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Stupid and offensive Halloween costume & response from Law & Schill

10/31/2019: A Halloween reminder:

11/3/2016 update: 23 Angry Law Professors:


11/2/2016 update: Law Dean writes alumni condeming professor and racism and bigotry, then suspends her from teaching. KEZI posts professor’s explanation and apology. It seems she is not a racist or a bigot – quite the contrary:

The KEZI report is here:

“I chose my costume based on a book that I read and liked—Black Man in a White Coat.  I thought I would be able to teach with this costume as well (or at least tell an interesting story).  When I asked my daughter who is at Brown Medical School the demographics of her medical school class, she said “they do not give those statistics out mom”, but later when she asked the administration, they said there was _not one black male _student in the class. She and others were outraged. She was able to get the administration to assign a portion of this book (the one where the black medical student was thought to be the janitor) out to students.

I am sorry if it did not come off well.  I, of all people, would not want to offend.

Prof. Shurtz”

Dean Michael Moffit’s email to Law School Alumni. He’s opposed to bigotry and racism, for “the safety of all concerned”, and confused about taking time to learn the facts before suspending a professor:

From: University of Oregon School of Law <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 3:02 PM

Subject: Message from the Dean

November 2, 2016

Dear Oregon Law Alumni and Friends,

With great frustration about the circumstances that compel me to do so, I write to share with you a message that went out late last night from the President, the Provost, the Vice President of Equity and Inclusion, and me.

As you will read, a University of Oregon School of Law faculty member wore a Halloween costume that included blackface at a private, off-campus party attended by UO faculty members and students. This matter has been turned over to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

This action demonstrated racial insensitivity in a way that is inconsistent with our school’s values, and wholly unacceptable for this institution. We will follow the university’s processes for determining whether the act violated university rules. We obviously don’t know the outcome of that process and it would be inappropriate to speculate. In order to ensure the safety of all concerned and the smooth operation of the law school, I have placed the faculty member responsible on administrative leave pending resolution of the AAEO process.

As dean, I expect all members of the UO School of Law community to provide a welcoming, diverse and inclusive environment at all times. To be clear: We will not tolerate any form of bigotry or racism. Ever.

I have already heard from a number of you, and I am grateful for your feedback. If you would like to reach out to me directly, I would welcome hearing from you.


Michael Moffitt
Philip H. Knight Chair in Law
University of Oregon School of Law

Law School

11/1/2016 update: From what I’ve learned so far the professor in blackface was trying – albeit awkwardly and unintentionally offensively – to honor the author of “Black Man in a White Coat”. The NYT review:

… As a medical student at Duke, he feels underprepared among the privileged graduates of fancy schools like Harvard and Yale. (He attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.) On a scholarship for black students, he frets about being written off as a product of affirmative action.

In one chilling incident, a professor mistakes him for the handyman come to change the classroom light bulbs. Rather than making a fuss, Dr. Tweedy triumphs by earning the second-highest grade on the final exam and then declining the startled teacher’s offer of a job.

Such incidents of overt racism are rare, at least among the professionals Dr. Tweedy works with, but a lot of prejudice is flying around. Some patients flatly declare that they don’t like black doctors; even a black patient once snaps that he doesn’t want to be treated by a “country-ass doctor.” Dr. Tweedy feels annoyed at the uneducated black patients who sabotage their health and then feels irritated at himself for his annoyance. …

Good intentions gone awry.

11/1/2016: Maybe some enterprising reporter will now make a public records request for details on the various investigations and consultants reports on how Ms Daugherty has run UO’s Affirmative Action office, and ask how the UO administration has responded. Meanwhile here’s tonight’s email to campus from President Schill:

Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The University of Oregon has been made aware that a faculty member of the School of Law wore a costume that included blackface at a private, off-campus Halloween party that was attended by UO faculty members and students.

We condemn this action unequivocally as anathema to the University of Oregon’s cherished values of racial diversity and inclusion. The use of blackface, even in jest at a Halloween party, is patently offensive and reinforces historically racist stereotypes. It was a stupid act and is in no way defensible.

The faculty member involved has apologized for the decision and has expressed concern about its potential impact on members of the community. Although the party occurred outside of the faculty member’s official duties, the professor acknowledges that the costume choice was unacceptable under any circumstances.

We take seriously any complaints from members of our community, and we have referred this complaint to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, which will determine whether this action could constitute a violation of university policy.

