Updated: Forum on Thurs. to discuss blackface incident

Andrew Scoggin

Updated Nov. 3, 8:40 p.m.

Associated Student Government, the Coalition of Colors and Student Affairs will host a forum Thursday to discuss a Halloween incident involving the use of blackface, Northwestern President Morton O. Schapiro announced in an e-mail Tuesday evening.

In photos circulated in e-mails to student group leaders, two males are pictured in blackface. One male is pictured in front of a poster of Bob Marley, and is dressed in a shirt with the word “Jamaica” on it. The other is dressed as a woman and holding tennis racket in front of a wall with the Northwestern logo.

“While I fully support the principles of free expression, at the same time I am deeply disappointed to see any example of insensitivity that demeans a segment of our community,” Schapiro said in the e-mail. “It is my hope that we can use this incident as a catalyst to reflect upon the values of inclusiveness and respect for others that are central to Northwestern’s mission.”

ASG President Mike McGee sent out an email to a variety of students asking them to “come together” and promote the forum. Since then, e-mails about Thursday’s forum have been spread across campus to faculty, students and administrators alike.

Schapiro quoted part of McGee’s e-mail, including details of the forum’s purpose.

Obviously the issue of blackface is a very sensitive subject from every perspective, so the focus of this forum will not be to bash one group or the other and cause more disagreement,” McGee wrote. “Instead, the discussion will focus on the history of blackface, education of the negative connotation of blackface, and most importantly, what action the Northwestern community can take to prevent incidents of this nature from happening again.”

Interim Dean of Students Burgie Howard said campus reaction has been “swift” and people are “interested and concerned.”

He added that he didn’t think any University rules were violated so it is not necessarily a “disciplinary situation.”

“Hopefully we can learn from this incident and other incidents to say, ‘How do we make sure our community aware of these things so that we don’t have incidents going forward?'” he said.

Both Howard and Schapiro said they will be at Thursday’s forum.

Check back for more information.