Updated Thursday, Nov. 4, 12:14 a.m. EDT: The professor in question has been identified by The Register-Guard as Nancy Shurtz.
An unnamed professor at the University of Oregon School of Law has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation after it was reported that the faculty member went to an off-campus Halloween party wearing a costume that included blackface.
The Oregonian reports that President Michael Schill sent out a campuswide message Tuesday condemning the professor’s actions as an “anathema to the University of Oregon’s cherished values of racial diversity and inclusion.” The message was signed by the university's law school dean, chief academic officer and dean of inclusion.
Blackface is an egregious slap in the face to African Americans because it represents a long history of damaging racial stereotypes. Recent reports by The Root show that blackface still seems to be the “it” thing to do on college campuses across the country.
According to The Oregonian, the faculty member wore blackface to an off-campus party where other faculty members and students were in attendance. On Wednesday evening, a group of 23 faculty members from the law school released a letter (pdf) calling for their colleague to resign if the blackface allegations were true.
“If these allegations are true, and you did in fact wear blackface to a Halloween party, you need to resign,” the letter begins.
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.
The Oregonian reports that the administration became aware of the incident after it was reported to law school Dean Michael Moffit. The issue was referred to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, which is investigating the incident and will determine whether the faculty member violated school policy.
Schill’s message indicated that the faculty member had apologized for the incident. But is an apology enough?
In 2016, why are we still having these same tired conversations over the same tired missteps that get glossed over with an “apology”? A person who is in the position of teaching others about the law should also have a clear understanding of ethics and morality. Blackface is intolerable in any situation, regardless of intent.
If the faculty member is indeed repentant, then he or she should follow the advice of his or her fellow faculty members and resign immediately.
Read more at The Oregonian.