discrimination? No way.

        And one thing is a guaranteed certainty: as long as people of *any* color or orientation support—by their actions—the “eye for an eye” concept of justice, this will never end. Never.

        Do we all have a right to be angry? Of course. Do we have a right to focus that anger toward others? Yes—but we cannot do this and expect a meek, tail-between-legs response from the target of our anger. When cornered, ALL people will fight back.

        At the most fundamental level, that’s what this is all about.

        If we “keep score,” if we hold vengeance in our hearts, if we fantasize about people getting “what’s coming to them,” we will NEVER escape this endless cycle of fear, distrust, and hatred. It will go on for as long as we populate the Earth—and no punishment, no legal system, no code of ethics can change that.

        The only thing that will change it is TOLERANCE. Period. If anyone out there believes that punishment, public shaming, violence, or any other negative response can change the world for the better, I’d love to hear it. But I won’t, because it can’t. At best, all these negative responses can do is make the victim feel better–temporarily.

        • environmental necessity says:

          Yes, but these sentiments are at such a high level of abstraction they fail to provide any substantive guidance in this situation.

          We are to tolerate blackface? We are to tolerate clueless liberals who imagine their intentions override the consequences of their cluelessness? That, by the way, is the heart of privilege: “your view of what I did doesn’t matter because it wasn’t my intent, and I am a pure-of-heart liberal, dontchaknow”.

          We are to tolerate bungled administrative responses? We are to tolerate (if posters here are to be believed) a cabal opportunistically pushing out Prof. Shurtz?

          What exactly are we to tolerate here? What does tolerance even look like? All the faculty, alumni, and even students “tolerated” her actions, at least at the party.

          Lots of folks here are advocates of the speech-counter-speech dialectic. Me too. The lively discussion on UOM is evidence of that process at work. Does that happen without the public response?

          I am warming to the view Shurtz has also been wronged here but it is not much on account of the strength of the arguments developed in this thread on her behalf. This thread is full of fallacies: slippery slope, red herrings, straw persons, and many others.

    • Gone Girl says:

      Thank you for this detailed account of what happened inside the Law School. I am so sad to hear about this (IMO) downward spiral and honestly think that a big part of the problem is that the LS has given way too much power to ADR folks who frankly don’t seem to understand the law or the legal profession all that well. If students are so upset about this that they cannot take exams… well, let’s just say that law firm life is going to be tough for them.

  17. but... says:

    Something about the way this story has evolved has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. When the story first broke, the reaction against the professor’s actions was predictably swift and severe. However, the “buts” began appearing almost immediately as well.

    The first “but” was with regard to the intentions: “Wearing blackface is bad, BUT her intentions were good.” This sort of revisionism is, unfortunately, wholly expected when we see racist behavior. For whatever reason, it’s natural for people to attempt to minimize this sort of behavior, especially when it occurs close to home. Nobody likes to feel complicit in promoting an environment where such actions can occur, so we work hard to try to understand the motivations and explain the action away as simply an isolated, misguided moment.

    So now we are no longer taking about blackface, but rather “blackface in a misguided attempt to educate.” The spade is no longer a spade. Again, this is quite common: Yes, Deady did racist things, BUT he also did non-racist things later in life, or: Yes, the police shot an unarmed man, BUT he has a long criminal record and wasn’t complying with orders. Hitler made the buses run on time. Etc.

    It’s the second round of “buts”, however, that I find most troubling. For some reason, the focus is now on occupational protection for one of the most protected occupations in the world. “Wearing blackface is bad, BUT we must protect free speech for professors.” What’s most striking about that statement is the sheer incongruity — attitudes toward blackface should be completely independent of free speech, but you wouldn’t know it reading through these comments.

    We’ve gone beyond trying to defend and explain a racist action. For some reason, “free speech” is meant to imply that wearing blackface is beyond reproach. Take a look at the quiz responses in the top right. A vast majority of people now think that the act of wearing blackface should not be condemned! (Note also the appearance of the first “but” in the way the question is phrased — UOM is careful to explain *why* she was wearing blackface).

    “Free speech” has now become a cludgel that we are using to beat back anyone who dares condemn a racist action. There’s an obvious irony here: As a slogan, “free speech” is being used against that which it stands. Commenters here are calling for the jobs of deans and administrators because they called for the job of a professor. My head spins watching the dizzying circles being spun in order to avoid taking about racist acts in our community.

