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University: Prof that pulled blackface violated policy

EUGENE, Ore. – The University of Oregon law professor who donned blackface for a costume at a Halloween party in violation of the institution’s anti-harassment policy, but what punishment they would receive, would remain confidential, the university said Wednesday in a 29-page report.

The university found Nancy Shurtz costume had a devastating effect on the law school, where he created an atmosphere of tension and hostility, The Register-Guard reported (http://bit.ly/2iccOom ).

The newspaper could not reach Shurtz for comment. She did not immediately return a text message and e-mail left by The Associated Press on Wednesday in her office.

Shurtz said in an apology after the incident, that she was wearing a white coat, stethoscope and black face paint to portray Dr. Damon Tweedy, a black psychiatrist, who wrote a memoir about his experiences with racism in the medical school and in his profession.

The costume was meant to provoke discussion about racism in society, and she had no malicious intent, Shurtz said.

The report has been agreed that Shurtz did not mean to cause fear, but said that the costume was still very harmful.

The response to Shurtz costume, including debates on social media, has caused fear among the immigrant students at the school of law, the report found.

As a result, some are skipping classes or changing their study habits, and a few are considering transfers because of “mistrust in the direction of professors and teachers than only Shurtz,” the researchers said.

“The open discussions in the classroom have also led to a breed hostility between the students,” the researchers wrote.

Thirteen students, three teachers and two alumni were at the party at Shurtz the house, the researchers wrote, but no one approached her about her costume during the party.

“One student said that the costume was so ridiculous and offensive that it was clear that many of the guests were avoiding interaction with Shurtz,” according to the report.

The guests were “looking down at the ground, not knowing what to do,” he said.

Together with sending an apology to two of her classes, Shurtz reached out to two immigrant students who are in the party to apologize, the university said.

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An earlier version of this story misspelled the Shurtz surname. The correct spelling is Shurtz.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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