Addressing an incident of racist hate speech in our community

October 5, 2020

Dear University of Oregon community,

On Friday night, the UO School of Law’s student chapter of the American Constitution Society hosted a Zoom event. An African-American man who had spent time on death row in Florida before being exonerated and released was slated to speak. Several law faculty members participated, along with our students, students from Willamette University, and members of the public as the event was widely publicized. When the presentation began, an unidentified person or group of people began yelling racist slurs. The Zoom event was immediately shut down. Organizers decided to reopen the event, but only to known participants. Upon rejoining, the racist hate speech was acknowledged, and a discussion about racism and the effects on the criminal justice system followed.

I am writing to let the entire community know that the University of Oregon — unequivocally — stands firmly against racism and all hate speech. There is zero tolerance for this egregious and offensive behavior. My heart goes out to those who were subjected to this unruly attack. If you could benefit from talking about the incident, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Counseling Services through University Health Services are available 24/7 at 541-346-3227. Alternatively, please reach out to a trusted advisor, faculty member, or colleague. Or talk about it with those close to you if you feel the need. But know that President Schill and I, along with the UO community, denounce this repugnant behavior. No one should ever have to be subjected to this kind of act.

School of Law administrators moved quickly to alert the Division of Equity and Inclusion, the UO Office of the General Counsel, the Office of the Provost, and the Division of Student Life officials about the incident. They also reported what happened to the UOPD and the Office of Investigations and Civil Rights Compliance. Those in attendance were offered support and other resources. The person or persons who made the racist comments have not been identified, but our Information Services unit is working with Zoom officials to conduct a joint investigation.

There will always be risk when we open events to the public or want to facilitate broad audience participation. But learning more about the functionality of Zoom can be helpful to minimize the risk. If you are planning and hosting events, especially those promoted widely, visit the preventing Zoombombing webpage to learn more about Zoom security practices.

Please join me in condemning what happened by always having the courage to speak up and against racism of any kind. Thanks, and take care.


Patrick Phillips
Provost and Senior Vice President