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

UO hires new Law Dean, Marcilynn Burke from Houston


It is my pleasure to announce that Marcilynn Burke will join the University of Oregon as dean of the School of Law. She will begin on July 1.

An outstanding scholar and leader, Burke currently serves as associate dean and associate professor of law at the University of Houston, where she joined the faculty in 2002. Her experience and legal expertise are a tremendous complement to the excellent work of our faculty. As our top candidate, Burke, I believe, will have an instant rapport with her colleagues that will inspire even greater achievements in environmental and natural resources law, dispute resolution, and other areas of emphasis across the school. 

Burke received her bachelor’s degree in international studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her law degree from Yale Law School. At Yale, she was an editor for both the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism and the Yale Journal of International Law.

After receiving tenure at UH in 2009, Burke took a leave of absence to serve at the US Department of the Interior as deputy director for programs and policy at the Bureau of Land Management. 

In 2011, President Barack Obama asked Burke to serve as acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management, where she helped develop the land use, resource management, and regulatory oversight policies that are administered by the BLM, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Collectively, these four agencies work to ensure appropriate management and use of federal lands and related resources.

Currently, Burke teaches courses in property law, land-use law, and federal natural resources law. Her research articles have been published in noted journals, such as the Notre Dame Law Review and the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum. Her teaching has earned accolades from students, who awarded her with Professor of the Year honors in 2013 from the University of Houston Law Center’s Black Law Students Association.

Previously, Burke clerked for the Honorable Raymond A. Jackson of the Eastern District of Virginia and spent nearly five years at the Washington, DC, office of the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, where her practice focused on environmental law, antitrust, and civil and criminal litigation.

Our School of Law is a great asset to this university’s incredible academic offerings, thanks in large part to the steady leadership of Michael Moffitt. We will miss Michael as dean, but we are pleased to welcome him back to the faculty resuming his role as a scholar and teacher. 

Please join me in welcoming Marcilynn Burke to the University of Oregon.


Scott Coltrane

Provost and Senior Vice President

No news on investigation of Prof Shurtz for black Doctor costume

12/19/2016 update:

Still no update from the UO administration on Professor Shurtz’s suspension or their investigation of her. Meanwhile FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has this:

Student Cleared of Baseless Charges from Anti-Lynching Art Display

ROCK HILL, S.C., Dec. 19, 2016—A Winthrop University student was found not responsible for violating two university speech codes after her involvement with a campus anti-lynching art installation. This outcome comes six days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) wrote to the university president to ask that the charges be dropped.

“The art display was intended to create a conversation on campus about racism and lynching and it did exactly that,” said FIRE Program Officer Sarah McLaughlin. “We are hopeful that the result of this ordeal is more speech, not less, and that those who wish to continue the conversation can do so without their free speech rights being threatened.”

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

Also see the open letter to President Schill letter from “Professor R”, in the Emerald here:

…. It is a sad testament to the current state of our “free” speech that even writing this letter seems too risky to pen under my own name. Those that would seek to invalidate my stance based on my race and background commit the same offense they decry — invalidation of whole persons based on race – this logical fallacy was once called ad hominem.

Prof. R
College of Arts and Sciences
University of Oregon


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

On Academic Freedom, Administrative Fairness, And Blackface

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

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

Update: Administration to start calling faculty to the office. Pres Schill emails campus.

Here at UO our famously incompetent AAEO Director is expected to start her investigation “soon”. Normally she waits until she’s missed a few deadlines and ignored a bunch of emails, then hires a high-priced consultant to cover for her. (See below for the news that UO has already hired an outside law firm for this.)

No word yet on what university policy the professor is alleged to have broken. Certainly not this one, which President Schill reiterated in his “Open Mike” email the Friday before halloween:

Let me ground this conversation in the unequivocal statement that the UO embraces free expression as one of its core principles. It is outlined in the policy on Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech passed by the University Senate in 2010 and signed by President Richard Lariviere. The policy states the following:

“Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive, or ‘just wrong’ cannot be grounds for its suppression.”

My own views on free expression are entirely consistent with this strong statement of principle. As the inscription at the EMU Free Speech Plaza states, “Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one.”

I’m still searching for the policy prohibiting offensive stupidity.

