Paul L. Caron

Thursday, November 3, 2016

23 Oregon Law Profs Call On Colleague To Resign For Wearing Blackface At Halloween Party

Oregon LogoDear 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.

Brian Leiter (Chicago), University of Oregon Law Professor Went to Halloween Party in Blackface:

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!). 

University of Oregon Press Release, UO Leadership Speaks Out About Unacceptable Behavior:

President Michael Schill and other UO leaders sent the following message to campus Tuesday night committing to additional training and dialogue on racial issues following the actions of a faculty member at a Halloween party:

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.

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All current productions of "Hamilton" need to be shut down. Imagine all those black people dressed in costumes and pretending to be white characters!

Posted by: sullivan2day | Nov 4, 2016 5:55:01 PM

That's a very reasonable ask when the person was abjectly negligent in her judgment.

It's totally unreasonable. It only seems 'reasonable' to faculty because faculty members are commonly poisonous human beings.

Posted by: Art Deco | Nov 4, 2016 7:21:51 AM

Progressives who are obsessed with race issues run a high risk of doing something deemed offensive. They are always speaking on the topic, and always feel like they have to push the boundary if they want attention is a crowded field. Eventually, the do something clumsy and get crucified by people just like themselves.

This prof would have been the first signatory if another had dressed in blackface. Justice, in a sense, is being served.

Posted by: JM | Nov 4, 2016 6:25:46 AM

To those who signed this letter, you disgust me. I'm keeping a copy should any of you ever apply to lateral to my current institution. Shameful!

Posted by: lawprof | Nov 3, 2016 5:59:41 PM

Anon @2:27 parrots Brian Leiter. The letter does not call for university or state action to terminate the professor. Instead, the letter asks the professor to take responsibility and resign. That's a very reasonable ask when the person was abjectly negligent in her judgment.

Posted by: Letter Signer | Nov 3, 2016 3:30:20 PM

Apparently UO law professors are unfamiliar with the protection of extramural speech guaranteed by the AAUP and their own University.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 3, 2016 2:27:06 PM

These people really loathe Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor due to some trauma. Either that or they're morally trivial virtue signallers. Your call.

Posted by: Art Deco | Nov 3, 2016 1:41:31 PM

I am going to take a wild guess that the professor they want to resign was not terribly well-liked before this.

Posted by: Cornel1 | Nov 3, 2016 12:13:10 PM

How times have changed. The author of the book "Black Like Me" was celebrated for his use of blackface to expose racism. That famous book could never be written today. Nor could "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". The only safe course is to steer clear of the subject entirely. This enforced silence impoverishes us all.

Posted by: AMTbuff | Nov 3, 2016 10:35:28 AM