Videos of UO adjunct professor James Olmsted in confrontation with student group incites anger on social media

Posted by Sam Stites on Friday, Mar. 15 at 4:16 am.

Update: The University of Oregon Police Department released a statement Friday, confirming that Olmsted, 58, was arrested Thursday afternoon on campus.

He (Olmsted) was cited in lieu of custody for second-degree theft and two counts of physical harassment. Olmsted was escorted off campus and issued a letter forbidding his return. An investigation is ongoing and other charges may be pending.”

University of Oregon adjunct law professor James Olmsted has been removed from the law school’s adjunct and affiliated faculty page. You can check out the cached site here.


Several videos displaying an argument between Olmsted and students protesters started to make the rounds on social media late Thursday evening. The videos show different angles of a heated altercation between him and a student he pushed out of the way.

According to the YouTube descriptions, the videos take place near the EMU amphitheater at a mock border check-in organized by Students Against Imperialism  — a group in support of equitable treatment along the United States-Mexican border, which recently combined with the group, Students for Palestinian Liberation.

It is unclear how the dispute started and ended, as both videos capture only the middle of the quarrel.

More to follow.

*Warning, these videos contain profane language that may offend*


  • Pushing is mean

    I hope that girl got her phone back.

  • No.

    Needs more context. I feel like we’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle here, people don’t just jump to acting like that, especially not a university professor. I have a feeling that the students involved pushed him to a limit where he responded negatively, and if that is the case, I probably would’ve done the same.

    I come from a pretty conservative area, and there is a funny difference between there and here. The conservative people there acted like complete wackos, disregarding logic and reason, while the few liberal people there seemed much more sensible and reasonable. Here it seems like the other way around, people who are very liberal (or at least those who are just more vocal) I am noticing can be very obnoxious and rude, while people who lean a bit more to the right act more reasonably. (I would like to state that I’m not trying to generalize, this certainly isn’t the case in all situations, just some things that I’ve observed).

    • The REAL Pushing is mean

      Don’t steal my name, dawg. Stealing names is mean.

    • Christopher Swing

      There is no “context” that gives a private citizen the right to confiscate a recording device from another citizen lawfully recording. What James Olmsted committed was robbery, a crime.

      • No.

        He didn’t steal anything, the people were right there, completely surrounding him, just because he grabbed at a phone doesn’t mean he committed robbery. Attempted theft maybe, but not robbery.

        Also, Robbery? Are we just trying to pick at this professor in every little way possible to utterly destroy his life? Do you understand what it means when you accuse someone of a crime? That’s a person’s life, career, and credibility on the line, mostly because you disagree with him. That’s wrong. If I were completely surrounded by people who were deliberately invading my personal space like that, I would be upset too.

        I understand that the point of what the students were doing was to prove a point that border crossing searches are invasive to personal space, and that they were merely trying to emulate that in this situation, but for god’s sake, if you’re going to do that, at least understand that someone is going to push back.

        • Christopher Swing

          If someone takes your property without permission and won’t give it back, that’s robbery, regardless of whether there are people around to catch them or not.

          The only person that’s damaged James Olmsted’s life/career/credibility is James Olmsted.

          He was free to leave at any time, but chose to initiate and sustain confrontation instead. He has no excuses.

        • Raymond Voigt

          He took possession of the phone and put it in his back pocket. That. Is. Theft. He was trying to force a violent confrontation, but the young people there were disciplined and non-violent. My hat is off to the tall young man who stepped between Olmstadt and the young woman he was trying to bully.

          • Difdi

            Who needs violence? When he snatched the phone out of the owner’s hands he committed a misdemeanor and a breach of the peace. That’s plenty of justification for a citizen’s arrest.

        • Barry_D

          “He didn’t steal anything,…”

          Pretty rich, when the theft was recorded and posted on this very page.

        • Keith Appleby

          “ORS 164.395, Robbery in the third degree (1) A person commits the crime of robbery in the third degree if in the course of committing or attempting to commit theft or unauthorized use
          of a vehicle as defined in ORS 164.135 (Unauthorized use of a vehicle) the person uses or threatens the immediate use of physical force upon another person with the intent of:

          (a) Preventing or overcoming resistance to the taking of the property or to retention thereof immediately after the taking”

          So, if she wasn’t looking, had the phone in the ground, and he took the phone, then that would be theft. But, when someone forcefully grabs a phone from someone, then they prevent the rightful owner from taking the phone back, it is a strong-armed robbery. And, it wasn’t “attempted”, he was *successful* in his theft, apparently only returning the phone with police intervention.

