Ore. professor who wore blackface blasts school report
Eugene, Ore. — A University of Oregon law professor who wore blackface to a Halloween party is harshly criticizing an investigative report by the university that found she violated the institution’s anti-discrimination policies and caused damage to the law school, a newspaper reported Friday.
In a statement released through a public relations firm Thursday, Nancy Shurtz said the investigation into her actions that was released by the UO earlier this week was a form of “supremely public retaliation” and amounted to a public shaming, the Register-Guard reported.
Shurtz said in the statement that the university’s investigation by two Portland-based attorneys includes errors and omissions that she tried to correct before it was released that take her actions out of context. She said she is consulting with an attorney.
The report was released Wednesday.
The university’s media relations office did not immediately respond Friday to a telephone message seeking comment.
In an earlier apology, Shurtz said she had dressed up as Dr. Damon Tweedy, a black psychiatrist who wrote a best-selling memoir called “Black Man in a White Coast” about his experiences with racism while in medical school. Her costume included black paint on her face and hands, the wig and a white doctor’s coat paired with a stethoscope.
The costume was intended to provoke discussion about racism and societal injustices, Shurtz has said.
Shurtz did not respond to phone and email messages seeking additional comment on Friday or Wednesday, the day the report was made public.
The university’s investigation found that Shurtz’ right to free expression — even though she was in her home — did not outweigh the university’s interest in maintaining a lawful and orderly atmosphere.
It also found that some students felt compelled to attend the party because she was their professor — a claim Shurtz vehemently denied in her statement, citing her use of an “anonymous” grading system.
Investigators agreed that Shurtz did not intend to offend anyone, but said the costume had caused serious damage to race relations and deepened rifts that already existed at the law school. The reaction, including debates on social media, has caused anxiety among minority students at the law school, the report found.
As a result, some are skipping classes or altering their study habits and a few are considering transfers because of “a mistrust toward professors and faculty beyond just Shurtz,” investigators said.
“The open discussions in class have also resulted in racial hostility between the students,” investigators wrote.
Thirteen students, three faculty members and two alumni were at the party at Shurtz’s house, investigators wrote, but no one approached her about her costume.