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UO Black Law Students Association Demands University Address Professor’s Racist Actions

Elizabeth Gabriel


In 2016, University of Oregon Professor Nancy Shurtz invited law students to attend a Halloween party held at her home. Shurtz's Halloween costume consisted of a white lab coat, a stethoscope, black paint on her face and hands, and a black wig in the shape of an afro. 

Since the event, students have created a petition for Shurtz’s resignation, and the Black Law Students Association—or BLSA—created a list of demands in 2018. But the group said the college has not met any of them. The demands were reiterated by BLSA this year on April 14.

BLSA Demands:

1.   Stop expanding Professor Nancy Shurtz’s course load and offer equitable alternatives to the courses she teaches;

2.   Develop and inform students of disciplinary actions for discriminatory conduct;

3.   Develop mandatory coursework for students about understanding and respecting race in the academic and legal environments; and

4.   Train faculty to facilitate difficult conversations regarding race in the classroom.

In a message from the UO Law Alumni for BLSA, they commented on a statement about racism from UO School of Law Dean Marcilynn Burke. They wrote she did not address the college’s plans to help law students of color.

“On June 10, Dean Burke issued a ‘Special Message’ regarding racial injustice in the United States, which failed to directly address issues at Oregon Law or respond to BLSA’s Call to Action,” wrote BLSA. “The message failed to provide discrete actions that Oregon Law and the administration will take to help our community and our country move forward.”

According to a statement from BLSA, the class schedule for the 2020-2021 academic school year lists that Professor Shurtz will teach more courses than in previous years.


“The administration's complete and total disregard of the harm this continues to cause its students creates an undue burden on Black students all across campus,” wrote BLSA. “The University of Oregon administration is relying on the passage of time to erase important history from this campus and BLSA will not allow it.” 

Now, BLSA is asking law students to boycott classes taught by Shurtz.

“To our University of Oregon law students, we ask that when it comes time to register for your courses, you stand in solidarity with BLSA by boycotting all courses taught by Professor Nancy Shurtz,” wrote BLSA. “We understand that this may not be ideal, but we cannot allow for this university to continue to dehumanize the rights of its Black students to a suitable and safe education environment.”

Community members can virtually sign theOregon Law Alumni BLSA Support Letter by 5:00pm on Friday, August 14. The group plans to send the letter to the Oregon Law Administration on Monday, August 17.

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