    There is lip service being paid to the idea that the original offense should be a teachable moment and cause for a campus conversation. But it is nothing more than lip service. Tellingly, those same people advocating the conversation in previous threads are now deliberately avoiding that conversation in favor of the asinine discussion of occupational protection. The number of comments devoted to the tertiary free speech issue is an order of magnitude greater than the number of comments regarding the original issue.

    A professor wore blackface in front of her students. When can we get back to taking about that?

    • Hippo says:

      Dood. Life is complicated, hence there are always lots of “buts”.

      • but... says:

        The decision to wear blackface is NOT complicated. The complexity is artificial.

        • Anon7 says:

          But…. of course it’s complicated. If she dressed in black- mocking minstrel makeup there wouldn’t be 80 comments on this thread. She used makeup to dress up as a black author she admired. If we can’t make a distinction between those things, we are lost in a world of speech police that will never let us make progress.
          At the same time it’s important to hear the real damage caused by this. There’s lots of peripheral outrage, but that is different from the material damage to any students of color who were at the event. It’s important to hear and try to understand how they felt and how it affected them. I’d like to know more real information about that.

          • but... says:

            You must be trolling. Racism only counts of someone suffers “material damage?” If no people of color were at the event, then the behavior is suddenly ok? So if no black people are around, I’m free to use the “N” word with abandon?

            Gimme a break. It’s blackface we’re talking about. Blackface. One of the clearest examples of per se racism that can be imagined. Blackface. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here. “Progress” is made when it’s no longer socially acceptable to engage in per se racist acts.

            You’re literally defending a white person’s right to wear blackface. You must be trolling.

            • uomatters says:

              Sounds like pillory hasn’t satisfied you, so I’ll code this as a vote for burning at the stake.

            • anon7 says:

              but….absolutely not what I said, right? I did not say it was okay if no black people were around. I did ask how people present at the event, and specifically how people of color felt about it and were affected by it. Repeating ‘blackface’ doesn’t address the issue. The real issue is how students and specifically our minority students were affected by seeing a white woman costumed as a black man. Does anyone have a real answer?

            • happy face says:

              Anon7: The report said that no one at the party chose to file a complaint against the professor. That doesn’t resolve your question definitively, but it does indicate that whatever discomfort people felt did not rise to the level that they sought a remedy. The ensuing shit storm, however, undoubtedly caused them more distraction, discomfort, etc., and undoubtedly a lot more. Who is responsible for that?? While Shurtz’s act set things in motion, she is not responsible for the poor response by the law school administration and faculty. I wish there were a way for those students to seek a remedy for the poor response by the UO.

            • just different says:

              Not true–a number did complain. The report said that none were planning to file a formal grievance through AAEO. The report also said that they were told AAEO was required to investigate whether or not grievances had been filed. Why would anyone go through the trouble of filing a formal grievance where the investigation was being done anyway? Furthermore, when–including this case–has UO ever been interested in making restitution to aggrieved students who had been discriminated against? So why bother?

    • Dude says:

      Did you even read the op-ed?? The administration is using this event to make firing decisions based on any controversial speech! What do you expect us to do, roll over and wail in self-hatred while they do that? This is not just an issue of blackface any longer.

      • but... says:

        It’s not an issue of blackface any longer. Now it’s something worth caring about!

        Based on the outrage on display here, this community believes that the financial well being of rich, highly educated white people is exponentially more important than public displays of racism in our community. I’m not expecting anyone to roll over, but a little perspective and moral clarity would go a long way.

        • just different says:

          Egg-zactly. Someone above correctly identified the reason so many faculty have their shorts in a twist about this: They see it as a “stupid mistake” which anyone could have made, especially if they teach “sensitive subjects.” Since it was just a stupid mistake, then an apology should suffice, just as from a kindergartener.

          But a stupid mistake is by definition something which someone (1) shouldn’t have done and (2) should have known they shouldn’t have done. Should academic freedom really be invoked to exempt people who pride themselves as professionals from all accountability when they make stupid mistakes? At some point, isn’t “sorry” no longer good enough?

          It’s also telling that there is a whole lot of concern about “chilling” what professors do in the classroom, but zero reflection about what they could be doing to ensure they create an inclusive environment when they discuss their sensitive subjects. Or, for that matter, ever.

      • just different says:

        As I posted above, this WaPo columnist is a conservative extremist long opposed to the entire notion of discriminatory harassment. So of course he lumps it in with “controversial speech.” If you also believe that discriminatory harassment should be protected by the First Amendment, then at least be honest about that.

