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Can the administration fire Shurtz? Will they?

Last updated on 10/31/2019

Not without a formal judgement by her peers following established procedures. In fact the administration can’t even punish her without that. Academic freedom is still pretty strong at UO.

See the “final investigative report” from UO’s employment law specialists Edwin A. Harnden & Shayda Z. Le of Barran Liebman, LLP, and the letter from Provost Coltrane posted here. Page 5 of the Harnden-Ze Report cites UO’s Academic Freedom Policy – signed by former UO President Mike Gottfredson, after months of negotiations between him, the UO General Counsel’s Office, and the UO Senate:


These freedoms derive immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal. Only serious abuses of this policy – ones that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence – should lead to adverse consequences. Any such determinations shall be made in accordance with established, formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers.

Coltrane’s letter to the faculty does not even hint at the possibility that he followed any “formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers” before issuing his personal judgement that “… the violation 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”,  or that he plans to do so. Yet that same sentence makes clear that Coltrane’s decision that Shurtz had engaged in “Discriminatory Harassment” was made after consideration of her academic freedom, so the above policy clearly applies. Harnden & Ze even put it in their report. Very helpful.


  1. Captain Nemo 01/05/2017

    It is probably time for everyone to back off and reflect for a moment about where we want to go with this issue. Many mistakes were made, in my opinion especially by Coltrane. He could have handled the situation much more effectively by calling in the principle actors in this drama and trying to find a constructive solution. But no; he opted to call in the lawyers, a sure sign of his weakness as a leader. I still believe he could and should do so. It is not too late.

    I wonder too what is worse for the UO: the ongoing ‘free speech/ black face’ scandal or the woes of some of the student-athletes. Probably the former as the latter seems endemic to all universities.

    • honest Uncle Bernie 01/06/2017

      With all due respect, I have to think that the buck stops at Schill’s desk on this. He is the attorney from the fancy law schools. He is the one with the fancy legal connections. And he is the boss.

      UO does seem to have a way of generating messes.

      Maybe it’s the legacy of Animal House. Seriously!

    • Dog 01/06/2017

      What, you are asking for reflective thinking at the UO – like we are a collection of thoughtful scholars? We over react and polarize everything here at the UO because,
      well, we are special and way way sensitive. Besides, we are not paid enough to be reflective so everyone is baseline pissed off here …

  2. Conflict of interest 01/06/2017

    Scott Coltrane has never really been the one to make difficult choices correctly. He is better at towing the line and advancing his own position. Soon he’ll retire and hopefully the cleaning of JH will continue under Schill, who is the first person in that circle (in a long long time, at least) who has earnestly tried to flush out the ones who aren’t up to the task. That’s hard to do. For proof of that, look at how Coltrane accomplished nothing of the sort while he pretended to be president.

  3. Off with their heads! 01/06/2017

    What are the ‘established, formal procedures?’

  4. Lawyer 01/06/2017

    Your leader passed the NY State Bar Exam and is currently registered as a lawyer in good standing with the NY Bar (#1983816), notwithstanding the honorable Erwin Chemerinsky.

  5. Fishwrapper 01/06/2017

    In a semi-related manner, I was listening to Slate’s Amicus podcast (episode 56) today whilst doing errands about the house, and enjoyed the second half which featured highlights from a recent symposium about the current state of free speech on college campuses hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression. A number of topics that have been subjects of comments about speech on campuses that have been discussed on this blog over the past year or two were touched upon in the highlights, and that has driven me on to the full recap of the symposium at the Jefferson Center’s website.

    While I don’t think the symposium definitively answered many questions discussed in the blackface threads, it was interesting, though provoking, and enlightening to hear about other circumstances on campuses that had similarities, and to hear how administrators and student groups across the country are wrestling with free speech issues.

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