A former JMU adjunct professor issued an apology on social media Thursday for wearing blackface as part of a Halloween costume.
Tim Richardson, former cycling adjunct professor at JMU and an owner of Shenandoah Bicycle Company, created a Twitter account to issue apologies. He also posted an apology on his personal and the Shenandoah Bicycle Company Facebook page. According to Bill Wyatt, director of communications and university spokesman, Richardson taught a class at JMU last semester. The university became aware of the incident Thursday night and Tim Miller, vice president of student affairs, issued a statement in regard to the university’s stance on the matter.
“His conduct is in no way condoned by the university nor did it occur at a university sanctioned event,” Miller said in the email. “JMU strives to be an inclusive community that values the richness of all individuals and perspectives.”
The University Recreation Center has a contract with Shenandoah Bicycle Company that expires in April. Richardson was an affiliate in the contract, but since the university was made aware of the situation, his affiliate status has been revoked.
“I think our relations are fine at this point,” Richardson said. “We’ve addressed it with the university and I apologized. It’s really not an issue of the bike shop, it’s an issue of me as an individual.”
According to a tweet that included a photo of the costume posted by Abigail Thibeault, an assistant public defender who was present at the party, Richardson was posing as “Urethra Franklin.” As of 4 p.m. Friday, the tweet has 87 retweets and 15 comments. Thibeault declined a request for an interview.
Last week I went to a party and a man I’d never met was in black face as “urethra Franklin.” I was wrong because I did not confront him. He is an owner of @ShenandoahBikes and an adjunct professor @JMU. This is not okay and the community should know this happened. pic.twitter.com/7DIqrN7Jsa— Abigail Thibeault (@amthibeault) November 7, 2018
At 8:34 p.m. Thursday, Richardson issued an apology on Twitter stating that his costume was “never intended to be malicious.” He also posted multiple apologies on Facebook. According to Richardson, he made these social media accounts solely to apologize for his actions. He insists the situation doesn’t reflect the values of Shenandoah Bicycle Shop.
“I apologized to express empathy for anyone that was harmed by my costume,” Richardson said.
Wyatt asserted that the university doesn’t condone Richardson’s actions.
“We work very hard to provide a community where everyone is accepted and included regardless of their ethnicity or background,” Wyatt said. “The actions of a former employee do not define our institution.”
CORRECTION Nov. 12, 3:33 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated that Richardson had created a Facebook account to issue an apology. However, Richardson has had the Facebook account but it had been inactive for years prior to posting his apology.
Contact Katelyn Waltemyer at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.