    • OregonAlum says:

      Well thought out post describing how this, and pretty much any discussion of racism on campus, quickly gets hijacked and sidetracked by the lily white faculty. White people hate having racism brought up and when it is brought up they trot out the same deflections we are seeing here: intent, free speech, etc.

      I don’t even think Schurtz should be fired and respect that this was an off campus event with free speech protections. But I think we as a community can be pissed of and shame her and her protectors for their coddling of racism.

      This is a great example of the iron law of institutions, faculty are now circling the wagons to protect one of their own from completely justified criticism and attempting to shift the conversation from the fact that a lot of these well meaning liberal professors have some work to do when it comes to cultural competency.

      • solap says:

        OregonAlum, I do not think many if any are doing anything more than protecting free speech. Like you they do not think Schurtz should be not be fired and that this was off campus and protected speech.

        Beyond that, I hope most would say ‘Sure lets have a frank and honest discussion and debate about the state of racism, elitism, white privlegisim, or whatever isim you want to trot out…’

        Oh wait, if one did have an open cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals requiring critical thinking , on campus or in their own home some anonymous coward will post it with no context and one will be in jeopardy of losing their career, dignity, and credibility.

        If only there were a forum for debate and critical thinking and some document that protected the right to free speech, at least in the public forum.

        The answer is not less speech but rather more. If we are going to have this hyper connected social-Media driven world of me then we may have to see and hear things we do not like, but this whole piling on mob mentality needs to morph into something better and more useful.

        Trigger warning link may contain images, words and information that most college graduates can deal with. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackface

  18. thedude says:

    Condemn her all you want. Even request she resign. That’s your free speech too.

    It was racist, stupid and she was outright crazy to invite her students to a party where she planned to do so. That’s might own thoughts, and I’m glad I have free speech to say so.

    But many students dress up in halloween costumes mocking my religion. I don’t really care, but I’m pretty sure some people are hurt and offended by it. But its their free speech to do it. Granted my religion has done some pretty offensive things over the years too, but where do we draw the line on what people can freely say when not on the job?

    • but... says:

      I don’t know exactly where the line is, but blackface is on the other side of it. We’re not talking about students misunderstanding the word “niggardly” or “spooks.” It’s blackface. C’mon.

      How many jobs can you think of where this would not get you fired?

      • Thedude says:

        Most if it happened at my own home.

        • but... says:

          I usually defend the academy against criticisms that its members are out of touch with the “real world,” but comments like this make it difficult.

          Why would an employer ever tolerate this behavior from its employees? Marginalizing clients is generally not good practice. I’ve personally witnessed multiple people lose their jobs for off-the-clock actions much more benign than this. There’s a reason Klansmen cover their faces…

  19. Dude says:

    Enough with the bloodthirsty calls to fire this person or that other one. Instead, time for the senate to censure the report on the grounds that it violates the basic principles of free speech in a university campus, along the lines discussed in the Op-ed by Volokh.

    • feichangdao says:

      “Enough of the [insert completely overblown and hyperbolic adjective here] use of free speech by people who aren’t white professors. It’s time for the senate to censure these voices because they violate the basic principles of free speech in a university campus.”

  20. Concerned Citizen 27 says:

    So what am I to make of several black friends who, when I described this whole situation to them (including the blackface part), said “WTF? People are overreacting!”

    Are these friends traitors to the black cause?

    Are they uneducated morons who don’t understand black suffering?

    Are they “Oreos” (white on the inside) who don’t understand black suffering?

    Are they (in spite of being black) also being racist?

    Is it permissible for a black person to say “The blackface is overblown” while it is NOT permissible for a white person to say this?

    I’m rolling my eyes over some of the ludicrous declarations here.

    If the answer is the latter, then

    • but... says:

      Ah yes, the “I have black friends” argument. I was wondering when it would make an appearance here.

      If you’re going to invoke the appeal to authority fallacy, you should at least make sure that your authority is authoritative. The opinion of your anonymous “black friends” is irrelevant hearsay.

      • solap says:

        OK but… I will bite but I think you really are a troll.

        Your use of argument from authority is incorrect. Assuming CC27 really has ‘black friends’ that are all like “WTF”, then he is asking what he should make of them (of course he left out a more obvious, they are lying to him as he is their white friend).

        However, since he did not state that his experience with friends was authoritative and therefore should be believed, I think you are creating a little straw man of your own.