At a minimum, it illustrates the need for more training and dialogue on these critical issues. In support of this dialogue, the Division of Equity and Inclusion created a UO African American Workshop and Lecture Series to help increase understanding. Implicit bias training is now required for all faculty searches and this winter new trainings on micro-aggressions will be offered. We will continue to assess other trainings or opportunities we can employ to further educate our community.

Bigotry and racism have no place in our society or at the UO. Providing a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive environment for all is one of the university’s top priorities. We have been working for more than a year with our students to further these objectives. This incident makes us even more determined to ensure that no member of the UO community feels isolated or alienated on this campus as a result of intentional or unintentional racist behavior.


Michael H. Schill, President and Professor of Law         

Scott Coltrane, Provost and Senior Vice President                                                          

Yvette Alex Assensoh, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion                                    

Michael Moffitt, Dean, School of Law


  1. not a scientist or a faculty member 11/01/2016

    I agree it was a stupid and offensive thing to wear. I wouldn’t dream of wearing black face unless my black friends egged me on.

    It also sets a bad example for the student body.

    That said, I don’t think the university should be outing faculty members for non-criminal behavior off campus behavior. In the grand scheme of things a costume is pretty harmless.

    • Concerned community member 11/02/2016

      “In the grand scheme of things a costume is pretty harmless.”

      No, see, that’s a big part of the problem. I don’t think we get to decide what is “pretty harmless” to others. It’s part of a whole, on campus or off. Talk to some black students, staff or faculty, and see how “harmless” they think this is.

      • criminal mind 11/02/2016

        talk to an old white guy about how harmless it is being dismissed as an old white guy. Often, with the specification soon to be departed. It happens all the time, believe me, but it’s considered OK.

        Personally, I’ve experienced self-applicable ethnic slurs at UO, multiple times in the past couple of years. No, I’m not black, but slurs they were. Not from a faculty member, it is true. (But come to think of it, I have experienced that as well in my time here).

        I let is slide off, because I have better things to think about. I have a life. Not the slightest interest in bringing it to the attention of the officials.

        • Idiot 11/02/2016

          No, not the same. Old white guy and black are not the same. This is a false equivalency of the worst kind. And if you don’t get that, you are part of the problem.

          • just different 11/02/2016

            I think Mr. All Lives Matter is just trolling this thread and should be ignored. I would hope that by now we’ve moved past the tired conflation of free speech and casual racism.

          • Sherlock 11/04/2016

            People who think people of color are the only subjects of discrimination and hurtful actions are, well, idiots.

  2. not a scientist or a faculty member 11/01/2016

    “This incident makes us even more determined to ensure that no member of the UO community feels isolated or alienated on this campus as a result of intentional or unintentional racist behavior.”

    I agree. The key phrase here is “racist behavior.” No member of the UO community should feel threatened because of their race. I can’t imagine it being easy being a member of a minority (Black, Asian, Hispanic, Arab, Republican, etc) in Eugene.

  3. Anon. 11/01/2016

    This faculty member has a very long history of very poor judgment and behavior, but because she is tenured, no one can do anything about it. Yet another example of why the current tenure structure is an embarrassment.

    • uomatters Post author | 11/01/2016

      That seems like quite a stretch – particularly when you’re posting a general attack on a professor without providing any specific details.

  4. criminal mind 11/02/2016

    I imagine that next, dressing up for a party as Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will become a thought crime.

    Or perhaps even as President Trump!

    • Concerned community member 11/02/2016

      A “thought crime”? It’s behavior which, by definition, isn’t a thought crime.

      • criminal mind 11/02/2016

        If it is Constitutionally protected speech, it has an aspect that certainly involves thought.

        In any case, the University is clearly trying to control not only expression, but also what one can think.

        Pretty creepy, if you ask me. And no, I wouldn’t be dumb enough to wear such a costume. But I wouldn’t get bent out of shape over anything like that.

  5. Nope 11/02/2016

    I know this happened off campus, but doesn’t this fall under free speech?

    • thedude 11/02/2016

      Remember UO just sent out an email saying speech is free, but not that free.

      Free-ish speech.

  6. criminal mind 11/02/2016

    I also wonder, is wearing this costume — to a private off-campus event! — Constitutionally protected free speech? Is UO then perhaps skirting with violation of this (admittedly stupid)faculty member’s civil rights?
    Perhaps FIRE could help us out?

