Doane University: Punishment of librarian who displayed historical blackface photos


Doane University

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Case Overview


In April 2019, Doane University investigated and suspended faculty librarian Melissa Gomis for curating a historical photo display, entitled “Parties of the Past,” consisting of photos selected from the university’s archival collection. Two of the photos showed Doane students wearing blackface at a 1926 masquerade party. During the investigation, Doane President Jacque Carter sent a campus-wide email discussing the matter in detail, and Doane administrators commented extensively to local media, explaining the university’s position that the display lacked “appropriate educational context” and may have constituted “discriminatory harassment.” On May 17, 2019, FIRE and the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a joint letter to Doane asking the school to clarify whether it actually honors the strong promises of academic freedom it makes to faculty. Doane’s lawyer responded that the university “does not and will not comment on internal employee issues.”