        UOM posted a response from a black UO professor. This two would not be an argument from authority, but rather a personal opinion of one black professor at the UO. It is useful to hear from diverse views. I also read the Dean’s feelings on this… Oh wait that is an authority.

        • PBF says:

          The first thing I would say is that of course there are Black people who see this as no big deal, we aren’t a monolithic group and they have a right to their opinion. My second response is to outright roll my eyes. The Black friend of the White person trying to prove a point about racism is like Bigfoot: legendary, with the only proof of existence being word of mouth. Even if these friends do exist, unless they are within the UO Law, UO Campus or even the Legal community, they are outsiders. You don’t see me posting my Black family’s opinion on this subject because much like your Black friends, they are outsiders; their opinion shouldn’t carry as much weight as Black UO Law/UO Campus minorities because they do not have to function in this environment nor have they ever navigated this environment. Plus, if these Black friends of yours are in the UO community, it’s not your place to speak on their behalf. I may outright disagree with Prof. Ed Coleman, but he is speaking for himself and he is a member of the UO community.

          Still, the thing that I find most distasteful about this comment is the ways in which you are using you’re Black friends as an arguing position. When you’re hanging out with them, they are your friends, people whom you enjoy spending time with. When you need to make a point about race, they are now your ‘Black friends,’ here to strengthen your ideas with their blackness. In the span of one post, they went from being people to being means to an end. Your comment is why it’s so difficult to be a minority student in a mostly White environment when the topic or race comes up. Instead of just being one person giving an opinion, you’re elevated to Representative Minority, Ambassador of Their Race. If their comment argues against someone’s ideas, you’re just another minority cliché; if you co-sign someone’s ideas, you get elevated to ‘My Black Friend said’ status.

          Oh and solap, even if his comment isn’t an appeal to authority, it’s still problematic and ridiculous. ‘My Black friend said’ comment turns being Black into the basis for the argument, not the context or background for which the argument is being presented. When I refer to my race, I do to give the listener and understanding of where I’m coming from, it is not the foundation of my argument. There is little to no substance brought to the argument other than, these people are Black and they are okay with what Schurtzs did.

          • solap says:

            PBF, Thank you for the insight.

            I have a black friend at the UO and that person is livid, perhaps even one of the people posting here on this board. Should that person’s opinion carry little or no weight because they are not in the law school? Of course, you did not say that, but you are marginalizing a vast swath of people, saying that only black people in the UO carry any weight (especially when it was the social media outsiders court that was appealed to with the lone grainy picture that was used to tar and feather Dr. Schurtz). It is nice that you just disagree with Dr. Coleman (was your use of professor and first name a slight, just oversight or are you on a first name basis with him) and do not disregard his knowledge based on experience and tenure… or wait why do you outright disagree/disregard him, I am sure you have a much deeper reasoning than the many here who say Dr. Shurtz actions are per se racism and anyone who thinks different is a racist as well.

            So, I ask you PBF are you concerned about diversity and minority access at or are you just stirring up shit? Because from my (white privileged) point of view it does seem like there is a problem; however, IF Dr. Schurtz really was doing what she said, even as ham fisted as it turned out to be, she actually accomplished what the black students have for the most part failed to do, open a dialog about being black on the UO campus and get people thinking about it in a critical way, which is what she said she wanted to do. Yes, she did this at her home, as a private citizen, and no she does not have to be in ethnic studies or film to be concerned about her community… or is it our community?

            I have wanted to have conversations like this on campus (about campus) so many times but am too big of a coward to do so knowing that it would be suicide to stick my head out of my cozy protective shell of shallow banter (and white privilege?). I am a token white friend to a couple of people I guess, but even though I have looked for many years, I found nowhere on campus where diverse groups truly and honestly mixed in any critical way. Perhaps you know where that is, or perhaps (oh so nauseating prejudice) it is in the jox box, locker rooms, or athlete only classes. And this leads to that sick feeling in the bottom of my gut, that makes me wonder what really is wrong with my community. Why is it that if it is not the case it is the stereotype that if you talk to a black male undergraduate at the UO what is the chance you are talking to an athlete (someone here knows I am sure)?

            And here I end, sick to my stomach, still a coward, but it does not matter, I am lucky to have never stuck my head out, since by your own words, I am white so my concern about my community does not matter or carry any weight to those who I and literally all of people I count as my colleagues have spent our lives trying to open the door a little wider when we can… Sorry but that is all I can do, that is all you will let me do, we can only engage on the most inane level and not at the cooperative argumentative dialog and critical thinking and reasoning, which may one day lead us to a real post racial community.

