Register-Guard, University of Oregon Secrecy Keeps Shroud Over Actions Related to Law Professor and Assistant Offensive Coach:
During the past four months, the University of Oregon encountered two unprecedented high-publicity crises with its employees.
Late last year, a law professor donned a Halloween costume that included blackface for a party at her house — sparking widespread outrage and defense of free speech.
Early this year, a newly hired assistant football coach was arrested on drunken driving charges in downtown Eugene — drawing public attention to a football program that new head coach Willie Taggart was striving to resuscitate and put a happy face on.
The UO took action on both the law professor and assistant coach, but the public may never know the details, because UO lawyers maintain that the public has no right to inspect the disciplinary records of these and many other UO employees.
A law firm hired by the UO found law professor Nancy Shurtz’s donning of black makeup to resemble a black doctor she admires violated university anti-discrimination policy, and UO President Michael Schill said the university would respond appropriately.
But what that means, the UO won’t disclose.
Schurtz now is supervising some students independently, the UO says. But she is not teaching classes. ...
[T]he UO says state law and school policy allow them to keep the records secret. ... When The Register-Guard asked for Shurtz’s disciplinary records after the blackface incident, that “faculty records law” allowed the university to withhold her records. ...
The law allowed the UO to keep secret Shurtz’s disciplinary records even though the public interest was high, with hundreds of people signing petitions either calling for the UO to fire her, or to keep her and protect her free speech rights. Some public commentary heatedly condemned the professor for her costume choice; other writers defended her right to express herself by wearing a costume.
The UO said it put Shurtz on administrative leave for some weeks after the party. The university hired other professors and instructors to teach her regularly scheduled classes that began in January. After years of teaching classes at the UO law school, Shurtz is not teaching classes there this term, information from the UO shows. “She is overseeing some students with independent study,” Klinger said.
So, she apparently wasn’t fired, but short of that, it’s unknown what discipline she did — or did not — receive.
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)
- Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz Blasts University Of Oregon For Improperly Releasing Error Filled Report As 'Public Retaliation And Shaming' (Dec. 24, 2016)
- Volokh: Punishment Of Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz Means The End Of Free Speech At The University of Oregon (Dec. 27, 2016)
- Volokh: University Of Oregon's Punishment Of Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz May Signal The End Of Free Speech For All Professors At All Universities (Jan. 3, 2017)
- Jones: The University of Oregon, Nancy Shurtz, And The Racial Rules That Keep Us Apart (Jan. 5, 2017)
- Op-Ed: Critics Of University Of Oregon's Punishment Of Tax Prof Nancy Shurtz For Wearing Blackface To A Halloween Party In Her Home Need To "Move On' And 'Get Over It' (Jan. 7, 2017)
- Law Prof Objects To Vilification Of Nancy Shurtz, But Concedes 'Her Social Skills May Need Work': Tax Faculty 'Tend To Be A Bit 'Different'' (Jan. 9, 2017)