    • duckduckgo 11/02/2016

      It isn’t clear from the letter if UO did anything to violate the faculty member’s civil rights. They reported it happened, and reported that the faculty member apologized and has expressed concern. Was the faculty member told they would be fired if they did it again?

  7. Anonymous 11/02/2016

    I’m very uncomfortable with the idea that the U of O thinks it can chastise its employees for how they choose to express themselves in their personal free time.

    • Licensed in Oregon 11/02/2016

      Stupid and offensive to be sure. But a full on AA investigation is a stupid overreaction. Having seen enough academic politics, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Dean has it in for the professor. Didn’t the Law School vote last year to get rid of this Dean?

      • Alumnus 11/04/2016

        From my time at UO Law (a few decades on now), I recall that this faculty member seemed very unpopular among the faculty, although in the two classes I took from her, she seemed like a very good teacher.

        • uomatters Post author | 11/04/2016

          Two things that are often correlated in the jealous world of academic politics.

  8. just different 11/02/2016

    How long has implicit bias training been implemented for search committees? Are people receptive to it? Do they think it helps?

    • thedude 11/02/2016

      This person needs explicit bias training not implicit bias training.

  9. Leporello 11/02/2016

    Is there any amount of training on implicit bias, micro aggressions, diversity inclusion and cultural sensitivity that may forfend such boorish behavior? Will an updated policy statement printed at the bottom of every administration document, perhaps more clearly worded to expressly exclude ever wearing blackface to any event, on or off campus, help in any way? Maybe it is time to admit that these “feel good” measures don’t actually do a damn thing. Some people simply clueless no matter their degree of intellectual attainment.

  10. hmm... 11/02/2016

    1. How clueless does one have to be to wear blackface under *any* scenario in 2016? Was this person living under a rock the last 10-15 years when such things have been getting more attention/protests? I don’t think I’d wear blackface (or a Native American headdress or a Nazi uniform, etc.) even if someone paid me millions of dollars to do it. For a law professor, he or she really didn’t think through the consequences of this action.

    2. Despite #1, I do worry though about the increasing reach of employers into employee’s private lives. As noted in the President’s letter, this was an off-campus, private event during non-work hours. As such, the employer should have no jurisdiction on that event. In this particular scenario, the current response of stating the event happened, discussing with the faculty member that it is offensive, and getting an apology seems appropriate. But I worry that there may be pressure to go further (financial discipline, even firing?).

    • just different 11/02/2016

      The people who do these things aren’t clueless about what they’re doing. That’s exactly the point.

  11. Anonymous 11/02/2016

    Not sure how “private” this event was — a Halloween party that students and other faculty were invited to. It’s not like she was caught doing this in Vegas.

    • hmm... 11/02/2016

      “Private” just means it was not a university sanctioned event. It was not during working hours, it was not held on campus and it was not during the course of this person’s job. Eugene is a small town. Faculty and students are bound to be at events not held on campus or by the university. Does that mean that the university has the authority to monitor these events for any bias? If you make a sexist joke at your Thanksgiving party and I am in attendance, should I report it to the President that you said some naughty things in your off-time?

      • Anonymous 11/02/2016

        I appreciate where you’re coming from, but consider the specific event at hand: Professor invites students and faculty to a party where she dresses in blackface.
        To me that seems to blur the line between public and private.
        It’s obviously not a “university-sanctioned event” — but not entirely private either.

        • Thom Aquinas 11/02/2016

          The supervisor/leader/professor hat never comes off. He/She has a responsibility to conduct him/herself in a manner conducive to his/her position, wherever she/he is. “Private” or not. The freedom to express ourselves is not “absolute”, no matter what the constitution says. Freedom without responsibility is anarchy. That responsibility should come from “within” for reasonable people. For unreasonable people, society/employer/peer pressure needs to remind that person where the limitations for all our freedoms are: where the freedoms of others begin.

          • Voltaire 11/02/2016

            I agree. And since religious activities, especially those based on incoherent and deranged ideas like transubstantiation and cannibalism, are not conducive to the position of “professor”, they should never be carried out by professors even in “private”.

            While we are at it, the employee/follower/student hat never comes off and it is high time we banned student partying all together. And with it lets ban the least conducive to academia activity of all, anonymous comment posting.

            • uomatters Post author | 11/02/2016

              Thanks Voltaire, this is the best of all possible comments.