Should you be called into the AAEO office, you should be aware that Penny Daugherty’s job is to defend the UO administration, not you. Additionally, her staff are unfamiliar with the basics of university policies. If they tell you they just want to have a confidential off-the-record conversation with no repercussions, you’ll have to explain their obligations under UO’s mandatory reporting policy – they don’t understand it, or pretend that they don’t. My advice is get a lawyer and record everything. When Doug Park called me in over my “unlawful” decision to get a digital copy of UO’s Presidential archives I brought two, plus David Cecil from UAUO. Very helpful, especially since Park tried to ambush me by bringing Bill Gary from HLGR.

President Schill’s email today (11/7/2016):

Dear members of the University of Oregon community,

Last week was an incredibly difficult time for our university. The decision of law professor Nancy Shurtz to wear blackface at her Halloween party wounded our community, divided us, and exposed fissures that long existed under the surface. It is now my job as the leader of our school to not only help us heal but, more important, to move us to a demonstrably better place. The challenge for all of us is to recognize that the problem is deep and cannot be fixed with a Band-Aid. Instead, real healing, progress, and transformation will take time, persistence, and generosity of spirit.

It is not my role to attempt to discern the motives of Professor Shurtz when she chose her costume last week. Regardless of her intentions, what she did, by her own admission, was wrong. Indeed, one of the things that troubles me most about this incident is that a member of our law faculty in 2016 would not understand that the use of blackface is deeply offensive and an act of racism. As one of our students eloquently wrote to me:

“White America’s conceptions of Black entertainers were shaped by the mocking caricatures that played up the stereotypes of Black people being racially and socially inferior. No matter the intention, blackface is racially insensitive. At this point, there is no reason for anybody to be ignorant of the history of blackface. No one should have to explain why blackface is offensive or derogatory. This is well-documented history.”

University presidents are not supposed to get angry. But right now I feel both mad and more than a little sad. Over the past year, we have worked with our African American students and faculty members to make the UO a place where educational opportunity and excellence are accessible to all. We have taken the name of a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan off one of our buildings; we modestly increased the proportion of African American students in our freshman class; we created new pipeline and outreach programs; we launched a new African American studies cluster-hiring initiative; we created a new African American residential community; and we are planning new scholarship programs and testing the feasibility of a new African American cultural center. We also finalized our IDEAL framework, a plan to put in place a culture, processes, and system to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the entire university. I am excited about our progress, and I am not willing to let last week’s events slow our momentum and growth.

To the contrary, last week’s events suggest that we need to redouble our efforts to combat racism and ignorance on campus. We need to expand our work beyond students and reach our faculty, staff, and administrators. We must help our community comprehend how racist behavior can be baked into our society so deeply that some of us don’t even recognize it. And we must take actions to transform ourselves and make this school a better place.

My first instinct when faced with a problem is to dive in and fix it. But I have to admit, like my counterparts at most American universities, I know of no silver bullet. I do know that I, along with our entire academic leadership, will need to consult with our students and faculty members of color to understand their experiences and hear their ideas. Provost Coltrane and I will ask each dean and vice president to immediately begin conversations within their schools and departments with our faculty members, students, and staff members of color. The IDEAL plan calls on each school to develop plans on an annual basis. I will ask that each school and administrative unit accelerate the process and report back to me in 90 days with a set of steps they plan to take to promote diversity, combat racism in their units, and promote inclusion. I will work with the provost and our Division of Equity and Inclusion to ensure that these steps are taken and their impacts are measured.

With respect to the immediate issue of Professor Shurtz, as I announced last Monday, I have referred the matter to our Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity. That unit, which will be assisted by an outside law firm, will make a determination as to whether Professor Shurtz or anyone else violated any law or university policy. During the pendency of that process, the dean of the School of Law has placed Professor Shurtz on administrative leave to permit the law school’s educational mission to move forward.

We will provide Professor Shurtz with all of the procedural rights she is entitled to under the law and university policy. We cannot and should not prejudge that process and speculate about the outcome. And even as we condemn the use of blackface, we must consider that these actions may be protected by the First Amendment and our university’s tradition of academic freedom. While many of us feel that what Professor Shurtz has done is wrong, I also would ask that you leave space in your hearts, words, and actions for forgiveness and compassion. Although we all must be held accountable for our actions, I would also hope that we would ultimately be judged for what we do on our best days as well as our worst.

Finally, I am aware that some members of our community have received communications that are hateful, racist, and make them feel unsafe. I have read some of them and they sicken me. I have consulted with UO police chief Matt Carmichael, and we have not been able to find any credible evidence that they emanate from members of our university community. Nevertheless, I have asked the chief to deploy additional personnel both to the investigatory process and to ensuring that every member of our community is physically safe.

