Constitutional Law

After physical confrontation with campus protesters, adjunct law prof loses teaching duties

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Following a confrontation between an adjunct law professor at the University of Oregon and campus demonstrators his name has been removed from the school’s website directory.

“The University of Oregon School of Law has reassigned the teaching responsibilities of adjunct instructor James Olmsted to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Adell Amos,” says Dean Michael Moffitt in a written statement provided to the ABA Journal by a media official. “This is a personnel decision, and as such we are unable to discuss details of the situation at this time.”

“We are aware that Mr. Olmsted was involved in an incident with students on the afternoon of Thursday, March 14,” the statement continues. “As dean, I expect all members of the University of Oregon School of Law community to conduct themselves with the highest degree of professionalism and respect for public discourse, especially with those with whom they may disagree.”

Olmsted can be seen, apparently midway through an argument with several protestors, on videos that are posted on PINAC (short for “Photography Is Not a Crime”).

On one of the videos, the picture suddenly goes out but the audio continues recording for several minutes after Olmsted apparently grabs the camera after asking whether he is being filmed. On another video he can be seen on video taking an electronic device and putting it in his back pocket at what is described in a Daily Emerald article as a Students Against Imperialism mock border checkpoint. The Daily Emerald article also links to video of the confrontation.

Students complain during the video that eventually goes blank that he is acting aggressively and at least one says she feels “threatened” by him. Olmsted apparently takes offense when a man, seemingly trying to intervene to distance Olmsted from a woman in the group, gets close to Olmsted as he extends an arm to separate the two. Olmsted responds by shoving the man in the chest and telling him, “Get away from my space, you prick.” After the man backs up, Olmsted moves forward to within inches of his face.

Audio of the confrontation includes profanity on both sides, although it appears, in the portion of the confrontation that is videotaped, that Olmsted used as much or more of it as anyone and was physically aggressive toward protesters. “Start a war, get a gun, shoot me first. I’m right here,” Olmsted tells the group at one point, after contending that the protest is not an effective way of addressing their concerns about fair treatment of individuals crossing the border into the U.S. He also at least implied that ancestors of indigenous groups at issue in the protest historically treated others in a highly objectionable manner.

According to information in Internet directories, Olmsted earned his law degree from the University of California at Davis and is admitted in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. A land-use expert, he taught for the university’s well-regarded School of Law Environmental and Natural Resources.

He did not immediately respond Friday to an email from the ABA Journal seeking comment. Phone calls to a listed number for Olmsted were not answered.

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