“No one should be charged. That would be nuts.” Prof Simmons

2/15/2021 repost of the 2013 Snowpocalypse – a Duck PR scheme gone bad:

Members of the Campus Community:

On Friday, a short video was posted to YouTube depicting an incident in which several individuals inappropriately interfered with two vehicles attempting to drive through a snowball fight on our campus.

The UO Police Department responded to the situation quickly, and in concert with the Office of the Dean of Students and other campus officials began an immediate investigation of the incident. We have identified several of the individuals involved as UO students and are determining appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken in accordance with the university’s established policies and protocols. In cases where those involved are student-athletes, additional disciplinary action is being carried out by the Athletics Department.

Over the weekend, the UO Police Department, Dean of Students Paul Shang, and Coach Mark Helfrich spoke with the motorists seen in the video, an emeritus faculty member and a current staff member. Dean Shang issued a public statement on Saturday that read, in part:

“The University of Oregon takes the conduct of its students seriously. Consequences are clear for those whose actions reflect poorly upon the university or violate its standards for student behavior. However, until the facts of the snowball-throwing incident are sorted out, it would be premature to speculate about any potential outcomes in this case.”

Dean Shang’s full statement, as well as other statements regarding the university’s response to this incident, will be posted on the UO Communications website as they become available.

As president, I assure you that the University of Oregon will not stand for behavior that threatens the safety of our campus or violates our code of conduct. This unacceptable incident is not being taken lightly, and we continue to take swift, appropriate action to address the matter.


Michael Gottfredson, President

The ODE editorial page on the snowball fight and the administration’s reaction to it: Shame and embarrassment. Meanwhile the video has now reached 2M youtube downloads, and more than 400 comments. As President Gottfredson told the faculty Senate on Wednesday, you just can’t buy the kind of publicity that the Duck athletics program brings to UO.

The administration has cancelled all 8AM Monday exams. Official panic alert here.

  • Wondering what to do about conflicts with rescheduled times (which were not posted as of 7:40PM)? UO Policy is that the prof of the larger class has to deal with it – page to bottom here. But that policy is now replaced with this recommendation, from http://alerts.uoregon.edu/

    “If your rescheduled exam time is in conflict with another exam already scheduled, it is recommended that you attend the exam that was not moved and contact the faculty member of the rescheduled exam and ask to schedule the exam for another time. Faculty members whose exams have been rescheduled have been asked to be flexible when conflicts arise.‬”

  • Didn’t get an email and wondering where and when your exam now is? If your frostbitten gangrenous fingers can still use a trackpad, go to duckweb, faculty menu, class schedule information, select a term, then Fall 2013, then your course, then look at the very bottom for the new time and place.

Update: Julliane Parker has the interview in the ODE with Professor Simmons, who is a total mensch about the entire incident, and does the UO faculty and his profession proud:

“I have confidence that the reaction of the university given what has happened will be proportional,” Simmons said. “It will consider these young people and their futures and will also, I hope, suggest to them that they need to rethink behavior like that.” …

 “People were cheering when snow was thrown into my car,” Simmons said. “I don’t think people do that except under some sort of psychological mechanism that comes with people feeling they have permission because other people are doing it, and to act in a way they maybe wouldn’t act individually.”

Duck football Snowpocalypse. My guess is this all started when some Duck Strategic Communications sub-director flack decided to exploit the snow for PR, by unleashing the football players from their indentured servitude in the new $140M “Hatfield-Downing Football Operations Center” for a few moments of fun. Or was it just coincidence that the cameras were rolling, and it was heavily hyped in the national press?

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 11.41.36 PM

Before long, the Duck athletes were using their twitter feeds – apparently closely monitored by their athletics overseers – to challenge regular UO students to a fun snowball fight. Just the sort of camaraderie that might reestablish some connection between UO athletics and the students who subsidize the salaries of Matt Helfrich and Rob Mullens? I’ve heard worse PR ideas – like “we are the University of Nike” – but this one went bad even more quickly:

Now UO’s Dean of Students Paul Shang, has had to issue an apology:

Paul Shang, University of Oregon dean of students, issued the following statement regarding a Dec. 6 incident on campus:

The University of Oregon Police Department is investigating an incident, captured on video, in which a passing vehicle was the target of snowballs thrown by young people in an area on the UO campus. Police hope to determine the identities of those who were throwing snowballs, whether they are UO students and whether their actions constitute a criminal act.

A criminal act? Sure, though what kid hasn’t done worse? The professor seems to handle it exactly right, considering the provocation and intimidation. He gets out of his car, and tries to get them to talk. Presumably so he can explain to them what it means to be a bully and a jerk. And the Oregonian is now reporting it was Art History Professor Sherwin Simmons:

“It was a snowball fight,” Simmons, who does not plan to press charges, told Canzano. “The students shouldn’t involve people who aren’t part of it, but this is not high crimes, not an assault, not even a misdemeanor. No one should be charged. That would be nuts.”