As we deal with this horrible episode, I ask everyone to take a deep breath and think about how their actions affect other members of the community. This is a time for us to come together to fight ignorance and racism, to promote inclusion. It is not a time to hurt each other, settle scores, or compromise our cherished values of free expression. This is a time for us to come together to make progress and not a time for us to be divided. We must support each other and treat each other with respect. We must give people the room to express their opinions and feelings, even if we disagree with them. We must not shy away from hard conversations or ugly truths, but we will not tolerate hate speech or threats—period. As president, I pledge that UO leaders will do everything we can to provide a safe and supportive campus environment for that to happen.

So let’s agree today that we, as a community, are going to use this challenging time as an opportunity to unite behind shared values and a common goal of fighting bigotry and ending prejudice on our campus and in our nation. Let’s agree that one person’s actions do not define the University of Oregon or the progress we are making toward becoming a more welcoming, diverse, and inclusive institution. By uniting as a community, we can move past this moment and become stronger and more resilient.

Thank you.

Michael H. Schill

President and Professor of Law

11/6/2017: University escapes lawsuit damages over halloween blackface suspension:

That would be Auburn University. Frat boys, not a law professor, and it was 2002. My uninformed guess is that if Law School Dean Michael Moffitt doesn’t lift Professor Shurtz’s suspension soon and offer a heartfelt apology UO will pay out at least the $800K the Bowl of Dicks cost us – plus billable hours, of course.


Professor Hames-García’s Open Letter on blackface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Union:

Dear Colleagues,

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

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

The professor has also made a statement to the RG:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The RG Editorial Board:

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

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

And, from Scott Jaschik in IHE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Law School commences search for new dean to replace Moffitt

The search committee is here:

And the ad:

Dean of the School of Law

Posting: 16241
Location: Eugene
Closes: Open Until Filled

The University of Oregon invites nominations and applications for the Dean of the School of Law. The Dean reports to the Senior Vice President and Provost and is the academic leader, fundraiser, and chief executive of Oregon Law. [WTF? CEO of “Oregon Law”? Sounds like a corporate start-up.]

Founded in 1884, the University of Oregon School of Law is the top law school in Oregon with campuses in both Eugene and Portland. It is the state’s only public law school, with a long tradition of training top lawyers, including judges, politicians, government officials, legal scholars, and other law professionals to serve clients, the state, the nation, and the world. Oregon Law’s highly ranked specialty programs include Environmental and Natural Resources law, Appropriate Dispute Resolution, and Legal Research and Writing. The School has a robust undergraduate program in Legal Studies, an LLM program, and a Master’s program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution. The School is well integrated into the larger University community. Building on a commitment to serve the public interest, Oregon Law prepares lawyers to become innovators, activists, and advocates for change, all working within the law to make society better.  More information about the Law School may be found at

The Dean of the School of Law will be an inspiring, broad-minded leader and legal professional with a nimble and dynamic vision for enhancing the excellence of Oregon Law.  The Dean will possess a J.D. and an academic record to qualify for tenure.  Candidates should have a distinguished record of academic achievements in a core discipline and/or interdisciplinary field and the credentials to warrant appointment as a professor within the School. The Dean will nurture high-quality research, teaching, and diversity as important components of academic excellence. The successful candidate also will have strong experience with successful advocacy and fundraising. Candidates should possess demonstrated ability and experience to manage a large, complex budget. In addition to these requirements, the Dean will provide leadership and strategic vision, work well in a collaborative decision-making environment with associates and key constituencies, and have demonstrated organizational and management skills to lead path-breaking legal education.

The University of Oregon is one of only two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities, is a member of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, and holds the distinction of a “very high research activity” ranking in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The University offers 272 undergraduate majors, minors, and graduate degree programs in a wide range of disciplines across nine schools and colleges.  The University has broad-based academic strengths with eight professional programs and 12 doctoral programs ranked among the top 20 percent nationally.

Inquiries, nominations, and expressions of interest may be sent to Werner Boel and Suzanne Teer, the Witt/Kieffer consultants assisting the Law School with this search, at [email protected].  Electronic submissions are strongly encouraged.  A complete application will include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, and contact information for five professional references.  The anticipated starting date for the new dean is July 1, 2017.  This position is open until filled.

This position is subject to a criminal background check.

Here’s the search firm’s website:


$10M subsidy buys UO Law School a US News rank of #78

ATL has the leaked 2017 rankings here – they’re not out officially until next week.

