Is Arizona State Supporting the Body-Slammed Professor?

Provost offers praise for faculty member arrested in incident many see as racial profiling. But university denies that it has changed it approach and continues to say her treatment did not violate protocols.

July 1, 2014

On Monday, with faculty members nationwide signing petitions and taking to social media to criticize the arrest and body-slamming of an Arizona State University professor, the university's provost sent faculty members an email message that praised her and expressed support for her.

The provost's email also refers to a "forthcoming" statement from the university about the incident. But a university spokeswoman said she did not know of a forthcoming message and said that the university had always supported the professor, who was thrown down on the ground by an Arizona State police officer when she refused to provide identification or put her hands behind her back when she was stopped for jaywalking. While the incident happened in late May, video only surfaced at the end of last week, and the video stunned many people at Arizona State and elsewhere.

The provost's email and the current university statement are both at the right.

The Provost's Email

Dear Faculty:

I am sure that many, or most, of you are aware of the events that took place the evening of May 20, 2014 between one of our faculty, Professor Ersula Ore, and the University Police.  I am also sure that those of you who observed the video and audio recordings of the incident were equally shocked and disappointed that this took place in our community.  We ended up with an outcome no one wanted and should never have happened.

Professor Ore is a valued faculty member at ASU. She is an outstanding teacher and mentor.  The university remains supportive of her. The entire matter is being reviewed and a further statement from ASU is forthcoming. In the meantime, 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.  We are privileged to be part of an academic community where diversity, inclusion, tolerance, and respect are central to all we are and do. This is special.  We all contribute to this set of values.  I very much appreciate all that you do and, like you, hope for a positive resolution to this matter.

Rob Page

University Provost

The Arizona State Statement

Arizona State University authorities have reviewed the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the arrest of Assistant Professor Ersula Ore and have found that the officer involved did not violate protocol and no evidence was found of racial motivation by the ASU Police Department officers involved.

However, the ASU Police Department is enlisting 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.

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.

In Provost Rob Page's email to professors, he said that the professor in the incident, Ersula Ore, was "a valued faculty member" and an "outstanding teacher and mentor." He also said that viewing the video of her being thrown to the grown and arrested by university police officers left him "shocked and disappointed." Further, he said the university "remains supportive" of Ore and that "diversity, inclusion, tolerance, and respect are central to all we are and do."

Professor Ore's supporters have said that she was questioned about jaywalking on a street where that is routine, and that she might not have been stopped except that she is a black woman. In the video (at the bottom of this article), Ore is clearly stunned that she is being questioned and asked for identification over jaywalking. Critics have said that they can't imagine how a professor could be treated as Ore is seen on the videotape.

Others have defended the police and said that Ore should have immediately given her identification. The university statements have consistently said that officials who have reviewed the incident have found no violations of protocols or evidence of racial bias, and the statements have noted reasons for Ore's arrest.

Sharon Keeler, a university spokeswoman, denied in an interview that there was any difference of substance between the provost's email and the university's statement. She said that the university's statements had been "fact-based." Further, she denied that the university had ever failed to support Ore. "The university has never really not supported this professor," she said.

Keeler followed up the interview with an email to Inside Higher Ed in which she said: "These are two separate pieces of communication to two different audiences. They in no way conflict with each other. The university statement lays out the facts, as well as information on the follow up reviews of the incident. Your insinuation that the university has not supported Professor Ore in this matter is based on hearsay and not fact."

Inside Higher Ed asked her how the university has supported Professor Ore and Keeler responded: "Provost Robert Page is part of the university. His message to the faculty answers your question."




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