            • Dog 11/03/2016

              Voltaire also say this:

              Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.

            • Anonymous 11/05/2016

              So wearing blackface is OK because you cannot tolerate an anonymous comment. I kinda agree that as teachers we need to watch what we say or do at all times. You go ahead and goof off when you invite your colleagues?

      • Anonymous 11/02/2016

        So it’s okay if it’s private? I can invite my students — no pressure of course — over to my house to engage in morally bankrupt behavior? And if things get weird, I can just say, “Eugene is a small town.”

        • uomatters Post author | 11/02/2016

          You should read the KEZI story before jumping to judgement. Now added at the top of the post.

          • dog 11/03/2016

            But rush to publicized judgement is what this blog, by its very nature, encourages

          • just different 11/03/2016

            Al Jolson’s blackface was intended as a sort of tribute too. But it was patronizing then and it’s patronizing now. In this day and age we really have no excuse to not know better. Maybe she’s not a hate-spewing cross-burner, but her actions still make her a casual racist. There’s no contradiction in “meaning well” and also being racist. Seriously, she thought she was going to “teach” with her costume?

            • Pass the Tar and Feathers 11/03/2016

              Well, it turns out she did teach with her ill-advised costume. For those who are paying attention, and not just jumping on the latest “I’m so offended” bandwagon, we now know about this book she was awkwardly touting and our attention has been drawn to the state of black male admissions at our medical schools. That’s a professionally hazardous way to teach, but nonetheless quite effective at getting attention! We are so quick to tar-and-feather the latest offender of our code of behavior, but can’t admit that sometimes unusual and awkward behavior can be illuminating and offer a new perspective. Anyway, we can all get back to shaming each other now and pretend all our problems will go away once we’ve fired all professors who don’t behave properly.

            • just different 11/03/2016

              I agree that it was a (probably unintentionally) brilliant piece of consciousness-raising performance art. But intentional or not, she shouldn’t be any more surprised by the response than someone who gets arrested for civil disobedience.

  12. anonymous 11/02/2016

    I too worry about finding the right line between an appropriate community response and administrative overreach.

    If only there were some sort of team whose job it was to respond and educate when issues of bias come up.


  13. Just say no. 11/02/2016

    My kid’s elementary school knew better. From the PTO emails:
    “Halloween Parade Dress Code:
    • No weapons
    • No weapon-like props
    • No excessive bareness (no spaghetti straps, exposed bra straps, bare midriffs)
    • No dress as another ethnicity, race, religion or culture
    • No especially scary or gory costumes (Nothing that would scare a kindergarten student)
    • Masks must be taken off after the parade for the remainder of the day
    • If you are not sure about the appropriateness of a costume, please ask Principal…

    Your child should not dress as another person’s race, religion or culture. A costume can be of a character or an individual who is of another race/religion/culture than your child, but not of a generalized race or ethnicity religion or culture. Costumes should not be caricatures or mocking representations of any group. Students will be asked to change clothes for inappropriate attire.”

  14. anonymous 11/02/2016

    This is laughable:

    “We have been working for more than a year with our students to further these objectives. This incident makes us even more determined to ensure that no member of the UO community feels isolated or alienated on this campus as a result of intentional or unintentional racist behavior.”

    Racism is alive and well here at UO. Same with sexism and sexual harassment.

    Anyone who thinks that AAEO is anything more than a department for University risk management and to protect the U is confused. PD IS doing her mission, though, perhaps, that mission is not the publicized one.

    • Concerned employee 11/02/2016

      Racism will always be alive and well at the U of O. Just ask the black classified employees who fight off all types of racial indignities, daily. Ask Penny Daugherty about the number of cases she has blown off, and recourse has been BOLI and NAACP lawyers

  15. A penny for your... 11/02/2016

    What an awkward party. Hi, I’m a vampire! Hi, I’m a mermaid! Hi, I’m in blackface, portraying another apparently mythical creature!

  16. Idea 11/02/2016

    Maybe next year the Senate President can send out an email to all faculty members reminding them to be safe and to not wear culturally inappropriate costumes during Halloween…it seemed to work for ASUO.

  17. Anonymous 11/02/2016

    Why do I get the feeling this is going to turn into a shitshow of all parties being stupid.

  18. not a scientist or a faculty member 11/02/2016

    Organizations are happy to throw people under the bus in order to protect their image. People that make mistakes are always expendable.