When Michael Moffitt started as dean, UO Law was ranked #77. They fell year after year, and were tied for #100 in the 2015 rankings. (Released in March 2014). After the $10M subsidy from VPFA Jamie Moffitt kicked in they improved to #84, by waiving tuition for students with decent LSATs. Yes, that’s one of the many ways to play the USNews algorithm.

Moffitt (Michael) will be stepping down next year. His efforts to bring in still more cash for the law school by luring undergrads away from CAS with the Competition not Conflict courses – which he hyped in the NYT – turned into a disaster once the Senate saw the courses. So he’s trying again, with Undergraduate Legal Studies.

Here’s Moffitt’s $10M deal with then Provost Coltrane, signed August 6 2014, the day before he became interim President. I had to file a public records request to get this, and even then it took more than two weeks before UO would release it:

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Full pdf here.

Law School Dean Michael Moffitt resigns effective summer 2017

Dear Colleagues,

It is my duty today to announce that Michael Moffitt, dean, Philip H. Knight chair and professor of law, has chosen to step down as dean effective July 1, 2017. Michael will return to his faculty role, which he has held since joining the University of Oregon School of Law in 2001.

I speak for his fellow deans and everyone in Academic Affairs when I say his leadership of the law school will be truly missed.

While this is a tremendous loss to the university, his decision to continue in his faculty role will ultimately greatly benefit our law school students and the discipline of law. Michael’s scholarship in the areas of alternative dispute resolution, civil procedure, arbitration, mediation, and negotiation are well known in the legal world.

In 2011, Michael accepted the role of dean, a position in which he has served with distinction. Under his leadership, the school improved its quality and reputational ranking at the same time that law schools across the country were experiencing declining enrollments. Over the past five years, he and his law school colleagues have energized specialty areas within the JD program, while building a Portland presence for Oregon Law students and instituting a new legal studies undergraduate program.

It was my and President Michael Schill’s sincerest hope that Michael would continue as dean and build upon these successes for another five years, especially after the many wonderful accomplishments observed during his intensive five-year review. However, we understand this is ultimately a personal decision, and we respect that. This is a pivotal moment for the University of Oregon. We have a number of dean searches ongoing, and while Michael’s decision adds to the work ahead, it also represents an opportunity as we collectively shape our future.

In the coming weeks, we will develop and share a search plan to ensure a smooth transition in the School of Law.

In the meantime, please join me in thanking Michael for his exemplary service as dean to the School of Law and the entire University of Oregon.


Scott Coltrane
Senior Vice President and Provost

[UOM: Links to Moffitt’s November 5-year-review talk, the $10M law bailout, and his botched sports and conflict resolution program are here.]

UO Law Dean Michael Moffitt gives 5 year review talk

I couldn’t listen to it all, but it seems Knight Law School Dean Michael Moffitt managed to avoid any mention of the $10M subsidy from CAS tuition money that he was given – by the office of his wife, VPFA Jamie Moffitt – to pay for scholarships for law students, to keep UO law LSAT’s score and US News ranking out of the basement.

Also no honest discussion of Moffitt’s various failed attempts to exploit Brad Shelton’s budget model and siphon off enough undergrad credit hours from CAS to be able to repay the $10M debt he now owes CAS. Yes, I know that makes no sense, but here’s Moffitt trying to get some good press for himself in the NY Times:

“The problem is that we have been selling only one product,” Mr. Moffitt said. “But if you are getting a business degree, you need to know about contract law. City planners need to know about land-use law. So we at Oregon are educating not just J.D. students.

“Demand is through the roof,” he added. “I feel like I am living a business school case study.”

However, like so many business school case studies, Moffitt’s turned out to be a scam. He’d hid that from his faculty, but the Senate Curriculum Committee got to the truth and cancelled the classes.

Moffitt’s idea of a bright spot? Rob Illig’s summer sports law institute:

Law Dean Michael Moffitt to explain how he got $10M from general tuition fund

From: <[email protected]> on behalf of Kathy Warden <[email protected]>
Date: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 9:15 AM
To: “‘[email protected]'” <[email protected]>
Subject: deans-dirs: Reminder: Dean Moffitt’s 5-yr review presentation today

Dear colleagues,

This is a reminder that you are invited to Dean Michael Moffitt’s public presentation today at 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm in room 175 in the School of Law. Dean Moffitt’s presentation will include a retrospective of his past five years as dean of the School of Law, as well as a look ahead to the challenges, initiatives and accomplishments he envisions in the coming years.

If you are interested in providing feedback to the review committee, you may do so by completing the online survey at: To maintain confidentiality, providing your name on the survey is optional.

