Purdue University Seemingly Looks The Other Way After Professor Gets A Kick Out Of Herself In Old Blackface Photo
Free speech or hate speech?
July 02, 2018 at 8:45 pm
Purdue University is accused of sweeping a professor’s racist behavior under the rug.
In October 2016, biology professor Lisa Stillman posted a throwback photo of herself and a friend in blackface on Facebook, and laughed about it in the photo’s comment section.
Why is this person still on the @LifeAtPurdue payroll? Lisa Stillman cannot educate students of all backgrounds with a Facebook profile picture that shows her in #blackface with an #offensive costume. Bring justice to campus! #faceitpurdue
— Jane Doe (@purduejustice) April 19, 2018
“Haha! We would be sooooooo NOT politically correct these days!!” the friend in the photo wrote. “That was soo much fun dressing up that year!!”
Stillman commented back: “Nobody knew who we were!” and added, “As long as we didn’t smile.”
According to NewsOne, a student reported the photo in November 2017 and after 20 days, the school told the student it had concluded its investigation. The school told the student it took action.
“I found one of my professors made their public Facebook profile picture them in blackface. I found this appalling and I reported it to Purdue University,” the student said. “Instead of firing Lisa Stillman, the Purdue administration covered it up and told her to simply delete the photo.”
The outlet contacted the school about the incident, and they released a statement saying they had no grounds to punish the professor:
“Purdue received an anonymous ‘hotline’ complaint in November 2017 citing two grievances: one about the way an instructor had reprimanded students to enforce lab protocols, and another about a 2016 Facebook post of a 1974 photo showing the same instructor (then age 12) in a ‘blackface’ Halloween costume,” the school said.
“The university promptly reviewed these complaints, concluding that the instructor had handled the lab incident in a wholly appropriate manner, and that her personal social media post of an old photo was not harassment under Purdue policy. In any event, what we can say firmly is that, at Purdue, we do not punish speech, particularly when off-campus speech is expressed by an employee speaking as a private citizen.”
The student was outraged by the statement.
“Blackface in any form is not free speech, it’s hate speech. How can Purdue advertise itself as a haven for diversity when it protects a staff member who is unable to respect that diversity?” she asked. “Instructors are supposed to lead by example, and I don’t think any Purdue student should follow that example.”
There is a Change.org petition calling for Stillman’s firing with a little over 200 signatures.
This isn’t the first time the school has been criticized for fostering a racist environment.
Professor Jean Berman published a statement in February saying racist behavior was commonplace in the community around Purdue and other local universities.
"I’ve lost track of how many times I driven behind a car or truck with Confederate paraphernalia," Berman wrote. "My first semester here a black student told me about the many times he’s been walking outside and had someone yell the n-word at him from a passing car. Not to mention incidents on Purdue’s campus, including the posting of white supremacist and fascist fliers across campus (One of these which stated, “we have the right to exist” was interpreted by some as not suggesting that anyone should be exterminated). I remember viewing from my office window the giant exhibit in 2016 misusing the struggle for black liberation for an ugly anti-abortion campaign. Then there are the various incidents of anti-Semitic slurs written on whiteboards or classroom desks being arranged in the form of a swastika."
According to the FBI, Purdue has the second highest number of hate crimes reported from a university campus.
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