    Although I still think it was a questionable thing to wear, I think the public outing was even more offensive.

    • uomatters Post author | 11/03/2016

      This was written by *law* professors?

      November 2, 2016

      Dear Colleague,

      If these allegations are true, and you did in fact wear blackface to a
      Halloween party, you need to resign.

      It doesn’t matter what your intentions were. It doesn’t matter if it was
      protected by the First Amendment.

      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.

      Your actions implicate all of us and our community.

      If you care about our students, you will resign. If you care about our
      ability to educate future lawyers, you will resign. If you care about our
      alumni, you will resign.

      Elizabeth Tippett
      Jennifer W. Reynolds
      Erik Girvan
      Michael Fakhri
      Leslie Harris
      Caroline Forell
      Elizabeth Frost
      Margie Paris
      Michael Musheno
      Adell Amos
      David Cadaret
      Beatrice Dohrn
      Suzanne Rowe
      Stuart Chinn
      Mary Ann Hyatt
      Joan Rocklin
      Kathryn Moakley
      Mohsen Manesh
      Carrie Leonetti
      Michael Quillin
      Megan McAlpin
      Rob Illig
      Rebekah Hanley

      • Awesome0 11/03/2016

        Explains our law school ranking?

  19. criminal mind 11/03/2016

    A bunch of law professors who don’t care if it is protected under the First Amendment?

    Maybe rhey are the ones who are unfit to teach law?

    • Sherlock 11/03/2016

      Lawyers only care about things for which they can bill by the quarter hour.

    • Actually... 11/03/2016

      Read the damn constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting … abridging the freedom of speech”.

      There is no constitutional right to keep your job and salary after engaging in negligent, hurtful speech.

      • Well... 11/03/2016

        There is at a public university. The state doesn’t get to fire you because of speech not at work or during work hours.

        Our country just went through this wit Steven Salaita. And he hadn’t even been hired yet and wasn’t protected by the (much stronger) free speech provisions of the oregon constitution.

        He did win a 800,000 settlement against his school and create a fire storm that lead to the chancellor resigning. And they didn’t even defame him in an email message to the entire campus.

        • Actually... 11/03/2016

          The letter asks her to take responsibility and resign. The letter does not call for university or state action.

          • Another anonymous responder 11/03/2016

            Oh, well, that’s so much better, then…

            • Anonymous 11/03/2016

              Yes, it is much better

    • criminal mind 11/03/2016

      As pointed out by someone else, the First Amendment applies to a public university (the Supreme Court has ruled so).

      There is certainly nothing about “negligent, hurtful speech” that makes it not subject to the First Amendment protection.

      It is true, the good law professors are not explicitly calling for university or state action. But it seems to me that as colleagues of the beleaguered professor calling for her essentially coerced self-expulsion from their midst, they are acting as agents of the university and state. “Calling” for a shipmate to walk the plank at the point of a sword is not exactly calling for voluntary action.

      It seems to me the professor might have a very good case in a lawsuit against the law school and the university if she feels compelled to resign.

      Personally, if I were the professor, I would tell my beloved colleagues what they can go do with themselves.

      • Letter Signer 11/04/2016

        I signed the letter, and I am not a shill (or “agent”) of the university. Indeed, if the university sought to terminate the professor for this incident without due process and cause, I would be among the first to object.

        The letter is counter-speech, also protected by the first amendment.. The letter makes clear our view that we do not tolerate this sort of rank racial insensitivity and abject negligence in our community, and that we would be better off if the professor resigned.

  20. Tragic Scapegoating Mentality 11/03/2016

    This situation is tragic in so many ways. The coverage in various news sources makes it clear that the professor was very likely intending to engage in an act of anti-racist protest. She made a terrible mistake in how to do that, but that her intentions were good seems likely. We all know good intentions are not enough but they are not irrelevant either. The law school is a place known for harboring both sexism and racism with some of the highest sexual harassment rates on campus. This professor has a history of challenging sexism and racism. She also has taken stands against administrators in power. Now she becomes the target of a shaming and defaming and scapegoating. I’m not suggesting her blackface was okay or that it should be ignored or that she should not be accountable for her mistake. I am suggesting that the administrative response and the law school professor letter is tragic because here was an opportunity to look at system problems and take responsibility rather than point fingers outside. If the goal is to heal the world and end racism, this sort of scapegoating and destroying one person is not going to help at all.
    Also, it is absurd to say first amendment rights don’t matter – utterly absurd. How do you fight racism without first amendment rights?

