Environment / Environmental Law, Law Professors, Law Schools

What the Quack? Oregon Law Professor Has Meltdown, Gets Arrested

Last week, I included a fun, “when law professors attack” link in Non-Sequiturs, about an adjunct property professor at the University of Oregon School of Law. Since then, we’ve received more tips about the outburst and its aftermath — and couldn’t help ourselves but to double-dip into this story.

The professor, James Olmsted, got into a dust-up with a student protest group, snagging one of their phones and seeming to goad the protesters into a fight. Hippie protesters can be annoying, but, I mean, if you hate hippie protesters, you may not want to work in Eugene.

What makes the story so confusing is the lack of anything in the professor’s bio to indicate that he’d launch a tirade like this….

James Olmsted attended the UC Davis School of Law and clerked for Chief Justice Charles E. Springer of the Nevada Supreme Court. His professional and academic work is a giant ode to environmentalism. While it’s wrong to stereotype, I think it’s safe to say environmentalists tend to harbor warm and fuzzy feelings for student protesters.

Let’s revisit the event in detail. If you have a chance to watch some video, you’re in luck! If not, details below:

The protest was a street theater-style mock border checkpoint:

The mock checkpoint was an activity of Students Against Imperialism, a campus group “in support of equitable treatment along the United States-Mexican border which recently combine[d] with the group Students for Palestinian Liberation,” according to the Daily Emerald.

Sure, why the f**k not. I don’t see any problem homogenizing the experiences of Mexican immigrants and Palestinians. Anyway, these folks were protesting… border patrol and/or Israel outside the Erb Memorial Union. A couple key points about the EMU (as it’s called):

  • It was the location of the food fight scene in Animal House, making Olmsted’s outburst a distant second as the biggest confrontation at the EMU.
  • The EMU is exactly nowhere near the law school, suggesting Olmsted went out of his way to stumble upon this protest.

The collection of videos provides a good rundown of the altercation:

The video above shows Olmsted, wearing a leather jacket, arguing with the students, and becoming progressively more belligerent and using profanity. “If you want this country back, start a fucking war and take it back,” Olmsted says. When one student answers, “that’s not how we have to do things,” Olmsted continues to provoke, answering, “Start a war, get a gun, shoot me first!”

Olmsted then begins to lecture the students that if they want to see change, they have to “get hurt.” A woman responds: “you’re in no point to tell us how to fucking liberate ourselves. You’re the oppressor!”

Okay, this I can kind of agree with, and maybe this is the source of Olmsted’s frustration. I generally have little patience for protests where people presume to change the world with street theater — conducted in the safe confines of an already radical lefty bastion like Eugene — instead of taking the real risks required to effect change. As an environmental lawyer, perhaps Olmsted was fed up with idle protests. In further details published in the Eugene Register-Guard, it sounds as though Olmsted initially acted as a devil’s advocate, pushing the students’ commitment to the cause, and then got carried away.

Whatever the case, Olmsted eventually got some shoves in and snagged a student’s cell phone. I haven’t seen an Oregon fight escalate like that since Houston’s mascot got whipped:

Eventually, campus police showed up and arrested Olmsted, citing him for theft in the second degree and two counts of physical harassment rather than taking him into custody. He’s since been barred from campus and his class, Land Trust and Conservation Law, planned to begin on April 1, was assigned to a new faculty member.

Meanwhile, tensions remain high at Oregon because of another high-profile theft perpetrated overnight. A 12 seed? Are you kidding me?

Clash Ends UO Instructor’s Job [Eugene Register-Guard]
Adjunct at Oregon Law School Is Reassigned After Scuffle With Students [Chronicle of Higher Education]
Police to Charge U of Oregon Instructor in Violent Assault on Student Palestine Activists Caught on Video [Electronic Intifada]

(hidden for your protection)

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