There’s a video making the rounds of a faculty member at Arizona State University, Ersula Ore, who struggles with a police officer as he attempts to handcuff her in the middle of a city street: Since making her cinematic debut, Professor Ore, whose field, inevitably, is English, has become the poster girl for police brutality, the topic of a moveon.org petition, and the subject of a slavish all-faculty email from the ASU Provost Robert Page, which you can read at Inside Higher Ed.
Even though one might assume that what has been captured on video speaks for itself, controversy rages about the conduct of the officer and the professor. Did the cop overreact? Was the professor merely asserting her rights?
So far, only the grammar police have presented unassailable evidence in support of their accusation that Professor Ore committed felonious diction. Listen at the 17- and 25- second sections of the video to hear the professor “axe” the policeman to account for his actions. Listen throughout the video (1:44,2:25, 2:38. 2:50, 2:51, 3:09, 3:13, 3:27, 3:50) for the professor’s language to be bleeped. She averages over two curses per minute, suggesting a serious deficiency in her vocabulary–especially damning for an assistant professor of “rhetoric.” Could these bleeps possibly represent what Provost Page means when he writes, “I want to assure everyone that the behavior displayed in this incident does not reflect in any way the values and principles by which ASU operates.” Somehow, I doubt it, but you never know.
Some observers of the video see it as political theater, wherein a faculty member whose academic specialities include Contemproary [sic] Rhetorical Theory, Race Critical Theory, Rhetorics of Race & Culture, Composition, Visual and Material Culture Studies illustrates the rhetorical and cultural divide between black and white. I disagree with this analysis, however. I do not dispute the professor’s theatrics; rather I see them as an exquisite rendering of the distance between the pedestal on which faculty perch, having elevated themselves to this lofty height, and the low-life misery of non-faculty engaged in their menial labors.
So far ASU has not handed the police officer his walking papers, and indeed has found that “the officer involved did not violate protocol and no evidence was found of racial motivation by the ASU Police Department officers involved.” The department has, however,
enlist[ed] an outside law-enforcement agency to conduct an independent review on whether excessive force was used and if there was any racial motivation by the officers involved. In addition, although no university police protocols were violated, university police are conducting a review of whether the officer involved could have avoided the confrontation that ensued.
Inside Higher Ed article reproduces the entire text of the ASU statement, which concludes:
According to the police report, ASU Police initially spoke to Assistant Professor Ore because officers patrolling the area nearly hit her with their police vehicle as they turned the vehicle onto College Avenue to investigate a disabled vehicle. Officer Stewart Ferrin had no intention of citing or arresting Ore, but for her safety told her to walk on the sidewalk. When Ore refused to comply and refused to provide identification after she was asked for it multiple times, she was subsequently arrested.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has independently reviewed all available evidence, including the police report, witness statements, and audio and video recordings of the incident, and decided to press criminal charges of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, refusing to provide identification when requested to do so by an officer, and obstructing a highway or public thoroughfare. The charge of assaulting an officer is based on the fact that Dr. Ore kicked the officer as is shown on the video and as she admitted in her recorded statements to the police.
That’s the police and DA’s version of what happened on the mean streets of ASU. As for Professor Ore’s version, it X#Z%!!& speaks for itself.