  21. Publius 11/03/2016

    Is this letter legitimate–has this been confirmed by those who signed it?

  22. thedude 11/03/2016

    I think this also could be her colleagues throwing her under the bus because they don’t like her. If they did, they’d be defending her or letting her be repentent. I don’t know her, but I suspect in my department there are people we would defend, and people we’d throw under the bus (not naming any names). And that’s probably why she shouldn’t lose her job over this.

    Shoot, the athletics director hasn’t lost job after the recent rape incidents…

    • not a scientist or a faculty member 11/03/2016

      What she did is not normal. Intelligent people don’t show up to a party of their peers and students wearing an afro and poorly applied blackface makeup. What she did was certainly questionable. Perhaps it was intended to be a stunt. I definitely can see why some people would immediately consider it a racist act.

      That said, I think the public outcry and shaming is not necessary. This event does not warrant a campus wide email.

  23. Anonymous 11/03/2016

    Always funny to see non-lawyers spouting law, you guys are priceless!

    • Not funny at all 11/03/2016

      Not as funny as seeing lawyers trying to fix race-relations.

      • Anonymous 11/03/2016

        You give us too much credit …

    • criminal mind 11/03/2016

      Oh yeah, Supreme Court decisions are always so logical, consistent, and defensible. Any ordinary citizen can easily see the Constitution shining through the luminous writings of the esteemed court.

      My favorite example is the Dred Scott decision, but there are a good many others.

  24. former employee 11/03/2016

    Nancy was using this costume as a possible teaching moment. Nancy is actually a pretty darn good teacher but I think she got more than she bargained for with this stunt. I take her reasoning at face value, and I appreciate and accept her apology. We all need to be vigilant and check our racism or tendencies towards racism (and other “isms”) on a pretty regular basis. But honestly what sickens me is this letter from her sanctimonious colleagues. Knowing what I know about the law school environment I think this outrage is pretty fake. I think it is personal. I think that if some of the people on the list had used equally poor judgement, they would have not been sanctioned by their colleagues so publicly.

    • Zaq 11/03/2016

      I’m disgusted, but not particularly surprised, at the number of people characterizing blackface as a “stunt” or “questionable.”

      This isn’t a “Human Stain” situation. Everyone is aware that blackface is one of the most deplorable, well-known ways to trivialize a historically marginalized group, yet scores of people are falling over themselves to minimize the action or deflect the criticism elsewhere. Give it a rest.

      • stranger in dangerous lands 11/04/2016

        Nancy should have been aware that blackface is deplorable, but saying that “everyone knows” this sends chills through my spine. Many cultures do not think much of blackface (look at Netherlands as an example) because blackface does not have the same racist connotations elsewhere. (No you cannot argue that it should–unless of course you want to be accused of cultural imperialism). I am a foreigner on this campus and very often I worry about encountering a situation where what I was unaware was a cultural blindspot becomes known. The treatment I can expect, judging from this story, would be unforgiving.

        • Letter Signer 11/04/2016

          The reaction would have been different if this professor was foreign-raised and new to American life and culture. She is not.

    • Alumnus 11/04/2016

      “Former employee,” I also know most of the folks who signed that letter (and the professor who is its subject), and I agree with you.

  25. Remember the Oregon Constitution 11/03/2016

    Article 1, section 8, of the Oregon Constitution provides:

    “No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write or print freely on any subject whatever; but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.”
    The sweeping protection of that clause extends to all forms of speech, regardless of the social acceptability or offensiveness of the content,… and regardless of the context of the communication.” Merrick v. Board of Higher Educ., 841 P. 2d 646 – Or: Court of Appeals 1992

    Merrick struck down a particularly viscious initiative, Ballot Measure 8, which permitted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

    City of Nyssa v. Dufloth, 121 P. 3d 639 (Or. Sup. Ct. 2005) struck down restrictions on nude dancing on free speech grounds. If naked dancing is free expression, you can bet an offensive costume is.

    She made a grave error in judgment. However, I think it is important to stand by the protections of the Oregon Constitution. Remember, there’s that knucklehead of an engineering professor at Northwestern who is a holocaust denier. The university made it clear that the first time he discussed those beliefs on campus would be the last, but otherwise accepted that he has tenure and had done nothing in his professional capacity to threaten it. While what she did was dumb, it was certainly isn’t worse than that. I hope that she will apologize and turn this into a learning experience – “I have a better understanding now of how even well intentioned acts to combat racism can sometimes make it worse…” etc.