          Curiously, it seems that the UOPD were able to handle this situation perfectly fine and without the guns that they so desperately want.

          • Difdi

            Actually, it wasn’t robbery. If he had pushed her to the ground or punched her then grabbed the phone it would be third degree robbery. Simply taking it as he did is not robbery, it’s second degree theft.

        • Hope Shepherd

          I was there. I was not one of the students involved in the protest. I arrived just before the professor went off on his tirade. Two of the students were kneeling on the ground, hands behind their heads–as though they were being arrested. Others were standing with signs and cardboard walls they’d constructed. None of the protestors were being verbally or physically provocative, except inasmuch as street theatre is designed to elicit curiosity and discussion. The students tried to engage him in constructive dialogue about human rights and imperialism when he suddenly got enraged, threw down his motorcycle helmet and jacket, and began hurling racial insults at them. What you see on the video is not only the student protestors surrounding him, but several passersby who had become concerned for the safety of the people he was shouting at.

        • Oh, please

          “No.”s posts are SO ridiculous that I’ll bet $5 that “No.” IS Olmstead. Or someone who knows him closely, like a family member. I know they are biased because “no.” says ” If I were completely surrounded by people who were deliberately invading my personal space like that, I would be upset too.”

          None of the videos show PEOPLE invading his space. Mr. Tall Guy does, but there isn’t a second person in his space in a single video. For “no” to have chosen to pluralize, “no” can’t be working from the same set of videos as the rest of us. This isn’t subjective, it’s quantifiable – The only person whe steps into the professor’s space is the tall guy. (Justifiably IMHO as defending others is covered by self defense law.)

          “No.”‘s use of the plural “people” in referring to personal space boundaries shows that “no” is either A: Being deliberately deceptive, b: unintentially saying untrue things, perhaps due to delusion, or C: actually legally blind and going by audio only.

          Whether or not people are in the guy’s personal space on the video is a quantifiable thing. There is only one person in his space in these videos. “No” is Olmstead. Or a troll.

      • Difdi

        Actually it was theft not robbery. For it to be robbery he would have had to attack her directly in some way or be armed with a dangerous weapon at the time. Since neither occurred, that makes it a theft not a robbery.

        • Christopher Swing

          Keith Appleby down in an earlier comment points out how it could be strongarm robbery.

          The police have initially charged him with theft, we’ll see what the prosecutor actually presses.

          As for us, we’re not police or prosecutors, so if it looks like a robbery or theft to us, we’re free to call it as such.

          Points for pedantry though.

    • Dennis Soper

      I was an SEIU steward on campus for a number of years. Whether or not people were obnoxious or rude to the professor, assault is an *automatic* termination offence.

      • Correctionbot

        I think that you mean alleged assault. That whole innocent until proven guilty idea still applies even in the face of video evidence.

    • Tired of the BS.

      “I would like to state that I’m not trying to generalize”

      Then you are accidentally generalizing all over the place in your post. It’s nice that you aren’t TRYING to, but you are nonetheless. That’s pretty much the same thing as saying “I’m not racist, but…” and then saying something racist. “I’m not trying to generalize, but I’ve anecdotally observed that all people X are description/quality Z. Every one of them.”

      Get bent.

  • TalkingWithYaleCohn

    Whatever predicated the encounter is wholly immaterial. Were any student to have engaged Mr. Olmsted in such a manner (grabbing personal property, shoving, cursing, threatening, etc,) I’ve no doubt they would have been expelled and probably arrested. Mr. Olmsted deserves no less a sanction.

  • Andrew Seng

    Actually, the students didn’t provoke the professor in anyway. I recorded the video at the top and was there for 30 minutes before this argument was sparked. Mr. Olmsted involved himself in the demonstration and expressed some wild opinions. The first thing I heard him say is that the entire Middle East should be nuked by America. He was incredibly insulting, especially to the students who couldn’t see that he was trying to play devil’s advocate. Whether this was the case, he took it too far by putting his hands on a student.

    • richarddowens

      what a silly man.

    • Sam Stites

      Andrew, can you contact Emerald reporter Samantha Matsumoto ( She’s doing a follow up and we’d greatly appreciate your account of the events. – Sam Stites, News Editor

    • B.J.

      Andrew, any chance you can post the full argument? The 30 minutes of dialogue you allude to above? It would help everyone to appreciate the issues involved, as well as the context to this terrible incident.

    • Hope Shepherd

      Did you get footage of him throwing his helmet down? Pushing the student who intervened was only one of at least three incidents of his overt aggression that I witnessed.

