AUSTIN (KXAN) — A “racially offensive” holiday decoration has been removed from the University of Texas business school Friday. It was put up as part of an annual employee decorating contest, according to McCombs School of Business Dean Jay Hartzell.
The nutcracker image — wearing grills and with the words “#BIZ LIFE” on its knuckles — was displayed on the doors of the dean’s office. Business student Sky Walker posted a picture of it to Twitter, and soon after received a tweet from Hartzell saying it would be taken down.
“The whole reason I posted it because as a Black student at UT I come across so many racial incidents that I find myself letting things slide because I simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it while staying focused on my studies,” Walker told KXAN. “So when my friend pointed it out to me, I wondered if it was one of those things I should let slide. So I posted it on twitter (sic) to get second opinions on it, and mostly everybody agreed with me.”
Hartzell also wrote a letter to the community and said his leadership team took it down “within minutes of it being brought to our attention.”
“I vehemently condemn the spirit, tone, and content of this image,” Hartzell wrote. “The fact that this happened is a call to action.”
Hartzell says he will meet with student groups, staff and faculty to hear their perspectives. He’s also holding open office hours Thursday, Dec. 7 from 1-5 p.m. to discuss the issues. He says he hopes recommendations for moving forward will result from the meetings and says he will then form a plan of action, which includes appointing a chief diversity officer for the school. Hartzell says it’s been an idea he and others have been considering recently and that Friday’s “incident confirmed that such a position is necessary.”
“McCombs is a school and community where every student, faculty, and staff member should feel welcome and know they belong,” Hartzell wrote. “This morning’s incident demonstrates that we are not there yet – but deepens my resolve to get there.”