EUGENE, Ore. ― A University of Oregon law professor who donned blackface as part of a doctor costume at her Halloween party has apologized, saying she only wanted to stimulate dialogue about race relations in America.
Nancy Shurtz said in an apology released Friday that she wore a white coast, stethoscope and black face paint to portray Dr. Damon Tweedy, who wrote the best-selling memoir “Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine,” the Register-Guard reported on Saturday.
“I intended to provoke a thoughtful discussion on racism in our society, in our educational institutions and in our professions,” Shurtz wrote. “In retrospect, my decision to wear black makeup was wrong. It provoked a discussion of racism, but not as I intended.”
The controversy has caused a stir at the university.
A petition asking for her resignation has gotten more than 1,000 signatures.
“We are in the 21st century,” said Gabriela Martinez, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Communication. “This country has a long history of racism, and, especially at the university level, people should know what constitutes racism.”
Another petition asks that the university protect Shurtz’s action, however odious, as a matter of free speech.
“While the costume in hindsight was an obvious mistake, as an Oregonian and graduate of UC Davis, I am dismayed at the intensity of the backlash,” retired attorney Larry Haun wrote about the petition he launched. His petition had garnered eight signatures as of Friday, the newspaper reported.
Shurtz remains on paid administrative leave.