    • Jim Pitt Harris

      Since you were there, could you possibly tell me if the red mascot/character hanging around is a chili pepper? If not… what is it?

      • Tex

        Hahahaha…yeah, that was the ol’ drop o’ blood for donation’s sake.

        • Jim Pitt Harris

          Random! Thanks.

  • casey

    that group was an annoyance that day so I bet they started it

    • richarddowens

      yeah, probably not

  • Quackjobs!

    This is blown WAY out of proportion. Think people! Student activists groups are continuously harassing people (I know since I have been involved in many). With such a heated topic, you are bound to have someone react. So, this person happened to be a professor? This is why this is such a big deal. I would be just as upset if people half my age were ganging up on me. Where I come from, I was taught to respect my elders. You should of let him have his opinion and then watch him walk away. You can’t fix ignorance. At least one good thing came from this, the Daily Emerald finally has a news worthy story.

    • Christopher Swing

      Too bad he was more interested in a confrontation than walking away. And committing battery and robbery/theft. Or are “elders” given a free pass on committing crimes?

      • Quackjobs!

        There is no context here. Yes, he should be punished for his over the top actions, but as the public, we have no idea what set him off. My guess is that he was being harassed as well. What he did was wrong, but you also need to address the student group in question before everyone starts making assumptions of what really happened.

        • Raymond Voigt

          Maybe you don’t understand the concept of a university. Not only are students allowed to hold dissenting views, they are encouraged to study and explore things that may contradict their social constructs. Professors can certainly challenge those explorations to encourage students to find a deeper grounding for those beliefs.
          Getting grabby, pushing students, screaming in students faces, and stealing their phones isn’t good pedagogy. Get real.

        • Christopher Swing

          “Context” is irrelevant to this, as there is no possible “context” that would excuse James Olmsted’s criminal behavior. Who cares what, if anything, “set him off?” You don’t get to commit crimes because someone made you mad.

    • Raymond Voigt

      Seems he could have walked away at any time during the 30 minutes that you assert he was “ganged up on”. Did they follow him down the street? Did they picket his office? It looks more like he was pissed off that a large male kept him from bullying a smaller woman. And then he stole a phone that showed his battery, not fully understanding that two others were recording him as well. Olmstadt appears to be a weak and cowardly man.

  • Raymond Voigt

    What we see here on video is a battery and theft. Olmstadt is a successful attorney, so he should recognize what he’s done. The University should fire him for unprofessionalism and for his quite obvious and public misdemeanors. As well as his attempt to suppress free expression with his violent and illegal acts. Professor Olmstadt is not a naif and should understand that he is responsible for his actions. I would expect a man of his stature and reputation to resign and seek treatment for his anger issues.

    • Pew


      • Raymond Voigt

        Thx. Corrected

  • Godux

    This guy was so drunk

    • Raymond Voigt

      Personally, I’m thinking that he forgot his lithium and olanzapine yesterday. But then again, I confuse many angry conservatives with the mentally ill.

      • Bambi

        Please don’t denigrate and stigmatize mentally ill people by associating us with horrible behavior. Mental illness does not equal erratic and offensive behavior and it is incredibly hurtful to make that assumption.

        • B.J.

          ^I second this comment!

        • Raymond Voigt

          I live with someone who is being treated for bipolar depression, so don’t tell me about assumptions. I don’t consider people who are following their treatment for their behavioral disorders to be ill anymore than I consider a diabetic who is taking their insulin to be ill. This fellow, however, is clearly off his meds or desperately needs them

          • Anonymous

            Raymond, I agree with Bambi and B.J. You are not a psychiatrist, so your experience with a roommate who has Bipolar disorder only qualifies you to speak about the “mentally ill” as much as your qualification to speak about “all Conservatives” if you happen to have a single conservative friend. Overgeneralization leads to stigmatization, and if I was you I would not want to lose my credibility because I continue to fight for such a comment.

          • Raymond Voigt

            Hon, you’re anonymous. Credibility isn’t my problem.

          • Anonymous

            Straw man.

          • ehomer

            I agree, Raymond. I live with a bipolar & it is just factual to say that his behavior can be erratic. I was thinking this prof might be bipolar when I first saw this.

      • Ted Williams

        There is a huge difference between genuine conservatism and the wild opinions and behaviour of this man.

        • Raymond Voigt

          See “No True Scotsman” fallacy

      • eastcoastmoderate

        Personally, I think he just forgot to take a bong hit and didn’t mesh with the crowd well. That, or he knew they were all english or humanities majors attending school on financial aid who would never be able to pay it back and be subsidized by his tax dollars for the next 20 years. But then again, maybe the 15 people on the sidewalk were really changing the world and he was just being unrealistic.

