Campus liberalism has become so violently reactionary that it now opposes the bedrock ideals it once fought for. There is no other conclusion to the absurdity currently playing out a Evergreen State College, a small liberal-arts school in Washington State.
The historically liberal campus has a novel tradition called the Day of Absence, in which students and faculty of color purposefully absented themselves from their normal schedule and instead met off campus to discuss how to make the college more supportive of all students. The idea, based on a Douglas Turner Ward play, is to leave “white students to consider the importance of their fellow community members by sensing the real loss of [people of color’s] presence.” It’s then followed by a Day of Presence, in which all of campus is invited to discuss how to foster a better environment.
This year, that tradition was changed significantly.
“This year, however, it was decided that on Day of Absence, white students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave the campus for the day’s activities,” according to the student newspaper. The decision was reached as a result of students who “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”
One liberal biology professor, Bret Weinstein, took issue with the change and sent a respectful email to his colleagues that argued a simple, seemingly non-controversial point: That race is a terrible way to delimit individual rights.
“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 (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the most recent Women’s Day walkout), and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away,” Weinstein wrote. “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.”
“I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation,” Weinstein continued. “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 College. These are decidedly not normal times.
Instead, a group of approximately 50 students confronted and shouted down Weinstein outside his classroom, then marched through campus, ultimately barricading themselves in the library. The protest grew over the next two days with hundreds of students marching to college president George Bridge’s office where they “promised to occupy the building until their demands were met.”
The situation became so intense that Professor Weinstein was told by local police that it is not safe for him to be on campus. He was forced to teach his classes at a local park. Somehow, in this alternate reality we now live in, president Bridges gave a speech expressing his “gratitude for the passion and courage” the mob displayed.
This was not passion. It was rage. This was not courage. It was cowardice in the face of debate. As Eliot Kaufman writes for National Review, the actions of the Evergreen students should sake those of us who cherish our nation’s higher education system to our core:
It does not want to reason. It wants to show its force, show what it can do to anyone who dares to dissent. It does not want to have to contend with Professor Weinstein’s basic point: “On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — should never be based on skin color.” Instead, the mob calls for the professor to resign or be fired. The mob wants him gone. It believes that people who disagree with it should not have a place in the university.
In any other context, this is known as intimidation. Campus radicals are trying to intimidate Professor Weinstein and every other professor with a conscience. Because if the mob can come for a man like him, an anti-racist who speaks the language of “consciousness” and “oppression” fluently — because it is his own — it can come for anyone.
And they will. The increasingly regressive tendencies of liberal’s on campus are being fostered, not countered. They are winning the debate because they’re not allowing the other side an opportunity to be heard.