If you prefer, you may contact any of the members of the review committee to discuss the review. You will find the members listed here:

Scott Coltrane
Provost and Senior Vice President

Rob Illig’s summer sports law institute now advertising on UO Matters

No surprise the google algorithm matched us. I hear Illig’s program is doing OK. In contrast Law Dean Michael Moffitt’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program must have been hit hard by the recent NYT series exposing endemic corporate abuses of arbitration. Moffitt’s previous NYT exposure – the “business school case study” – ended pretty disastrously. His 5-year-review as Dean is underway now. Thanks for the google revenue Rob, and I’ll throw in a free link to the program for viewers who might see a different ad, here.

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Law School Dean Michael Moffitt up for mandatory 5-year review

It’s not going to go well. Moffitt was a compromise internal hire, after an external search went bad. His academic record was mediocre, and he has not been a success as dean. This 2013 NY Times story, in which he bragged about lucrative revenue from undergraduate courses and “living in a business school case study” turned sour within days, after this blog raised questions about what courses Moffitt was talking about. It turned out that most of the revenue was coming from iffy “Sports Conflict” courses, which the law school faculty had never heard about, much less reviewed. Whoops. The UO Senate’s Committee on Courses quickly shut Moffitt’s case study down.

While all US law schools have had a bad 5 year stretch UO has faired worse than most. Already running in the red, it was saved in 2014 only by an extraordinary $10M bailout package by none other than Dean Moffitt’s wife, UO VP for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt.

At least the Moffitt’s money is not going to inane branding campaigns. Instead, the law school is offering full scholarships to students with decent LSATs, in a so far successful effort to game the US News rankings. But this $10M will only last for another year or two, at which point Dean Moffitt is supposed to have prepared a plan to pay the money back to VPFA Moffitt. Sure he will:

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As might be expected, the law school faculty are skeptical of Moffitt’s leadership, while presumably grateful for his wife’s money. Last year they came within a vote or two of approving a “no confidence” motion. And it’s never good to have the million dollar Rob Illig on the other side. Adding to Moffitt’s troubles is this preliminary result from UO Psychology Professor Jennifer Freyd’s sexual assault prevention survey:

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Fortunately UO’s new president knows a thing or two about the job market for good law school deans.

Law school spent $4.6M on scholarships this year, up from $300K in 2011

From what I can tell this money came from the general fund, i.e. mostly undergraduate tuition money from CAS students. The scholarships go to law school students with decent LSATs. More than a few get a full ride.

For comparison, the UO Foundation spent roughly the same amount on academic scholarships for the entire university. (Albeit twice that on athletic scholarships). The law school has now shrunk to about 500 students, so the average law student is getting about $9K in tuition discounts each year.  Correction: An apparently well-informed correspondent reports that the law school now has only 360 law students, about 100 1L’s, and that more than half of new students are receiving promises of complete tuition remission for 3 years. Rob Illig won the fight against Michael Moffitt and Margie Paris’s plan to use faculty raise money to support public interest jobs for graduates, but Moffitt was able to convince the administration to support this far more expensive scholarship plan to game the US News ranking.

Rumor has it that these scholarships are 3-year promises, so the bleeding is not going to stop soon – in fact it may well increase.

How did propping up the law school’s US News ranking at the expense of UO’s other academic programs become such a priority for UO? From what I can tell it was a backroom deal – there was never a word of discussion about this shift in academic priorities in the UO Senate. And even then Law Dean Michael Moffitt spent $700K more than his wife, VPFA Jamie Moffitt, had budgeted:

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(Numbers from the Financial Transparency tool as of 5/24/2015. FY ends 6/30, so some expenses are still coming in.)

UO Law rises from #100 to #82 in US News after $1.5M bailout

“Above the Law” has the news about US News rankings, here. UO was #77 when we hired Michael Moffitt as Dean, and I believe #82 is as high as we’ve been since.

UO was helped by a change in the algorithm that reduced the weight on temporary jobs that law schools give to graduates to boost employment numbers. Lewis and Clark, for example, hired a remarkable 20% of its own graduates last year. They fell from #72 to #94 after the algorithm change. UO hired many fewer students, in part because Rob Illig went batshit crazy over Margie Paris’s plan to use his raise to pay for these jobs.

Instead, UO Law Dean Michael Moffitt figured out another way to play USNews. He got $1.5M in “Temporary Stabilization Funding” for scholarships to bring in high LSAT students. Where did this money come from, and how many years will it continue?

