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UO law professor returns after blackface controversy

Some students say they don't feel like the university took proper action to address the incident.

Posted: Apr. 12, 2018 6:29 PM
Updated: Apr. 12, 2018 7:30 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Some University of Oregon Law School students said they're upset after learning that a professor would be teaching classes in the fall after a controversial incident more than a year ago.

Nancy Shurtz was photographed in blackface as part of a Halloween costume in 2016. She was placed on leave after the incident and then took sabbatical. University officials said her sabbatical was pre-planned and had nothing to do with the incident. 

On Wednesday, the law school held a town hall meeting for students and many used that as an opportunity to voice their concerns about Shurtz returning to the classroom. Many students said they didn't know she would be teaching again until they saw her name on the fall 2018 course list. 

Tweets from the forum show some students felt the university was trying to sweep Shurtz's return under the rug by not making a formal announcement. However, university officials said they don't typically announce to students when professors come back from sabbatical. 

Some students said this situation was different because they don't feel like the university took proper action to address the incident. 

"For me, it's really the accountability," said Fernanda Douglas, a law student. "I just have a concern being in a university where a professor may have made a mistake but no accountability was really shown for the small percentage of the students of color here."

Many students said Shurtz doesn't represent the university well after the incident and some even said they wouldn't take her classes.

However, some students disagreed, and said it was a mistake that she can recover from.

"She has decades of incredible legal experience and I think students still have a lot to learn from her and the areas that she teaches," said Aaron Haynes, a law student. "It's just a matter of whether the school and university can move on from what happened."

Other students said they wished they could share their concerns directly to Shurtz, who wasn't at the town hall.

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