Dalhousie profs ask university to confirm blackface violates code of conduct

Dalhousie profs ask university to confirm blackface violates code of conduct

HALIFAX — Dalhousie University’s leadership is facing mounting pressure to take a clear stance on blackface, with a group of law professors asking the school’s top academic administrator to confirm it violates the code of student conduct and personal harassment policy.

In a letter to the Halifax university’s provost on Tuesday, 28 members of the law faculty said they are concerned with statements about blackface made by the school’s new interim president, Peter MacKinnon.

His recent book, “University Commons Divided: Exploring Debate and Dissent on Campus,” refers to costume parties involving white students in blackface as “just Halloween parties.”

The incidents sparked outrage on campuses, but MacKinnon suggests in his book there was a “lack of proportion” in the responses.

A group of Dal students spoke out about the book, saying it expresses “racist perspectives” and “oppressive rhetoric,” which prompted MacKinnon to issue a statement and address the senate on the matter.

“I do not condone blackface,” he told the senate last week. “I regret any interpretation to the contrary, and the distress it has caused.”

Still, law professors are questioning whether the university’s policies would sanction the use of blackface on campus this Halloween, or dismiss it as “just a party.”

“In this book, Mr. MacKinnon characterizes the practice of blackface as ‘frequently, though not always, viewed as racist,’” the letter signed by the majority of Dalhousie’s law faculty said.

“These statements have caused us concern about how Dalhousie’s policies could be applied to similar facts, should they arise here.”

The letter, addressed to provost Teresa Balser, calls on the school’s senior administration to issue a “clarifying statement” to provide “effective and reliable guidance to Dalhousie students and employees.”

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