    • Anonymous 11/03/2016

      For the love of…

      The free speech chest beating on this blog is ridiculous.

      Saying the 1st Amendment is not an issue is not saying the prof had no right to make an add of herself.

      Instead it is a statement that the right exercised in a patently racist fashion is not insulated from criticism by colleagues.

      Being a stupid racist. ..protected

      But not protected from public criticism by a collection of peers, exercising their protected speech rights.


      Blackface protected.

      Criticism and calls to resign a huge affront to free speech. Gotcha

      Seems like precisely the mechanism to be preferred instead of institutional or state sanction.

      1st Amendment is not a magic shield protecting one from others calling you on your bullshit

  26. Anonymous 11/03/2016

    I can’t believe people are buying the “teaching moment” line — this woman is a PROFESSOR, if she wants to teach something, there is a logical and natural venue to do that: the CLASSROOM.
    If what she was “teaching” was so important, why limit it to the presumably smaller number of students that could make it to her party? It makes no sense, except as an after-the-fact excuse for a monumental fail.

    • uomatters Post author | 11/03/2016

      Apparently you didn’t read the post.

  27. Tragic Scapegoating Mentality 11/03/2016

    What a cascade of tragic mistakes. We start with a history of racism and sexism that is still operative. We add to that the blackface costume, which was a significant and hurtful mistake. Then we thrown in the letter from the 20+ law professors, which reads as if they are all in middle school and therefore respond to systemic problems with ostracism.

    Now, top it off with something even more tragic: the abuse of power. If I understand the facts, the university president and other senior administrators blasted through email, to the whole campus, a scolding of this professor. It was inevitable her name would come out, so although they did not name her, clearly we would all soon learn who they scolded. It was a public shaming by the administration using a tool only they have access to — the email blast system. In the scolding letter by Schill and colleagues was this: “The use of blackface, even in jest at a Halloween party, is patently offensive and reinforces historically racist stereotypes. It was a stupid act and is in no way defensible.”
    So, what we have here is a university president and his underlings implying that the act was one of “jest.” That makes the professor sound especially careless and boorish. But if it turns out the act was an attempt at anti-racist communication(as seems to be the case), this was not jest at all. It was a serious attempt — misguided, but serious — to protest racism. Therefore making it sounds like a joke gone wrong is fundamentally not truthful and certainly casts the professor in an especially poor light.

    But it doesn’t end there — next we learn that the Dean of the School of Law has removed the professor from teaching. So what we have here is a tenured professor who goes to a private party and attempts an anti-racist communication that involves wearing a costume, that despite her intentions, was deeply offensive, and although she apologizes and explains her intentions, the next thing we know she is banned from the classroom.

    Funny thing is, the UO has an academic freedom policy they like to brag about:
    Alas, nothing in there about off campus parties or Halloween costumes, but lets suppose, for the sake of argument, this happened on campus. In the policy we have this:
    “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.”
    I’m so very curious about the *formal procedures* they engaged in before shaming the professor and removing her from the classroom.

    • thedude 11/03/2016

      The only reason they went public with was that colleagues or students emailed the dean or president and demanded she be fired or they go public. This could have been handled internally, but some law professors try to use this to get rid of their colleague and the whole thing has exploded.

      • uomatters Post author | 11/03/2016

        and you know this how?

        • Anonymous 11/03/2016

          “thedude” is correct. Shurtz was one of many senior law faculty who convinced President Mike Schill to replace Law Dean Michael Moffitt. Moffitt has a well-documented history of retaliation against those who have opposed him. None of this excuses Shurtz’s clueless attempt to use blackface to engage her students in a conversation about race, but it would be naive to think that payback is not a part of the response from the law school so far.

      • Letter Signer 11/04/2016

        @thedude is wrong on the facts. It is a pernicious attempt to spread misinformation.

        There was no threat or ultimatum made by the letter signers to the dean or president.

        • uomatters Post author | 11/04/2016

          I’ve seen one of the letters written in opposition to Moffitt’s attempt to get a contract renewal. I don’t remember a threat or an ultimatum, and thedude didn’t claim there was one.