            • PBF says:

              Wow, simply wow.

              1. “…you are marginalizing a vast swath of people, saying that only black people in the UO carry any weight (especially when it was the social media outsiders court that was appealed to with the lone grainy picture that was used to tar and feather Dr. Schurtz).”

              No, I said they should carry more weight because they are the ones expected to function in this environment. If what you said is true, the school’s decision to appeal to the ‘social media outsiders court’ as oppose to the needs of the Black members of UO’s community doesn’t change that contention.

              2. “It is nice that you just disagree with Dr. Coleman (was your use of professor and first name a slight, just oversight or are you on a first name basis with him)”
              My use of his name was to counteract the fact that in the post I was responding to, you referred to him exclusively as ‘black UO professor’ and ‘one black professor.’ I found that act to both distasteful and disrespectful and decided to give you his actual name and title in case you wanted to look him up. (But more on this later)

              3. “and do not disregard his knowledge based on experience and tenure… or wait why do you outright disagree/disregard him, I am sure you have a much deeper reasoning than the many here who say Dr. Shurtz actions are per se racism and anyone who thinks different is a racist as well.”
              First, if you recall me disregarding him, then you should recall me stating a belief that he crafted his arguments around the notion of respectability politics. You should also recall me pointing out a more balance source of information for anyone interested in understanding the history of blackface and wanted to come to their own conclusion. Second, I disagree with his animosity towards the people who called out what Schurtz did. I’m concerned that such a stance will discourage people from reporting racism that they have seen least they be regarded as a problem.

              Now as for the rest of your post, all I can say is: are you serious? I question if you want to actually have a dialogue on race. First, did you forget how you only remembered Prof. Coleman’s name to call me out? You really think someone who simply refers to a learned professional as the ‘Black professor,’ is a White person who is serious about having a discussion about race on campus, much less an ally? (Hell, on your 12/29/2016 comment you refer to Schurtz as ‘Schurtz’ and not ‘Dr. Schurtz’ as you have done with this post. I can’t help but wonder about other ways you’ll flip flop to prove a point.) Second, the fact that your getting this butthurt about my beliefs about the ‘My Black friend said’ argument says more about you than it does me. You know what you could have done instead of questioning my commitment to diversity and minority access on campus? You could have realized that instead being the voice of your Black friend, you could encourage them to voice their concerns, offer them support when they voice their concerns, and stand by them as they voice their concerns. If you’re going to acknowledge how a White woman in blackface triggered a discussion about racism on campus, you have to also acknowledge how screwed up it is that Black students were unable to do the same thing.

              What that said, if there is one thing to take away from this post, it is this: BLACK PROFESSOR HAVE NAMES, USE THEM EVEN IF IT MEANS TAKING A FEW MINUTES TO LOOK UP SAID NAMES.

  21. Concerned Citizen 27 says:

    It’s worth noting (only because I don’t think I’ve read this anywhere above) that almost every definition of “blackface” requires that the action be done for the purpose of *mocking* and/or insulting African-Americans through clumsy gestures, poor speech, etc.

    To some (on both sides of the racial aisle) this is significant. I’d suggest this whole discussion would be better served by substituting every instance of the word “blackface” with “dressing as a black person.” This, at least, would be a more accurate representation of what happened (if we take Professor Shurtz’s words at face value).

    Use of the word “blackface” to describe what happened is hyperbolic—done (IMO) mainly to throw gas on the fire. If you doubt me, feel free to consult any definition of “blackface” you prefer and find one that *doesn’t* refer to the practice as being done to mock and/or insult.

    And for what it’s worth, this is precisely what one black friend said to me. “She wasn’t *mocking* black people—what’s the big deal?”

    • PBF says:

      1. The Definitions of blackface from various sources
      Merriam-Webster: makeup applied to a performer playing a black person especially in a minstrel show; also : a performer wearing such makeup

      Google Dictionary: the makeup used by a nonblack performer playing a black role. The role played is typically comedic or musical and usually is considered offensive.
      “he appeared in blackface”
      used to imply patronization of blacks by whites or by institutions perceived to be insincerely or ineffectively nonracist.

      Wikipeida: Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a black person

      Wiktionary: (uncountable) A style of theatrical makeup in which a non-black person blackens their face in order to portray a negro.

