Investigation concludes blackface costume violated university policy

An investigation led by the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity concluded the blackface costume worn by Nancy Shurtz last Halloween violated university policy, according to an email from Provost Scott Coltrane. The UO hired a Portland-based law firm, Barran Liebman LLP, to investigate the legality of Shurtz’ actions, …

An investigation led by the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity concluded the blackface costume worn by Nancy Shurtz last Halloween violated university policy, according to an email from Provost Scott Coltrane.

The UO hired a Portland-based law firm, Barran Liebman LLP, to investigate the legality of Shurtz’ actions, and whether she violated any university policy. Coltrane wrote in the email that he and the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity gave “direction and guidance” to the law firm during the investigation.

“Though the report recognizes that Professor Shurtz did not demonstrate ill intent in her choice of costume, it concludes that her actions had a negative impact on the university’s learning environment and constituted harassment under the UO’s antidiscrimination policies,” the email read.

The full report of the investigation, not normally released to the public, has been posted online in response to the reaction from the campus community. Shurtz previously released a letter explaining why she chose her costume.

“My hope is that both the law school community and the broader campus community can shift focus from Professor Shurtz to the much-needed process of healing and growth,” Coltraine said in the email. “We all need to work together to make this university one that is inclusive and welcoming to all.”

Conclusions of the investigation were released but disciplinary action is confidential according to the email.  


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