Weinstein paints dismal picture of Evergreen State protests
The Evergreen State College Board of Trustees received a tongue lashing from embattled professor Bret Weinstein while discussing the recent unrest on campus.
The Board devoted a portion of its regularly-scheduled meeting Wednesday morning to “gaining a more full understanding of the events this past spring” (in the words of one Trustee), when students disrupted campus for several days to protest an email Weinstein had sent in which he criticized the school’s decision to ask white students and faculty to leave campus for a day of diversity programming.
"Do you know the college descended into literal anarchy?"
In previous years, black students and faculty members had voluntarily left campus for the “Day of Absence” event, but Weinstein pointed out that “encouraging another group to go away” is akin to “an act of oppression in and of itself.”
Many students took exception to the email, and responded by besieging Weinstein in his classroom until campus police advised that he leave campus for his own protection. Later, they held the school’s president hostage in his own office until he acceded to a list of demands.
“We want to develop a further understanding of this spring’s events,” Trustee Keith Kessler told the students, faculty, and alumni who had assembled for the meeting, which featured an open public comment period. “Our purpose is to focus on listening.”
The speakers offered conflicting assessments of the situation, with some defending the actions taken by the student protesters and others condemning the administration’s indulgence of that same behavior, but Weinstein directed his remarks specifically at the Board.
“Let me say I think you probably all know that I’ve tried to reach the Board privately so that I could discuss what I believe I know has taken place on this campus—not in a public forum—and that has come to nothing so I find myself talking to you here,” he told the Trustees.
“I believe that you are all well-intentioned,” he added, but said “I’m forced to concede that you must not fully understand what has happened, because if you did...you would be forced to act in the interest of Evergreen.”
Weinstein described the situation on campus during the protests as “literal anarchy,” asserting that “for days the campus was not under the control of the state; it was under the control of protesters.”
He also pointed out that “there was pressure not to report crimes to the police” even after administrators were “kidnapped and imprisoned” by the students.
“Lawless bands roamed the campus unimpeded; police were physically and intentionally blocked by protesters,” Weinstein informed the Trustees. “Police were cruelly, systematically, and personally taunted. They were humiliated and forced to stand down by the president.”
Other speakers, though, contended that such protests are simply part of the fabric of campus life at Evergreen State, and begged the Board for leniency.
“Do not spend any institutional resources, money, or time on punitive actions against student protesters, staff, and faculty,” implored one alumna. “Protests are to Evergreen what football is to WSU. It’s not going anywhere and protests are part of our fabric.”
According to the alumna, who cried throughout the duration of her remarks, “any discomfort, especially white discomfort, and any outside pressure...is only part of the necessary transformation of ourselves, our institution, and our nation.”
Faculty member Anne Fischel also sympathized with the protesters, declaring that “students take action like this when systems are not accessible to them...They do it out of need, out of pain, or out of anger.”
One current student who spoke at the meeting disagreed, however, saying he was “cringing during this whole time” over the administration’s “lack of cohesive immediate leadership” and general support for the protesters.
“You guys hired a marketing firm; I likened it to hiring a propaganda firm,” he remarked.
Another student complained about “the lack of viewpoint diversity” on campus, recalling that despite attending “several meetings” with the intention of expressing her views of the situation, “I’ve been told several times that I’m not allowed to speak because I’m white. If you offer any sort of alternative viewpoint, you’re the enemy.”
Faculty member Zoltan Grossman, conversely, argued that “the perspectives of students and faculty of color have not been listened to,” and that the protests were a predictable reaction to that.
Grossman also made a case against punishing the protesters, saying Evergreen has been targeted by the “far-right,” even receiving threats from “Nazis” that he believes further justified the students’ behavior.
“Fear makes people do things they regret later,” he observed. “Suspension is not going to change that.”