Stu­dent up­roar at Ever­green a warn­ing sign

Spread of dis­cord seen

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARDSON

Founded as a “hippie school” with no grades or ma­jors, Ever­green State Col­lege may have been ripe for a stu­dent takeover — but aca­demics warn what has hap­pened in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton, could hap­pen any­where.

Classes re­sumed Mon­day after an anony­mous threat shut down the cam­pus for nearly three days.

“At Ever­green, cam­pus safety is our num­ber-one pri­or­ity,” Ever­green Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bridges said in a state­ment. “After con­sul­ta­tion with law en­force­ment today, we have de­ter­mined there is no ac­tive threat to cam­pus. We are ready to get back to the busi­ness of teach­ing and learn­ing.”

The dis­cord, how­ever, is far from over: More than 50 fac­ulty mem­bers penned an open let­ter over the week­end call­ing on the ad­min­is­tra­tion to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Bret

We­in­stein, blam­ing the cam­pus un­rest on his re­fusal to par­tic­i­pate in a no-whites day on cam­pus.

“We­in­stein has en­dan­gered fac­ulty, staff, and stu­dents, mak­ing them tar­gets of white su­prem­a­cist back­lash by pro­mul­gat­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion in pub­lic emails, on na­tional tele­vi­sion, in news out­lets, and on so­cial me­dia,” the let­ter read.

On May 23, Mr. We­in­stein’s class was in­ter­rupted by more than 50 stu­dents who took is­sue with an email he wrote ex­plain­ing his re­fusal re­fus­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the “Day of Ab­sence,” in which white stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff were asked to leave cam­pus for a day.

“You may take this let­ter as a for­mal protest of this year’s struc­ture, and you may as­sume I will be on cam­pus dur­ing the Day of Ab­sence,” Mr. We­in­stein wrote in the email. “On a col­lege cam­pus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.”

Video posted to so­cial me­dia showed the stu­dents shout­ing and curs­ing at Mr. We­in­stein, ac­cus­ing him of racism and call­ing for his res­ig­na­tion.

After they were con­fronted by cam­pus po­lice, the pro­test­ers bar­ri­caded them­selves in the school li­brary and is­sued de­mands of the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Cam­pus po­lice, fear­ing for Mr. We­in­stein’s safety, ad­vised him to teach off cam­pus.

Peter Wood, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars, said the strife at Ever­green is the log­i­cal con­clu­sion of the school’s found­ing.

“It was one of those ex­per­i­men­tal col­leges cre­ated in the late 1960s with a de­clared in­ten­tion of not hav­ing an or­ga­nized cur­ricu­lum in the usual sense: no cour­ses, no grad­ing, very few tests,” Mr. Wood said. “Putting all of that to­gether, there wasn’t much left for it to be other than an ex­ten­sion of so­cial re­sent­ment and pro­gres­sive ide­ol­ogy.”

But he said the line be­tween the Ever­greens of the world and more main­stream uni­ver­si­ties has be­gun to blur.

He pointed to a re­mark­ably sim­i­lar in­ci­dent at Yale Univer­sity in 2015, in which stu­dents shouted down so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Ni­cholas Chris­takis after he tried to de­fend an email sent by his wife, Erika Chris­takis, stand­ing up for the right to wear in­ap­pro­pri­ate Hal­loween cos­tumes.

Ear­lier this year, a mob of stu­dents at Mid­dle­bury Col­lege in­jured Al­li­son Stanger, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics, dur­ing a protest over a talk she agreed to mod­er­ate with so­cial sci­en­tist Charles Mur­ray.

Those in­ci­dents did not lead to the same level of chaos wit­nessed at Ever­green, but Mr. Wood said they are rooted in the same ide­ol­ogy.

“Ever­green is prob­a­bly in the cat­e­gory of the most rad­i­cal col­leges to be found in the United States and there­fore will­ing to take things to an even greater ex­treme than else­where,” Mr. Wood said. “But it’s only a mat­ter of de­grees, not of kind.

“There are prob­a­bly, at al­most any col­lege or univer­sity you could name, a con­tin­gent of fac­ulty mem­bers and stu­dents who are ev­ery bit as rad­i­cal­ized as the Ever­green stu­dents and fac­ulty are,” he said.

Although stu­dents re­sumed classes Mon­day, the pic­ture is far from rosy at Ever­green.

In re­sponse to the stu­dent protests, Wash­ing­ton state law­mak­ers have pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to re­voke Ever­green’s $24 mil­lion in an­nual pub­lic fund­ing. In a let­ter to the ad­min­is­tra­tion last week, Rep. Matt Man­weller called the Ever­green stu­dent body an em­bar­rass­ment.

“You are a tax­payer funded school and the tax­pay­ers ex­pect you to pro­vide an en­vi­ron­ment of ed­u­ca­tion not a dystopia of in­doc­tri­na­tion,” Mr. Man­weller wrote. “If your goal is to cre­ate a mod­ern-day ver­sion of a reed­u­ca­tion camp, then do it on your own dime.”

Shortly there­after, Ever­green’s board of trustees is­sued a state­ment un­der­scor­ing the school’s com­mit­ment to free speech.

“Any­one who pre­vents Ever­green from de­liv­er­ing a pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment for all stu­dents has, and will con­tinue to be held ac­count­able for their ac­tions and face ap­pro­pri­ate con­se­quences,” the board said in a state­ment.

But univer­sity Pres­i­dent Ge­orge S. Bridges pre­vi­ously promised not to pun­ish stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in the demon­stra­tions, dur­ing which stu­dents, among other things, bar­ri­caded them­selves within the li­brary and is­sued de­mands of the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

In a so­cial me­dia post Sun­day, Mr. We­in­stein in­di­cated that puni­tive mea­sures have al­ready been taken against him, say­ing his ac­cess to the on­line fac­ulty di­rec­tory had been cut off.

Ari Cohn, direc­tor of the In­di­vid­ual Rights De­fense Pro­gram at the Foun­da­tion for In­di­vid­ual Rights in Ed­u­ca­tion, said Ever­green can­not pun­ish Mr. We­in­stein for speech with which it dis­agrees.

“Fac­ulty mem­bers re­tain the First Amend­ment right to speak out on mat­ters of pub­lic con­cern, and that’s ex­actly what Bret We­in­stein did,” Mr. Cohn said. “He saw that stu­dents were en­gag­ing in their own pro­tected ex­pres­sion and of­fered a counter ar­gu­ment. To pun­ish a pro­fes­sor for en­gag­ing in that kind of speech would be highly in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.