Internal emails at Evergreen State reveal climate of racial hostility

September 22, 2017 • 1:00 pm

An article by Jillian Kay Meolchior in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, “Inside the madness at Evergreen State” (behind a paywall, but I thank a kind reader for sending me the text), reveals that, contrary to the college’s claims, The Evergreen State College (TESC) had a toxic atmosphere of authoritarianism, so that accusations of racism were leveled on the thinnest of evidence—or no evidence at all.

The problems at TESC came to light when biology professor Bret Weinstein refused to leave campus last spring during the “Day of Departure”, as he was white and considered a demand to leave as an oppressive act. As you’ll know if you read this site, Weinstein had a history of anti-racist activism, so he was hardly someone to demonize. Yet demonized he was, to the point that he and Heather Heying, another biology professor and Weinstein’s spouse, were called racists, hounded, threatened, and eventually forced to leave the town of Olympia, Washington, for their own safety. Weinstein and Heather just settled with TESC for $500,000—only two years’ salary for the pair—and resigned from the college yesterday.

Meolchior managed to get hundreds of pages of internal TESC correspondence through the state’s public records act, and says this:

 The emails 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. The emails also reveal Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Heying were not the only ones concerned about a hostile and dangerous campus.

I’ve already commented about how dysfunctional and regressive TESC is, so I’ll put some of Ms. Meolchior’s findings in bullet points for the record—to make them available to those misguided souls who think that everything’s hunky dory at TESC. The bullet points are direct quotes from the WSJ piece. The bolding, though, is mine:

  • Consider a February exchange, in which Mr. Weinstein — a progressive who is skeptical of identity politics — faulted what he called Evergreen administrators’ “reckless, top-down reorganization around new structures and principles.” Within minutes, a student named Mike Penhallegon fired back an email denouncing Mr. Weinstein and his “racist colleagues.”
  • Another student, Steve Coffman, responded by asking for proof of racism within the science faculty. Mr. Coffman cited Christopher Hitchens’s variation of Occam’s razor: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Jacqueline McClenny, an office assistant for the First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services — a campus office that helped organize the Day of Absence — observed that because Hitchens’s razor is an “Englishman’s popularization of a Latin proverb,” it “would seem to itself be the product of at least two traditionally hierarchical, imperialist societies with an interest in disposing of inconvenient questions.”

That’s how insane people are acting there.

  • Media professor Naima Lowe [JAC: one of the big instigators of student unrest] urged one of Mr. Weinstein’s defenders to read about how calls for civility are “often used to silence and/or dismiss concerns about racism.” She also said that the “white people making changes in their white supremacist attitudes and behaviors” were those “who do not immediately balk and become defensive,” instead acknowledging that “white supremacy is literally ingrained in everything.” In other words, merely defending oneself against the accusation of “white supremacy” is evidence of guilt.

  • After a mob occupied the library, the college’s facilities engineer, Richard Davis, wrote in an email that he believed “the students are testing how much lawlessness will be tolerated,” and “they have not found a boundary yet.” He described how two students stalked him and screamed at him, adding that he was disturbed by the lack of police. “Many of us are stating that as long as the students are not violent, their behavior is acceptable,” Mr. Davis continued. “Apparently, violence in this context is bloodshed.” (Mr. Davis retired in June.)

  • The protests were “loud and at times intimidating,” wrote John Hurley, Evergreen’s vice president for finance and administration. “Unfortunately some members of our community were stopped as they tried to leave campus and that was scary and others felt barricaded in their office.”

JAC: I suspect that in the “new” version of TESC, the role of the campus police will be minimized. Most of the humanities students hate them anyway, and they weren’t called out by President George “Invertebrate” Bridges to quell disturbances. It’ll be a tough job to be a campus cop at TESC!

Finally, there’s this:

  • Nancy Koppelman, an American studies and humanities professor, 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.” Ms. Koppelman, who is 5-foot-1 [JAC: she appears to be white], said the students towered over her, and “the only thing they would accept was my obedience.” She reported that the encounter so unnerved her that she was left physically shaking.   Ms. Koppelman wrote that she was worried about “features of the current protest strategy that violate the social contract, and possibly the law.” Tolerating such tactics, she argued, “may create a working environment which is too hostile for some of us to continue our employment at the college.” Her email concluded: “I have not decided whether or how to share these thoughts more widely. If I do, I will very likely be tagged as ‘a racist’ by some of my colleagues and the students they teach.”

Clearly the students now think they’re running the place, and now that they’ve had their Pyrrhic victory by driving two great teachers away from the school, they’re going to feel more empowered. I can’t even imagine teaching there, much less being a student who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid. It’s a sad day when people like Professor Koppelman can’t even write about being intimidated by students without fear of being called a racist.

