EUGENE, Ore. -- The Black Law Students Association will be sending a letter to the Oregon law administration claiming the University of Oregon has not done enough to address racially insensitive acts in the law school.
BLSA specifically pointed out a 2016 incident where Professor Nancy Shurtz wore blackface to her own Halloween party. She claimed she wanted to spark a conversation about race. The university put her on leave, and she returned after a sabbatical in 2018. BLSA does not think this enough.
Since April of this year, the student organization has been calling on the university to take more sweeping action. They released a letter that month with these demands:
- Law students should have equitable alternatives that are equivalent to those courses taught by Shurtz so that no student will have to decide between taking necessary courses and retaining their integrity.
- Create and inform all future law students of the disciplinary actions that follow discriminatory conduct and provide the students with resources to help them deal with issues involving diversity and inclusion.
- Create mandatory coursework that teaches students about understanding and respecting race in the legal profession and higher education.
- Provide trainings for faculty to teach them how to facilitate difficult conversations surrounding race in the classroom.
Marcilynn Burke, Dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law, responded to the demands at the end of April in a letter outlining all the steps the law school has taken to educate students and staff about systemic racism.
But since then, BLSA is still advocating for more action. On Monday a letter will be sent to the Oregon Law Administration demanding they too take action.
The university released this statement today:
"The University of Oregon wants all students to learn and thrive in an environment where they feel safe. It’s clear that the 2016 incident continues to affect members of our community and we take the demands of the Black Law Students Association seriously. The Law School has implemented changes to address a number of BLSA’s concerns and the university will continue to work with the Faculty Senate and others to help align UO policy with its mission and values."