Get Your Hands Off Me Ersula Ore I’ll Kick You In the Shins

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 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.

Throughout the video Professor Ore axes the policeman, “are you serious?” when he requests her ID, when he wants to know why she is “walking down the middle of the road,” and when he fails to genuflect at her mentioning she is “a professor at the university.”

The Ore incident has prompted ASU to install these signs, which indicate a safe space for faculty to cross the street.

The Ore incident has prompted ASU to install these signs, which indicate a safe space for faculty to cross the street.

Throughout the video the policemen refers to the professor as “ma’m,” understandably galling to the possessor of a PhD, and repeats his simple request for her ID, which the professor mysteriously fails to understand or comply with.

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.

23 thoughts on “Get Your Hands Off Me Ersula Ore I’ll Kick You In the Shins

      • And all officers of the law believe they are issued a beat and release card they can pull out whenever they feel like it. It might be nothing more then a verbal beating, but yes, they do believe they have this authority whether their actions and intent are right or wrong. The fastest way to find yourself handcuffed, sitting on a curb or in the back of a cruiser in cuffs, or slammed onto a police car hood is to question the reasoning or authority of a police officer. Whatever the level of the infraction, in this case a petty jaywalking ticket the officer didn’t even intend to write becomes lost in their new intent, which is to put the citizen they view as one of “them” in their place. And by them I mean not a person in law enforcement. Ersula Ores primary offense was having the nerve to believe she had a right to question him, and this is the issue that keeps elevating the level of the encounter from beginning to end.

  1. I blame it all on the heat. Too hot for for proper diction. It’s way too hot for cops to be overly polite and understanding and way too hot to be using cross walks. It’s just too G.D. hot out here. So it’s all global warming’s fault which,in turn, makes it Bush’s fault.
    On the other hand you can be an optimist and rejoice that out of control cops are now roughing up the very intellectual/political class that make police states possible! Really, what’s the difference between the intolerance of two employees of the same state organization?

    • This is probably the most realistic perspective I have read on this page including the essay, although it was May 10th at the time it happened so I would have to look up what the temperature really was. But yes, what is the difference in the sense of entitlement between these two individuals? One is coming at it like they have the right to be angry in a position of great power over another, and start off the encounter on a bad footing, and the other feels entitled to question them about it and receive greater respect do to their position. The only difference I see is one of them has the power to do great harm and with great power over someone else comes great responsibility to remain reasonable and professional. Both of these individuals are going over the top in my opinion and not living up to their responsibility to remain professional in this encounter. Which is why I would vote for a jury nullification of all charges against Ore, and that Officer Ferrin not be punished, but advised that he has a great responsibility working as a Campus Policeman to keep situations as low toned as possible.

      • Aw, I’m jealous. Can’t you a least give Miss credit for writing the essay that prompted Bill’s perspicacious comment?

  2. If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?
    The argument concerning the use, or the status, or the reality, of black English is rooted in American history and has absolutely nothing to do with the question the argument supposes itself to be posing. The argument has nothing to do with language itself but with the role of language. Language, incontestably, reveals the speaker. Language, also, far more dubiously, is meant to define the other–and, in this case, the other is refusing to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize him. – James Baldwin…/29/specials/baldwin-english.html

    • While I am flattered that you have brought out the big gun of James Baldwin to comment on my essay, I am having a hard time understanding why. Professor Ore is a PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH. Her chosen profession assumes mastery of the language, whether it defines her or not. Her diction and limited vocabulary suggest such mastery is missing. Thanks for sharing the quotation from Baldwin, a 20th century master of English.

  3. she’s not a professor of grammar. any perusing of a linguistics text will explain to you the phenomenon of African American Vernacular English. dialects, people, dialects. i’m an English teacher and i enjoy speaking in my vernacular dialect, which is a variation of what is spoken in the upper South and Midwest. i’m sure you’ll just explain this away, but it’s sad, really – languages are used. Standard English only exists in a dictionary.

    • I think that you have done a splendid job explaining yourself. Your comment is exceptionally revealing. Thank you for writing.

  4. You’re right, callmemiss. How dare she expect not to be thrown to the ground and handcuffed for crossing the street like ten other people before her? She can’t even speak proper English! What a world. Good thing you’re here to keep our priorities straight. The free world thanks you and the guardians of the peace who know when adequate force is absolutely necessary.

    • Too funny, Anarchasis! Please feel free to comment as much as you like–and invite your friends to comment as well. You’re doing great things for my page views, and I want you to know I really appreciate it!

  5. I am looking for the website to contribute to the legal fund for the officer. This junior faculty member will benefit financially from the incident that she staged. She might not even have to publish anything to get tenure now. Dr. Ore’s arrest report says she weighs in at 172 pounds. How big is the officer whom she kicked? Why was she reluctant to tell the officer her name? Yet, she wanted him to take her word for it that she was “a professor”? As if that would mean she merited obeisance from a mere blue-collar cop? On the tape, Dr. Ore does not behave herself like a professor or a lady. You can’t have it both ways. Either you behave with civility and are treated with respect, or you behave like a tramp and are treated accordingly. As a woman of size myself, I would never go out in public in a skirt so short and tight. But if I did, I certainly would not think that my scanty clothing somehow exempted me from being handcuffed by police. Being a “professor” means you hold yourself to standards of deportment and style. You try to meet others where they are, and you set an example of civility and respect. Dr. Ore could have set the tone and raised the level of the encounter. (She is the one trained in rhetoric!) Instead, Dr. Ore seemed to dare the officers to do their worst. Does she belong in a university classroom? Is this video a model for how citizens should challenge police? In the video, it appears that Dr. Ore is the one who fails to show respect: the respect that is due to officers of the law. I just can’t get over that kick in the shin. Who does that? Was she trying to provoke a beating? So she could lecture and write about it?

  6. Another thought. It’s the Fourth of July and I was just listening to the national anthem on public radio. This is “the land of the free.” That’s not utter license. We all depend on the institutions of freedom, which include the police. We are obliged to cooperate with law enforcement. Teachers — professors — have to model and practice this cooperation. In my own academic work, I study the Third Reich, which was a real and tragic perversion of police power. That is way different from the campus cops at Arizona State. If Dr. Ore can’t perceive the difference, then she is just sadly ignorant of history. Dr. Ore is by no means in solidarity with anyone who bravely resisted fascism in Europe or racial apartheid in America. Dr. Ore is a sad, pathetic sham, and in the classroom she is doing harm. I am surprised at myself for feeling so strongly about this. “Cultural studies” and “race critical theory,” as academic fields, are notoriously shallow in their incorporation of recent history and the broader scope of studies of race hatred in historical perspective. It just cheapens the sacrifices of generations of true freedom fighters, in Europe and America, if this foul-mouthed young assistant professor misappropriates their mantle for herself. I am totally disgusted. Sorry to hijack your blog. But it is the only place I found where voices are raised against this self-serving academic outlier.

  7. Pingback: Professor Ersula Ore Cops a Plea! | Call Me "Miss"!

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