Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz has released this statement in response to the University of Oregon's release of a report concluding that she violated the university's anti-discrimination policy by wearing blackface to a Halloween party at her home:
STATEMENT FROM UO LAW PROFESSOR NANCY SHURTZ REGARDING IMPROPER RELEASE OF INFORMATION CONCERNING AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION ABOUT A HALLOWEEN PARTY HOSTED IN HER HOME
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, the University of Oregon improperly released a flawed investigative report into events surrounding a Halloween party that I hosted in my home. This release violated rights of employees to confidentiality guaranteed by law. In addition, the report contains numerous mistakes, errors and omissions that if corrected would have put matters in a different light. For example, it ignored the anonymous grading process, the presence of many non-students as guests, and the deceptive emails that created a firestorm in the law school.
I, and my legal advisers, were preparing a response to the draft report. Although the University was aware of our intention to submit our corrections by noon (local time) yesterday and to deal with its errors in-house, the Provost’s office or its advisers cynically decided to try to publicly shame me instead.
As the UO’s press release itself notes, the University is prohibited by law from disclosing personnel matters. But the press release and uncorrected Report act as a supremely public retaliation against me for seeking, even if clumsily, to raise issues of insufficient diversity in American professions. My attorney and I are evaluating our legal options.
(Note to reporters and editors: Pending the submittal of our comments to the UO, out of respect for all involved we will not comment any further on this ongoing process.)
Josh Blackman (South Texas), Oregon Law Professor Releases Statement: University Report Contains “Numerous Mistakes” and is “Supremely Public Retaliation”:
I am working on a followup post, with more analysis of the free speech implications, as well as a critique of the stunning silence of the law professors at Oregon, and elsewhere, in light of this troubling episode. For now, I am relieved to note that Professor Shurtz seems to be fighting back against this inquisition. ...
Good for Professor Shurtz. Every professor who cares about academic freedom and the Free Speech should be cheering her cause.
Register-Guard editorial, An Offense, Compounded:
Professor Nancy Shurtz’s boneheaded decision to wear a Halloween costume that involved putting on blackface makeup has caused a conflagration at the University of Oregon School of Law. But the response by faculty, students and administrators suggests that the tinder had already been laid — Shurtz provided no more than the spark. Elements of the response have been as dismaying as the initial offense, and the UO is now at risk of missing an opportunity to affirm what ought to be its core values. ...
Shurtz should have known that blackface evokes powerful stereotypes that no literary reference can obscure. A lab coat can’t cover her costume’s strong associations with racism and exploitation. The fact that she did not know this, or pause to think about it beforehand, is evidence that Shurtz is lacking in literacy of another kind — the cultural literacy that a professor in a 21st century school of law ought to possess. It is also evidence that she lives and works in an environment where it is possible to remain insulated from the historical and present-day realities of race in America. ...
The report also describes months of alleged turmoil at the law school, with students hurling racist insults, faculty members in tears and administrators not being “able to get a single other thing done besides deal with the aftermath of ... Shurtz’s costume.” Not a single thing? Tears? Racist insults? Anyone reading the report will finish it with the hope of never needing a lawyer. For the law school to be immobilized by an incident of racial cluelessness shows that sensitivities were already on a hair trigger before Shurtz planned her party. It shows a widespread inability to talk things through, to reason with others, and to deal with controversy — skills students should be honing in law school, and that faculty and administrators should already possess. ...
The UO needs to examine the insularity that breeds racial insensitivity, and it needs to find constructive ways to respond to racial incidents when they occur. Both needs can be pursued without diluting academic freedom or limiting free speech. They can be, and they must be — the path to understanding, in matters pertaining to race and anything else, will be found only if those values are vigorously defended.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- 23 Oregon Law Profs Call On Colleague To Resign For Wearing Blackface At Halloween Party (Nov. 3, 2016)
- Oregon Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz Says She Wore Blackface To Halloween Party To Teach Lesson As Author Of Black Man In A White Coat (Nov. 3, 2016)
- Volokh: Oregon Law Profs' Attempt To End Colleague's Career Over Halloween Blackface Costume Marks 'Dangerous Place In American University Life' (Nov. 4, 2016)
- Oregon Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz Issues Apology For Wearing Blackface To Halloween Party; Dueling Online Petitions Seek Signatories (Nov. 5, 2016)
- Professor Althouse, Dean Amar & President Schill On Oregon Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz's Wearing Blackface To Halloween Party (Nov. 8, 2016)
- Oregonian Editorial, 'Cowering Oregon Law Faculty Need To Learn What Decency, Tolerance And Diversity Really Look Like' (Nov. 12, 2016)
- University Of Oregon Report: Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz Violated Anti-Discrimination Policy By Wearing Blackface To Halloween Party; Any Disciplinary Action Is Confidential (Dec. 22, 2016)
- Blackman: University of Oregon Trampled The First Amendment To Punish Law Prof For Wearing Blackface To Halloween Party In Her Home (Dec. 22, 2016)