    • @GoDux

      Wastey pants!

    • steveo

      That’s what I thought, either intoxicated or impaired somehow. I’m from FL and here he would have been arrested for disorderly intoxication, theft, and maybe even disorderly conduct.

      Judge will probably sentence him to anger management classes. That’ll be a hoot. Bring your Google glasses to the class.

  • guest

    Last time this kind of protest happened, they used cardboard Ak-47s and big green jackets right outside the amphitheater. What happened in these videos is inexcusable, but y’all were bound to provoke someone into respond to something. It’s just awful that it had to be a professor reacting in such a visceral way.

    • Difdi

      They were bound to provoke someone into using their words. When the professor decided to commit a criminal act, that was all on him.

  • Anotherstudent’s POV

    I wouldn’t say the Professor stole anything, perhaps confiscated it for the moment. Considering that the video was put on Youtube, it’s pretty apparent that the student got her phone back. Additionally, legally, I think the person recording the conversation must notify all of the other
    parties that the recording is taking place and the parties must consent to the
    recording. It seems like the Professor is more upset that he was being recorded without permission than anything else.

    • Christopher Swing

      Not in public, there is no requirement for consent. Period.

      Also, private citizens have no power to confiscate recording equipment, period. Just because the student eventually got the phone back doesn’t mean James Olmsted’s robbery/theft wasn’t a crime.

      • steveo

        This is correct. Now in all 50 states with the court decisions of ACLU vs. Alvarez, Glik vs. Cunliffe, and Sharp vs City of Baltimore the federal appellate courts have given the green light to open recording of video and audio in public without anyones permission. The govts all tried to take these cases to the SCOTUS but they never granted cert. because all the appellate courts are in agreement. Record away, its legal.

    • Raymond Voigt

      I suggest you go to a Target store electronics counter and take a phone away from the salesperson in a belligerent manner and stuff it into your back pocket. See how that plays with the local constabulary.

    • Christopher Swing

      “A spokesman with the UO Police Department told KVAL News Olmsted was
      arrested in front of the EMU Thursday afternoon and cited for theft and
      two counts of harassment. Police added that the incident is an ongoing
      investigation and that charges may be changed in the future.”

      Oops. Guess you were wrong.

    • Milos Obilic

      POV, you’re a complete idiot. Are you really a student here? If so, standards have slipped badly. There’s no such thing as “confiscating” someone else’s property “for the moment.” That’s theft, imbecile.

  • #Goducks

    I agree with the aforementioned comment by TalkingWithYaleCohn. Whatever sparked the initial confrontation in absolutely immaterial. The matter of the facts is that he touched a student, and as a direct result, deserves that appropriate disciplinary actions are taken against him. If the roles were switched, I guarantee that said student would be up for expulsion form the university.

  • Christopher Swing

    Looks like he’s being fired (which is the least that should happen.)


    From: Oregon Law Dean

    Date: Fri, Mar 15, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Subject: Statement from Oregon Law on Adjunct Instructor

    To: Faculty-Staff List , “” , Adjunct Faculty

    Dear Oregon Law School Community,

    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. 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. 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.

    Michael Moffitt

    Philip H. Knight Dean

    University of Oregon School of Law

    1221 University of Oregon

    Eugene OR 97403

  • Milos Obilic

    Olmsted is a typically hysterical right winger. What bothered me was the passivity of the students. Where I come from, somebody would have laid him out. But then I realized that if the students had fought, they’d lose. By their passivity, they win. I’m not sure I like that, but that’s how it is.

    • Srbija

      Ballin’ username!

  • Raphaelm

    I agree the theft and push was probably not wise, but the tall dude was definitely in the profs personal bubble in a threatening manner as well.

    • Nemo

      You mean when he stepped between Olmsted and the girl he was lunging at?

      • Raphaelm

        Maybe your right, but if I were him I would have just called the cops and have been done with it. Instead all of the participants stay at the scene and persist with whatever point they were trying to make to the irate crazy dude. Smart.

        • Christopher Swing

          Why should they let an “irate crazy dude” shut down their right to peaceably assemble and protest? Why should they give in to James Olmsted’s “Heckler’s Veto?”

  • guest

    It appears that after he put his glasses down, a woman outside the frame grabbed them. You can hear him say “give me back my glasses” as he lunged for something. Then everyone started yelling “you can’t touch her”. That’s when he spun around and took the phone.

    Not here to support either side. Am definitely curious about what happened before the start of these videos (and after they ended…).

