Monday, May 23, 2022
Purdue University Instructor Posts Photo in Blackface, Keeps Job Because of “Free Speech”
By Talley Morton, Sentinel Intern
Published July 12, 2018

Purdue University instructor will not be formally punishedfor posting Blackface photo. (Facebook)

A teacher who posted a throwback photo of herself and a friend in Blackface will not face formal repercussions, Purdue University administration has decided.

In October 2016, Purdue biology instructor Lisa Stillman posted a profile photo of her and a friend from Halloween at the age of 12. In the photo, the two wore Afro wigs, dark paint on their face, and red lipstick.

The costume was a replica of the racist minstrel shows from the early 19thcentury. These shows consisted of performances meant to mock African Americans.


Purdue University is a public university in West Lafayette, Indiana. According to, the student body is 64.7% White and 3% Black or African American.

The story was first posted on and chronicles how a student brought the photo to light only for the university to quietly lay the issue to rest. When the photo, posted in October 2016, was brought to the administration’s attention by an anonymous student in November of 2017, the student was told 20 days later that the investigation had been completed and that “appropriate action had been taken.”

The photo had simply been deleted and Stillman remained in her teaching position within the biology department.

Many students are calling for some kind of formal recognition of Stillman’s wrongdoing. But Purdue claims that this is not a punishable offense.

“…[Stillman’s] personal social media post of an old photo was not harassment under Purdue policy,” said an email from Purdue News Service. “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.”

However, this has not been enough for students attending the university. In 2013, according to a study by the FBI, Purdue had the second most campus hate crimes. Purdue’s passivity has had, and will continue to have, consequences for students of color.


“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?” said the student who initially filed the complaint. “Instructors are supposed to lead by example, and I don’t think any Purdue student should follow that example.” petition was made demanding Stillman’s resignation. To date, it has received 620 signatures.

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