Evergreen Conflict Ends With Settlement and Sactions

As political tension continues to rise in the United States, the tensions between free speech, hate speech and personal safety are being tested across college campuses, which have traditionally been centers of radical ideas and discussions.

TAYLOR GUY • THE SPECTATOR
TAYLOR GUY • THE SPECTATOR

This month, Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein was at the subject of a large controversy that garnered national attention.

In the spring of 2017, it was announced via email that Evergreen’s Day of Absence program, designed for faculty, staff and students of color, would happen on campus this year, while the program for allies would take place off campus. In other words, white students and faculty were asked to participate in workshops off campus.

The following day, Weinstein replied to the email by saying, “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles, and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”

Weinstein continued to explain himself in the email, saying that he will formally protest the new structure by staying on campus on the Day of Absence. In the wake of these emails, conversations and demonstrations regarding race began to heat up on campus.

The tradition draws inspiration from Douglas Turner Ward’s play, “Day of Absence,” in which all of the African American community members in a small town collectively decide not to show up to town in order to demonstrate the vital role that they play in the community.

Evergreen’s Annual Day of Absence began in the 70s. Over the years, it began to grow as more students and faculty attended, eventually becoming a campus tradition that was an integral part of discussions of race, diversity, unity and equity on the campus.

This email came in the wake of what one Evergreen student, Jasmine Gilroy, described as an administration with a “general stagnancy around questions of equity, faltering support services and consistently ignoring students when they profess their needs, or claiming to listen but not following up with action.”

Weinstein’s open opposition to the event prompted a group of students to confront him during his class on May 23, 2017. During the heated conversation, campus police and the county sheriffs were called in order to protect Weinstein. Students formed a protective ring around the students confronting Weinstein, but the police forced themselves through.

The following day, students occupied the President’s office in order to conduct a meeting regarding student concerns and demands. University President George Green told campus police to “stand down” and listened to the student concerns.

In the following days, Weinstein exacerbated the controversy even further by appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, which brought national attention to the issue, including violent threats from white extremists.

In the wake of these events, Weinstein felt as if the administration had done little to protect him from violent threats, and he was eventually forced to teach his class in a public park.

As a result, Evergreen recently reached a $500,000 settlement with the now former professor, and the college sanctioned about 80 student protestors for breaking the student code of conduct. Penalties for these students ranged from written warnings to suspensions.

Gilroy, also the Editor in Chief of the student newspaper at Evergreen State College said that the settlement has been poorly framed. She said that the students were not protesting Bret Weinstein in particular, but rather expressing disapproval of the university administration’s response.

These events echo what occurred at Seattle University with the Matteo Ricci College Coalition two years ago. In both cases, the administration and university governance failed to address student concerns before they grew into demonstrations and direct actions.

Seattle U Political Science professor Erik Olsen said that these types of issues are often governance issues.

“The first thing you’ve got to do is make sure you have opportunities to listen to students,” Olsen said. “That’s why it’s a governance issue again, that’s why it always goes back to that.”

Though the issues with Weinstein have been resolved in court, issues surrounding race and gender are not. College campuses will continue to serve as flashpoints for these issues, and administrations will continue to work towards creating more diplomatic avenues for students to voice their concerns and be heard.

Lukas may be reached at
lkret@su-spectator.com.

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  • 1b1d

    “[Gilroy] said that the students were not protesting Bret Weinstein in particular, but rather expressing disapproval of the university administration’s response.” This statement contradicts filmed chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Bret Weinstein has got to go!” As well as calls for his personal resignation and insistence from students that he be fired, reprimanded and sanctioned. The students and their apologists have consistently proven unable to offer specific instances of oppression or failure on the part of the college, and continually point to “systemic” issues under the hazy definition of “not being listened to” and “not enough action being taken.” Due to the campus culture (which I’ve witnessed first hand) asking for proof of such complaints is frowned upon and will even win you accusations of racism and “complicity.”

  • Pdiddly Diddly

    What a biased piece of horse doo doo. This ‘journalist’ should be fired. So lets get the truth out, again. The police never forced themselves into anywhere. In fact, the mob of liberal students roamed the campus with baseball bats and other weapons looking for conservatives, kidnapped the faculty and held them hostage, refused to let white students talk during protests and then demanded their exams be cancelled because of the protests. Um, what? The police chief was told to come ‘unarmed’ and later resigned. The mob screamed all kinds of obscenities at Bret and the faculty. The president of the college should be fired and the school shutdown. Check out youtube videos of the incidents, they are everywhere. So Mr. ‘Journalist’, get your facts straight and speak the truth or shut up.

  • Moe Green

    1. You got the name of Evergreen’s President wrong. His name is George Bridges. Not George Green.
    2. The article contains multiple time-referencing errors. First, the controversy over Mr. Weinstein’s protests did not happen “this month.” The protests you mention happened last May. You also begin two consecutive paragraphs with “In the Spring of 2017…” and “The following day…” with no mention of any specific date.
    2. You’re using inappropriate abbreviations. Either write out “Seattle University” or use “SU.” “Seattle U” just looks slopply.
    3. The structure of parts of this article make little sense–particularly your explanations of the “Day of Absence.” Your two paragraph explanation of what the “Day of Absence” was should be cut and re-inserted above the paragraph that begins with “The following day…” Then those two paragraphs should be reversed. It makes no sense to place the paragraph that begins with “Evergreen’s Annual Day of Absence began…” after the paragraph that beggins with “The tradition draws inspiration from”
    4. This sentence is simply disturbing: “Weinstein exacerbated the controversy even further by appearing on
    Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, which brought national attention to the
    issue, including violent threats from white extremists.” You seem to be saying that Weinstein, by appearing on television to tell his story, is responsible for the shooting threat (and therefore should never have told his story at all). That’s a pretty astonishing position for a journalist to take. Shame on you.

    There are more errors. I could go on. But one thing is clear: your editor did not do his or her job properly. This article should never have been posted in such a state. If you don’t have an editor, I seriously recommend taking a class on writing or at least buying a copy of Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style.”

  • Amber Gorby

    Utter shit. Those students are not heroes, they’re bratty, badly-raised little assholes who have no idea what oppression actually is. They all should have been kicked out.

  • A.S.F.

    Evergreen State College appears to be preparing its graduates for fine futures in becoming tattoo artists who bronco-buck though life on a unicorn. Their stoner parents must be so proud.

  • KatieJoy

    Makes perfect sense to me…when you’re “not being listened to”, you grab a baseball bat, hold the president of your college hostage, and silence the white people (or any race you disagree with at that moment). This is how adults in the real world handle themselves, right?

  • Austin Hart

    Those students are cry bullies who used a facade of an argument to attempt social take over. This guy doesn’t mention the baseball bat wielding mob, the physical entrapment of professors, or the false charges of the transsexual person who harassed people online and then reacted to the negative response as if it were an attack. This is a spin piece with no heart, just an agenda.