UO email alert, December 2013:

Crews are working diligently to reopen campus for regular operations on Monday morning; please check the UO Alerts blog for updates.

Due to extreme cold conditions forecast for the next 24 to 48 hours, students and others are urged to dress appropriately and limit their exposure to the cold. Frost bite can occur in less than 30 minutes, and hypothermia can lead to disorientation and death.

But show up for that Monday 8AM final! Update: Don’t show up – the administration has cancelled all 8AM Monday exams. Official panic alert here.

As French resistance fighter and mountaineer Maurice Herzog wrote on his return from the first ascent of Annapurna in June 1950, where he lost his fingers and toes to frostbite, “There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men”:

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34 Responses to “No one should be charged. That would be nuts.” Prof Simmons

  1. Faculty4Justice says:

    UO students assault retired faculty with snowballs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7W_MsOA0K4

  2. Publius says:

    I don’t think this is amusing at all. If this had happened to one of my family members, I would be enraged. Can you imagine them treating the president of the university this way? Of course not. Then why is it all right to continue to throw stuff at some random motorist? Where was campus security when this was going on?

    Are you going to tell me that the students in this video, already identified as athletes, cannot be identified? Is the adm going to make a statement about this, since once again the U of O is the laughingstock of the on-line community?

  3. Davy Crockett says:

    Paul Shang:

    “The University of Oregon takes the conduct of its students seriously. Consequences are clear for those whose actions reflect poorly upon the university or violate its standards for student behavior. However, until the facts of the snowball-­throwing incident are sorted out, it would be premature to speculate about any potential outcomes in this case.”


    “The identify of the football players won’t be sorted out until after the UO administrators get back from their Alamo Bowl junkets.”

  4. thedude says:

    I stopped by the office that day, with my family in tow (had a meeting, they had a doctors appointment nearby). We were likely only about 20 minutes away. I like to think that wouldn’t have thrown snowballs at a 1, 4 , and 6 year old, but given they’ll throw them at someone who’s about 70….who knows.

    I think started in fun but got out of hand. Throwing anything at cars is dangerous. Throwing snowballs at people who aren’t in the fight is mean, and cowardly (everyone who through them would only do so from distance and didn’t apologize.

    With social/viral media, and its better headed off early with an apology, rather than the normal standard of waiting until it passes over.

  5. Publius says:

    Two recent items:

    1. Two 21-year-old James Madison University students were charged Saturday with a felony for throwing missiles at an occupied vehicle after they allegedly threw snowballs at a city plow and an unmarked police car.

    2. The Waterloo Police Department reports the warrant arrest of Christopher G. Ludwig, 17 of 79 Stark Street Waterloo, NY for Harassment in the second degree and for a violation of the Village of Waterloo Municipal Code.

    The arrest is a result of a complaint where it is alleged that Ludwig did throw a snow ball, striking another person which did cause pain and redness to the victim’s leg.

  6. The President says:

    Yesterday, December 7th – a date which will live in infamy – the faculty of the University of Oregon was suddenly and deliberately attacked by forces of the Duck Athletic Department …

  7. uomatters says:

    “The UO faculty was at peace with that empire, and, at the solicitation of the Ducks, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the athletic budget.”

  8. shari powell says:

    I know someone in one of the cars (not the professor) She was alone and it was scary and stressful to have a group of large men throwing snow, dumping rubbermaid containers and blocking the road. You may think its just a cute prank, but it was bigger than that and not ok. They should get some punishment. Crowdthink and mob mentality doesn’t make it right.

    • uomatters says:

      I don’t think it was a cute prank. It was outrageous. I would have been terrified. I am impressed by how Prof. Simmons handled it – during the attack and after. And I agree that the students need to be punished – by the university, not by the football coach.

      When I was a high school student the athletes in my English class ganged up on the teacher and pummeled him – in class – with snowballs. It was devastating to him – he thought we respected him. Actually we did, but we were a gang of rude little shits. He left teaching the next year. I threw snowballs and laughed with the rest of the students.

      We were never punished. He was too embarrassed to tell the headmaster. But I still feel ashamed whenever I see a snowball fight.

      • curious says:

        I get your point and yes, high schoolers and college kids are just that–kids. Sometimes those kids make bad mistakes.

        But do you really think your English teacher quit because of a supposedly ‘disrespectful’ snowball fight? Or could it have been that you were shits all year long? Maybe teaching high school was beyond him. Who knows.

  9. Andy Stahl says:

    Herzog’s Annapurna — best mountaineering book ever. The student assailants should be required to read. Might be the best book they read all year. And it would teach them what real courage and guts are all about — not the faux glory of the gridiron.

    • dog says:

      Sorry to miss this the first time around

      Yes, agreed on Annapurna – I read it when I was 12
      years old.

