Yesterday I blogged about the University of Oregon’s report, concluding that it could punish a law professor for wearing blackface at a private Halloween party, consistent with the First Amendment and principles of academic freedom. I am working on a followup post, with more analysis of the free speech implications, as well as a critique of the stunning silence of the law professors at Oregon, and elsewhere, in light of this troubling episode. For now, I am relieved to note that Professor Shurtz seems to be fighting back against this inquisition.
The Register Guard and the UO Matters blog report on this statement:
STATEMENT FROM UO LAW PROFESSOR NANCY SHURTZ REGARDING IMPROPER RELEASE OF INFORMATION CONCERNING AN INTERNAL INVESTIGATION ABOUT A HALLOWEEN PARTY HOSTED IN HER HOME
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, the University of Oregon improperly released a flawed investigative report into events surrounding a Halloween party that I hosted in my home. This release violated rights of employees to confidentiality guaranteed by law. In addition, the report contains numerous mistakes, errors and omissions that if corrected would have put matters in a different light. For example, it ignored the anonymous grading process, the presence of many non-students as guests, and the deceptive emails that created a firestorm in the law school.
I, and my legal advisers, were preparing a response to the draft report. Although the University was aware of our intention to submit our corrections by noon (local time) yesterday and to deal with its errors in-house, the Provost’s office or its advisers cynically decided to try to publicly shame me instead.
As the UO’s press release itself notes, the University is prohibited by law from disclosing personnel matters. But the press release and uncorrected Report act as a supremely public retaliation against me for seeking, even if clumsily, to raise issues of insufficient diversity in American professions. My attorney and I are evaluating our legal options.
(Note to reporters and editors: Pending the submittal of our comments to the UO, out of respect for all involved we will not comment any further on this ongoing process.)
Good for Professor Shurtz. Every professor who cares about academic freedom and the Free Speech should be cheering her cause.