A University of Oregon law professor who thought it was a good idea to wear blackface for a Halloween costume party was found to have violated the school's anti-harassment policies, the Associated Press reports. However, according to the report, any disciplinary action that Nancy Shurtz may face will remain confidential, the university said in a 29-page report Wednesday.
According to the Register-Guard, the costume had a devastating impact on the law school, offending students and sparking outrage and angry discussions and tears among the faculty, in such a way that it outweighed any right that Shurtz had to free speech and academic freedom, the school report notes.
Shurtz has been on administrative leave since the week after the incident, and the dean's office is currently reviewing her case to decide, with Shurtz, whether she will be returning to the law school Jan. 9, when the next semester begins, the Register-Guard notes.
Shurtz apologized after the incident, saying that she wore a white coat, stethoscope and blackface to portray Dr. Damon Tweedy, a black psychiatrist who wrote a best-selling memoir about his experiences with racism in medical school and within his career, AP notes. Shurtz said that her intent was to spark discussion about racism in society, adding that she did not have any bad intentions.
Although the report agreed that Shurtz meant no harm, the costume was nonetheless damaging, causing anxiety among minority students at the law school.
Some students are reportedly skipping classes or changing their studies, and a few are considering transfers because of "a mistrust toward professors and faculty beyond just Shurtz," investigators found. "The open discussions in class have also resulted in racial hostility between the students.”
About 13 students, three faculty members and two alumni were attending the party at Shurtz's house; however, no one confronted her about the costume at the party.
"One student said that the costume was so ludicrous and offensive that it was apparent that many of the guests were avoiding interaction with Shurtz," the report noted.
Shurtz sent an apology to two of her classes after the incident and also reached out to two minority students who attended her party to apologize as well, the university said.