      However, I think the story of Ernest Shackleton is equal to that of Herzog

  10. lasttoknow says:

    My exam had been scheduled for tomorrow at 8 AM. The announcement that went out at 5:30 PM said that they would notify us later tonight about when our exams were being rescheduled to.

    Starting around 5:40 PM, I began to get emails from students saying that Duckweb was showing a new time for our exam tomorrow afternoon. (Who knew that many students check Duckweb so regularly?)

    As of 8 PM, I still have heard nothing from the university. Is the new time Duckweb our rescheduled time? Is it a glitch? Are they planning on telling faculty anything? Some of us might have conflicts, need to rearrange child care, etc. I realize the weather is pretty unusual, but this all feels pretty sloppy and last-minute.

    • uomatters says:

      If your frostbitten gangrenous fingers can still use a trackpad, go to duckweb, faculty menu, class schedule information, select a term, then Fall 2013, then your course, then look at the very bottom for the new time and place.

  11. Provost Search Commmittee says:

    Sherwin for Provost!

  12. be scared and outraged about this .. says:

    .. the UO Police, where the hell were they? Glad to see the ODE editorial call them out.

    There has been plenty of attention directed to student behavior, but far too little directed at adults who are paid for securing the campus. The ‘official’ snowball fight had happened a couple hours previous to the car related events and yet no security personnel followed this crowd to make sure it didn’t turn ugly? Are they seriously this incompetent? And now they carry guns.

  13. Super Sarcastic says:

    Isn’t it comforting to know the massive exposure on Reddit had much, much more motivational power on the administration then any faculty committee/senate meeting could ever accomplish?

  14. Snowball says:


    “We never should have engaged innocent people and I deeply regret my actions and will accept the consequences.”

    You should have gone after guilty people instead. You were right next to Johnson Hall, for God’s sake.

  15. Weasel says:

    So when is Dean Wormer going to weigh in on this? Kids throwing snowballs at adults simply has no place in today’s complex modern society!

  16. Cheyney Ryan says:

    Am I the only person who thinks suspending this player from a bowl game is excessive?

    I don’t follow Duck football anymore, so I don’t know anything about the player concerned. But my son-in-law played in the NFL and has told me that exposure in bowl games can be crucial to a player’s future. I guess it’s rather like giving a keynote at your major professional society. If so, it strikes me that, while some punishment is merited, this is too much.

    • anonymous says:

      I don’t think it’s excessive at all. What if the professor had had a heart attack from this attack?

      When I watched the video I was shocked at how evil the actions appeared…intimidating and violent. Snowballs were thrown with a lot of force, not just lobbed. If it had been me I would have been absolutely terrified. There was no justification for attacking some random guy, whether he turns out to be a mensch of a professor or not.

      Duck football players are excessively privileged while they are here, and should live up to normal standards of decency at the least. Who the hell thinks throwing snow into a stranger’s car is decent? What if the door had opened and it had been someone disabled driving? What would they have done if a young woman got out? How about if they had attacked someone who happened to be carrying a gun and felt his life was threatened? That scene could have turned even uglier. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” seems apt here. I note that a couple other football players were trying to stop these events…put those men on the field to play at this “keynote”.

      • candy says:

        OMG. Now you have me worried. Run! Hide!! It’s not safe to be on campus anymore. What if … if … Harbaugh had been in the car?

        • uomatters says:

          I’d have run faster than Sherwin, but in the opposite direction – away from the athletes!

  17. uomatters says:

    It seems you’re the only one, Cheney!

  18. Old Grey Mare says:

    I agree with Cheney.
    Why not put the perpetrators to shoveling sidewalks, starting with the professors’?

    • where's the cleaner? says:

      Sure, and then when a professor has a heart attack with snow shovel in hand, the UO pr machine can *really* crank it into high gear! I can see it now: “Community service gone wrong: UO faculty member dies in heroic attempt to teach students about respectful behavior”. ;)

      The suspension serves another purpose, hand delivered to a coach in the midst of considerable criticism that he is soft, too inexperienced and doesn’t control his team well. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the player transfer before next season.

  19. Old Grey Mare says:

    You missed the apostrophe. “Starting with the professors'” means “starting with the sidewalks of the professors.”

    • oops! says:

      So I did. Still, what you propose is logical and normal … if that was what this was about.

  20. Hen says:

    I seen a lot of sidewalk shoveling going on around campus today. Perhaps the perpetrators have been put to work.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Suspended from the blowl game — a slap on the wrist. The perps should be required to shovel snow and ice around campus, at
    Prof Simmon’s home, clean off his car’s windshield and warm it
    up every morning for him!

  22. UOCM says:

    $20 bucks says a professor gets hit by a snow ball again.

  23. Coach Vernon Dozier says:

    Pharoh Brown, one of the snowball-throwing football players who was suspended for the bowl game … is now the starting tight end for the Houston Texans. Salary last season was $705,888. I believe he’s the guy in the gray hoodie.