          What it did have was a list of the many mistakes he’d made, including examples of poor and self-serving decisions that had hurt the law school. There’s a copy of it somewhere in the public release of the Presidential Archives from the PRO (with the names redacted).

    • uomatters Post author | 11/03/2016

      Thanks for this thoughtful comment. I agree. The professor was stupid and offensive, and our administration now seems committed to a stupid and indefensible response.

    • Three-Toed Sloth 11/04/2016

      Alas, law school faculty are not in the UA bargaining unit, so the CBA offers them no protection.

  28. Truth putting on shoes 11/03/2016

    Wearing blackface is asinine and ultimately racist, even when done as part of an anti-racist protest. And, she should have known that.

    But this *was* part of an anti-racist protest. She went to that party with a book to try to try to spread awareness about discrimination against Black doctors. She was dressing up as a particular Black person to make a particular point. It wasn’t “in jest.”

    The lesson from this is clear: if you try to make an anti-racist protest at the UO and mess up, the administration will crush you, and crush you with glee.

    Of course we should have known that though. We already have the draft of Shill’s preemptive “Black Lives Matter isn’t allowed to occupy my building” policy. That he and Moffitt would send out a deceptive email to turn the community against an activist professor is hardly surprising or unprecedented.

    • not a scientist or a faculty member 11/03/2016

      Schill’s first Machiavellian act. Hopefully it is his last.

  29. Me 11/03/2016

    We need to be better at second chances as a society. And this blog does not encourage second chances.

    • Peter Keyes 11/03/2016

      It’s not the fault of this blog. It’s out in the media, and I see the above dialogue in this blog as more broadly-based and nuanced than the discussion taking place elsewhere.

  30. give a penny, take a penny 11/04/2016

    If there was ever any doubt what Penny does for the administration, see this case. She is “investigating” to write a report you will never see unless this goes to trial. No one is disputing any of the facts, so I wonder what is taking her so long?

  31. Still Nope 11/04/2016

    Apologize for the long url, unsure how to shorten it. For those who are saying that she dressed like a particular person in an act of anti-racist protest, here is what Damon Tweedy looks like:…20466.23138.0.23437.….0…1c.1.64.img..0.0.0.Km4pgdCwvh4

    What she dressed as is a caricature of the title of the book, “Black Man in a White Coat.”

  32. DuckLaw Alumna 11/04/2016

    A few observations here, which may also provide some useful context:

    (1) For the past several years, the law school has been led by an ADR and Civil Procedure specialist. This outgoing dean is not expert in Constitutional Law, Employment Law, Civil Rights Law, or Administrative Law.

    (2) The first two signers on the open letter (maybe the drafters?) are younger ADR specialists (one junior faculty, one recently tenured) who came from the same Harvard ADR program as the outgoing dean.

    (3) Of the remaining faculty who did not sign the open letter, most are full professors with tenure or professors emerita. Many hold, or held, endowed chairs. Generally, this group has been at UO law much longer than the vast majority of the letter’s signers, and generally they hold higher professional standing/accolades. This group, not the letter signers, also includes the law school’s most senior faculty of color, and those who focus on issues like race and the law, gender and the law, and international human rights.

    (5) Prof. Shurtz specializes in, among other topics, poverty law and gender/gender equity and the law. She has also received a distinguished teaching award and other high professional accolades from her peers.

    (4) Roughly a decade ago, the UO law school began to lose (and lost, steadily) its most prolific faculty of color and critical legal scholars, as well as its most prolific constitutional law/civil liberties scholars, in the wake of a mishandled dean search in which one of the finalists – a Latino and LatCrit scholar who serves as dean of a Top 30 law school – faced a discriminatory hiring process, which ran all the way into the President’s Office (that President, like the current one, was a member of the Law faculty).

    • Anonymous 11/04/2016

      Editor: I’m not going to post comments about people’s children. Please stop submitting this.

      … a middle school child …

      • Disappointed 11/05/2016

        It’s disappointing that you are censoring an article that is published on multiple reputable sites. The author of the referenced article suggested violence was essential to community. The comment was about the author of the article. Please read comments and associated articles before you censor them.

    • Anonymous 11/06/2016

      I think the law school really changed, and not in a good way, when the ADR cult was allowed to take over.

  33. Learned this the hard way 11/04/2016

    No, I do not trust Penny Daugherty to investigate it. She is paid to say whatever her masters want and she has delivered time and time again. This is why she has a job and retirement and I do not.

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