  • CC

    I love how everyone is commenting on the argument and who is at fault, but no one is commenting on the reason for the protest. Is that not the reason for the protest to draw attention to their cause? That has been lost in the blame game here.

    • Christopher Swing

      Probably because Olmsted committed an obvious crime on camera.

  • ECA

    The Professor should loose his job and basically that should be the extent of it. I don’t think many of you understand the real world implications of putting someone in jail. Especially for something that should simply be embarrassing to him and loosing his job as a professor is more than enough.. This man weather racist or not, was clearly threatened in a manner that I don’t think you understand. You have multiple protestors surrounding him and you even have the one student who steps directly towards him. You take a person and throw them into a situation where they are surrounded by people on all sides and arguing with you and you will make a person feel threatened. While the man responded poorly, it is a natural response, flight or fight will kick in. The man ultimately hurt no one, he is in the process of being embarrassed, and then lets just all move on.

    • Christopher Swing

      You left off the part where Olmsted approached, instigated the confrontation, and kept harassing the protestors. He is in no way a victim here, and it’s ludicrous to even suggest that.

  • tre sneeki

    hella gangsta

  • Nemo

    Always stay calm at these things. Look at how the tall fellow (was that Cims Gillespie?) came through it without the slightest loss of dignity. And that was after being shoved, being called at least one obscene name and being challenged to a fight by an irate law professor.

  • Pew

    I’d like to hear the Students for Imperialism’s reaction…

  • Mark Kempen

    This guy almost makes me want to back medical marijuana! Forget the pushing, cussing, and grabbing phones. intellectually, it bothers me that this guy can teach and practice law. His thesis is that since Aztecs had slaves, American Latinos shouldn’t use nonviolent discourse to affect change in the 21st century US–and even beyond that. He says that since there’s no races of people who can’t be traced back to atrocities, that today’s minorities should either accept a lower status or turn to violence. In Eugene! Where you can’t back up a Prius without running over a skateboarding hippie! This is just a bizarre story.

    • Sunnysmom

      I think he’s not mentally well…it’s a little creepy actually. The content of his argument doesn’t speak as loudly as why someone with his education and profession would choose to behave this way in is bizarre for sure.

  • Proposed Tutorial Title

    ‘How to Blow-up a legal career in 5 Minutes’, by James Olmsted

  • Guest

    While what the professor did was inexcusable, a lot of you are completely misjudging the context of the entire situation. There were students “peacefully protesting” by obstructing the walkway thru the EMU and oppressively screaming at students in protest of Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinians. In addition, this was a University sponsored organization issuing the protest. This leads me to ask why my dollars are going to such backbreaking protest. Unfortunately, I also happened to be one of the students who was being obstructed and screamed at. I found this extremely intimidating. Bottom line, as a student, if I (and many of my peers) feel unsafe, than demonstrations like these should not be happening on this campus. Professor Olmsted’s hysterics completely overshadow what actually happened here.

    • Christopher Swing

      I hate to break this to you, but you don’t have any inherent right not to be annoyed.

  • Jim Pitt Harris

    Can someone please tell me what the red character in the background is? Is that a chili pepper? I hope so…

    • Answer

      A drop of blood. It’s like a mascot for the blood drive.

  • ChrisnGretchen Mosteller

    This is what happens when you get drunk on pseudo power. James, your life is about to take a nose dive.

  • NorthCascadian

    I have been researching this incident and several questions remain very unanswered. Who and what is this group that was protesting? It appears that one of the people who announced the group Students against Imperialism, Diana Salazar, is the co-director of the multi-cultural center at the U of O , she appears to be employed by the university and not a student. The other signer of the Students Against Imperialism was Cimmeron Gillespie, who apparently was running for student body president and is known by some as a super super senior… And what about this Olmsted character, nothing on his background suggests any sort of strong political positions. Could this thing have been a set up? Where are the interviews with the student protestors and other witnesses?

    • Christopher Swing

      “Who and what is this group that was protesting?” Answer: who cares? No matter who they were it wouldn’t have made Olmsted’s actions any less criminal.

      “And what about this Olmsted character, nothing on his background suggests any sort of strong political positions.” First public display or last, doesn’t matter. Also irrelevant.

      “Could this thing have been a set up?” For what possible purpose? Do you need a new tinfoil hat?

  • Karl Bonner

    The worst one was when he said “Shoot me!” to the student. I don’t agree with everything that Students Against Imperialism stand for – but the Prof. was clearly acting like a total buffoon and a not-too-closeted white supremacist.

  • Nope

    I hate hippies

  • TheHotdogvol .

    Obviously set up imho. The student provoked him. Total set up.Ignorance.