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Students put up petition to fire Purdue prof for 44-year-old ‘blackface’ photo

A Change.org petition has been put up to get a professor at Purdue University fired … for the sin of making a 44-year-old “blackface” photo her Facebook profile picture.

The picture was posted on the prof’s account two years ago.

According to a report by NewsOne, Purdue had received a pair of complaints about biology professor Lisa Stillman in November of last year: one regarding “the way [she] had reprimanded students to enforce lab protocols,” and the other for the 2016 Facebook photo. With regards to the former, the university concluded the professor acted appropriately.

As for the blackface photo, Purdue noted “[Stillman’s] 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.”

Purdue is a public institution.

Nevertheless, some students are so disturbed by Stillman’s continued employment that, aside from the petition (which currently has a little over half the requested 500 signatures), media were contacted about the blackface picture — including The College Fix.

Others include The Root (“Purdue Professor Proudly Posts Photo in Blackface But Faces No Consequences Because of Free ‘Speech’”) and BET (“Professor Pictured Wearing Blackface Keeps Her Job Because Purdue Doesn’t Punish ‘Free Speech’”).

Sadly, the concept of free speech is, yet again, gravely misunderstood.

The anonymous student who contacted NewsOne stated

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? […] Instructors are supposed to lead by example, and I don’t think any Purdue student should follow that example.

NewsOne’s Parker Riley expressed similar sentiments: “Wow, who knew proudly posting a racist photo that looks like something from the Jim Crow South was ‘speech’”?

Actually, many people know. And even if making one’s self up in blackface is deemed “hate speech,” such is protected by the First Amendment.

The same anonymous student who related her story to NewsOne had gone perusing through Stillman’s Facebook account after being the subject of the aforementioned lab protocol reprimand:

“[Stillman] pulled me out of class and told me that she would drop my grade, told me her teacher assistants drive her ‘bat-sh*t crazy’ and then said that she would tell all of my future professors about my behavior, telling me that my ‘reputation would precede me,’” the student said. “This was because I filed a complaint about the teacher assistants she managed and she got angry about it and essentially tried to blackmail me to not speak out anymore. This is what prompted me to look on Facebook and I found the blackface photo on her public profile.”

Riley points out that according to the FBI, in 2013 Purdue had the second highest quantity of reported hate crimes of any university according.

“Consequently,” he says, “it was not a shocker how they handled a teacher posting a deeply racist photo.”

Read the full article.

MORE: Cal Poly asks for state investigation into blackface incidents

MORE: University refuses to say how it punished student for blackface

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.