      Dictionary.com: Theater. an entertainer, especially in a minstrel or vaudeville show, made up in the role of a black person. By the mid-20th century, these entertainers had declined in popularity because their comic portrayal of negative racial stereotypes was considered offensive.
      the facial makeup, as burnt cork, used in this role:
      They performed in blackface.
      2. Printing. a heavy-faced type, usually darker than boldface.

      Cambridge Dictionary: dark make-up worn by a white person in order to look like a black person, or the practice of doing this

      Oxford Dictionary: [mass noun] Make-up used by a non-black performer playing a black role.

      So… Yeah.

      2. So what does it mean that your Black friend says that? Is the point of this statement to negate the Black voices who say that Schurtz doing blackface is an issue? More importantly, why can’t your friend speak for him or herself?

  22. Anonymous says:

    To summarize (or at least what I think is going on — no more, no less and I’m not spouting this as authoritative), I see three ongoing arguments: (1) blackface is never acceptable, damn the intent and anyone who says otherwise is seeking to stifle the voice of the minority; (2) blackface is not acceptable, but look at the intent, venue, legal atmosphere and judge accordingly; (3) blackface is not acceptable, but given the circumstances, this event has morphed into an chilling effect for free speech in an academic setting.

    I belief each of these has merit, yet lines appear to have been drawn. Intolerance is evident, as we assert our principles and right to free speech. When you assert your argument, I’ll counter with mine. We get nowhere fast, folks. Where is the learning, the sharing, the understanding, the forgiving?

    One way or another, something will happen to Schurtz. What does the UO community want to have happen internally? Is there even a consensus?

    • Dog says:

      thanks for this Anon, I was planning to post something similar but as well established, dogs have no impact, the merely bark. One thing that I would simply add is that most all issues at the UO, in my barking opinion, have rapid over-reaction and get strongly polarized making convergence impossible. It doesn’t really have to be like this.

      • Simplius Simplicissimus says:

        You were not the only canine to remark upon this issue:

        “Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.” (Churchill)

        • Simplius Simplicissimus says:

          Or the more complete quote: “So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”

  23. Anonymous says:

    If a “teacher” thinks they are qualified to have a discussion on race, but claim they have never heard of black face before… they sure as hell should be fired because they are NOT qualified, tenure or not.

    • happy face says:

      As a prior post mentioned, Shurtz claimed the report had inaccuracies. One wonders if this denial was a misquote or a misunderstanding of what she said.

  24. Dasein says:

    I have been following the comments on this link and finally decided to say a few words. I am a free speech advocate, and I find the Halloween dress-up act of the professor reprehensible. But I also find the action of the administration equally disturbing. I think it will have repercussions on academic free speech at UO.
    That said I find it difficult to believe that Shurtz was unaware of the historical meaning of blackface. The fact that a senior faculty (who by the way witnessed both the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the Busing Controversy of the 1970s) is unaware that there are very few African Americans at medical schools in the US, especially at the top schools like Duke or Brown (her daughter’s school) goes to show how out of touch she is with social dynamics of American society. That should give us pause. The legal system in this country privileges rich people who also happen to be white for historical reasons, and this is particularly true of the criminal justice system. These stats are easily available. Just look at the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Even if you teach tax law (and tax laws tend to benefit the rich who happen to be more white than black), you should know that. It is expected that university professors should be well informed about these issues.
    I also find it incredulous that someone would use a Halloween party, where people are in a festive mood drinking and dancing, to create awareness of the lack of African Americans in the medical profession. That is hardly the format to conduct a thoughtful dialogue. In fact, had I read the book and found it to be instructive, I would call the VP of Undergraduate Education and suggest that they consider adopting this book as a general text for all incoming students; or use it in FIGS; or create a forum at the Law School to discuss the issue with students and faculty. I find the Halloween Party to be a strange place for such a conversation. In fact, it trivializes a serious situation facing American society.
    In 1999 I went to a friend’s graduation from medical school, and out of the 89 (approximate #) students who graduated, they had only 1 African American who also gave the graduation speech. 30% of the graduating class was Asian American (both South and East Asian). I later asked my friend if there was only one African American in his class, and he said yes. Not much has changed in the medical profession.
    But what has really saddened me about this thread is how African American humanity has been reduced to not even a footnote in the discussion. And that more than anything else tells me about the state of race relations in Eugene, OR in 2016.

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