You’ll have to ask Dean Moffitt’s wife, VP for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt, for that info. And I expect the faculty union will, if she ever shows her face at the bargaining table.

Rob Illig to replace Michael Moffitt as UO Law Dean?

Sure, Rob Illig has had some not so great press recently, but this new KEZI puff piece about his sports law camp makes him look pretty good. And while Dean Michael Moffitt got a mention in the NYT a few years ago, it appears he was less than completely honest about the “business school case study” he’d been running on the side. It promptly collapsed when his professors found out what he’d been doing. Under Dean Moffitt UO Law has been plummeting in the rankings, and the enrollment decline has been about double that for other law schools. So are Rob Illig and sports law UO’s future?

Rumor down at the faculty club bar is that Moffitt will meet with the faculty at 12:30 September 4, to talk about how to respond to the just completed ABA accreditation report, and what to do next.

While Moffitt’s $292,800 dean’s salary may be just a third of the $1M that Illig is worth, somehow I doubt he’d say no.

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UO law school prof angry about plan to use his raise for student fellowships

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4/17/2014 update: And now the ABA Journal.

These emails have gone viral, with many hundreds of comments on law blogs like Lawyers Guns and Money, Tax Law Blog, Above The Law, Professor Bainbridge, JDU, Eschaton, Leiter’s Law School Reports, something called Gawker, and Jeff Manning’s piece in the Oregonian:

This was bad viral. The University of Oregon Law School professor’s wild rant about his compensation made Illig look petty and unsympathetic at the same time. More importantly, it shined a light on the raging debate about higher education, the value of advanced degrees and the mushrooming debt encumbering a generation of students.

The official UO law school blog – which, in an admirable demonstration of transparency actually allows comments, has responded:

To The Law School Community:

We’ve been getting some questions about a resolution brought to the last faculty meeting, and we’d like to share some information. Recently the University announced across-the-board cost of living adjustments and merit pay increases to take effect later in the year. A group of law faculty came up with the idea to divert the law school’s portion of the faculty merit pay funds to a post-graduate fellowship program for new law grads, in lieu of accepting a pay increase. Last Friday, this group brought this idea as a resolution (included below) to the regularly scheduled faculty meeting. A wide majority of those present voted to approve the resolution—in addition, a majority of the full faculty support the resolution.

We brought the matter to the Provost and although he is supportive of our goals he cannot bend the University rules to make this creative idea happen. However, we remain committed to finding ways to fund post-graduate opportunities and address other employment issues facing our graduates. We invite your comments and questions on this blog or one-on-one.

(I am not the Faculty Spokesperson. To avoid the appearance of speaking for everyone on the faculty, here I will include the names of some faculty who agreed to sign this statement (and I don’t mean to imply that those not included do not support it): Stuart Chinn, Michael Fakhri, Caroline Forell, Liz Frost, Erik Girvan, Carrie Leonetti, Mohsen Manesh, Roberta Mann, Michelle McKinley, Margie Paris, Jen Reynolds, Liz Tippett.)

Here is the text of the resolution from 4/11/2014:

The faculty recommends that the dean proceed with conversations with the Provost and the President regarding: reallocating funds for proposed faculty merit raises toward student fellowships, with a focus at present on post graduate student fellowships. If this proposal is approved, the faculty will revisit this reallocation of funds after two-three years.

4/14/2014: Several members of the law school email lists (which included staff, secretaries etc.) have forwarded these two emails from professor Rob Illig (Law) about a plan apparently floated by Law Dean Michael Moffitt (paid $292,800 after a recent raise) to deal with the law school’s enrollment problems and US News ranking, which has fallen from #80 to #100 since Moffitt took over in 2011.

The plan? Cancel raises for the faculty, and use the money to fund a program to give non-profits money to hire UO law school graduates, boosting the employment numbers that go into the US News rank.

Here are UO Law salaries for 2012-13, with comparison to other AAU publics:

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Associate Professor Illig is not happy with Moffitt’s plan, or with the lack of transparency in how it was presented to the law faculty (who apparently voted to approve it).

Subject: Re: law-fac-staff: What happened to Oregon Law?
From: Rob Illig <[email protected]>
To: Rob Illig <[email protected]>
Cc: Dustin Littrell <[email protected]>, law-faculty Faculty <[email protected]>, “[email protected] Staff List” <[email protected]>, Dan Miller <[email protected]>


To my shock and amazement, I just learned – three days after the faculty
meeting – that someone (you? the faculty?) is trying to take away my
one-in-a-decade chance at a raise WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT.

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