“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,” Evergreen College professor Bret Weinstein wrote in an email to faculty. “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 itself.”
Weinstein’s comments were made in response to a change in the school’s traditional Day of Absence. In previous years, students and faculty of color “absented” themselves from campus and instead met off campus to discuss how to make the college more supportive of all students. This year, that tradition was changed such that white students, staff and faculty were invited to leave the campus for the day’s activities.
The implications of the change worried Weinstein, and so he penned what he must have assumed would be a non-controversial point: Race is a terrible way to delimit individual rights.
“I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation,” Weinstein wrote. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak—-or to be—must never be based on skin color.”
In normal times that opinion could be discussed, perhaps debated, and life would have just kept chugging along at Evergreen State. These are decidedly not normal times. Instead, mobs of students formed to shout down Weinstein. Students barricaded themselves in the library and occupied the offices of college administrators. Ultimately, Professor Weinstein was told that he could be not kept safe on campus and was forced to teach his classes at a nearby park, and later, the college was forced to shut down altogether due to security concerns.
New reporting from the Wall Street Journal’s Jillian Kay Melchior digs further into the troubling campus culture that almost broke the university.
The emails [I obtained through Washington state’s Public Records Act] show that some students and faculty were quick to levy accusations of racism with neither evidence nor consideration of the reputational harm they could cause,” Melchior reports. “The emails also reveal Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Heying were not the only ones concerned about a hostile and dangerous campus.”
Melchior’s reporting uncovers faculty such as Media professor Naima Lowe, who urged Weinstein defense’s to read about how calls for civility are “often used to silence and/or dismiss concerns about racism”” and that “white people making changes in their white supremacist attitudes and behaviors” were those “who do not immediately balk and become defensive,” but instead acknowledge that “white supremacy is literally ingrained in everything.”
Perhaps most troubling, Melchior, reports on the experience of American studies professor Nancy Koppelman who described being “followed by white students who yelled and cursed at me, accused me of not caring about black and brown bodies, and claimed that if I did care I would follow their orders.”
Koppelman wanted to take action, but her email concluded, “If I do, I will very likely be tagged as ‘a racist’ by some of my colleagues and the students they teach.”
Somehow a movement built upon the idea of creating “safe spaces” becomes militant at the thought of having to coexist alongside those with whom they disagree. Little surprise then that future students and parents are being forced to wonder whether Evergreen provides a safe place to learn, not just be fed propaganda. Jennifer Kabbany writes for The College Fix:
Administrators at The Evergreen State College have announced that the embattled school faces a massive $2.1 million budget shortfall due in part to a drop in enrollment, and the institution has already handed out some temporary layoff notices as officials grapple with balancing the books.
In an Aug. 28 memo to the campus community titled “Enrollment and Budget Update,” officials report that fall 2017-18 registration is down about 5 percent, from 3,922 students to 3,713. But the problem is nearly all of the students they lost are nonresidents, who traditionally pay a much higher tuition to attend, officials explained in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The College Fix. …
“This creates the need for significant budget cuts in the immediate future,” the memo states, adding that the university late last month already handed out temporary layoff notices to 17 facilities staff members.
This is the outcome that the left’s demand for ideological uniformity, parading around as political correctness, hath wrought. Young adults go to school to learn and prepare for their careers, not to be force-fed propaganda at threat of violence. If institutions like Evergreen College aren’t ready to fulfill that mission then they shouldn’t stand surprised when prospective students look elsewhere.