79 thoughts on “Internal emails at Evergreen State reveal climate of racial hostility

    1. “Taking over” somewhat implies there was resistance. Given the acceptance rate and the earlier statements by the president, I think the situation here is more like “We decided to sell the inmates the keys for $20,000/student/year ($40,00 out of state!).”

        1. That just means they’re renting the keys to the students instead of selling them.

          That quibble aside, it still seems to me that by keeping things going the way they are, the state of Washington is signaling that as long as the money keeps rolling in, educating the students is secondary. Which, to be fair, could be a criticism leveled at many University administrations…but not to this extent.

  1. It doesn’t appear that any of the protesters are actually interested in solving racism or even discussing ways of reducing it. They only want to persecute those they perceive as being racists, which seems to include anyone not protesting as loudly and violently as themselves.

    1. …”which seems to include anyone not protesting as loudly and violently as themselves.”

      It’s the new “don’t be the first one to stop clapping”.

  2. If YouTube is your thing there is a channel called ‘Benjamin A Boyce’ who discusses the Evergreen issue. He also interviewed Heying and Weinstein about three weeks ago.

  3. Completely unsurprising and perfectly in line with what could be observed online for a few years, e.g. Freethought Blogs. Same disregard for truth, same kafkatrapping, power-tripping, same kind of bullies. Also typical that one cannot even write about it, or do anything that is not total submission to the cult. At least the college will eventually pay for it.

    1. Well, since FTB is nowhere near as popular as it was, and PZ Myers is now regarded as a joke whose reputation lies in tatters, we can only hope Evergreen suffers from a similar collapse into the gutter.

    1. It is a state college so presumably it can be defunded by the state legislature if it doesn’t go bankrupt from declining enrollment and settling lawsuits. If I were an employee or student there, I would be looking for alternatives.

      1. Come now, Matt. They do good work. That said, one that I spoke with lamented at being the only force in the state denied the right to carry ‘long-guns’. Take from that what you will.

        1. I think the intent is to do good work. If people are feeling threatened and harassed and nothing is done, something is wrong. That 5′ 1″ woman feeling like that is ridiculous. Where were the campus police to send these students back to their dorm rooms? Their presence should have been pervasive enough that it never got that far in the first place. It seems like part of the problem also is that people higher up in the administration aren’t doing anything. In terms of the students taking over the inauguration of the last Campus Police Chief now not working there, there might be discipline issues that are prevalent in the generation(s) one or two behind me.

          1. Liz, it sounds like you haven’t read some of Jerry’s previous posts on this subject. I recommend them to you, be sure to watch the videos as well. The campus police were apparently told to stand down, IIRC.

  4. Clunk! is the sound of my mandible hitting the floor, after reading the second bullet point.

    OTOH, $125K per year is a very good salary for a teaching faculty member at an undergraduate university in a small city that doesn’t have a particularly high cost of living. Many people would resent academics for whining about or minimizing such a salary, and I think that’s perhaps justified, because most USAians will never make anything close to that as an annual salary, no matter how hard they work. It’s a matter of perspective that’s very often lost completely in academia.

      1. Never said that they were overpaid. I still think that $125K is a very good salary. Also, many people might disagree with the opinion that they “work hard” teaching at TESC. I don’t happen to think that media professor Naima Lowe “works hard,” for example. People who work hard usually don’t have time to stir things up for the sake of creating ridiculous drama.

        1. It’s always possible the science faculty were paid more than some other departments, or that the couple in question was tenured and some of the younger, newer faculty are not.

          1. I’m not sure that TESC has the same rank and tenure structure as do most other universities. From their faculty collective bargaining agreement:

            Members of the Faculty. The College seeks to avoid the hierarchical distinctions in
            faculty rank characterizing traditional institutions. While faculty members may
            carry different types of appointments as described in this Article, all faculty
            members shall be appointed to the rank of “Member of the Faculty.” In those
            cases where indication of a professional specialty is relevant, designation of
            particular discipline(s) can be made in parentheses (e.g., “Member of the Faculty
            (Biology)”).

          2. In the CBA, there’s also a table for faculty compensation, which is based on Experience Year:

            A faculty member’s experience year (“EY”) is based upon the number of
            years of post-baccalaureate experience relevant to the teaching or other
            duties for which she or he is employed.

            The salaries listed are for “Academic Year,” and so may represent 9-month salaries (I don’t know). Also, I can’t tell from the language in the CBA whether there are extra Experience Years awarded for a completed MS/MA, PhD, etc.

            1. But..but…but…that seems to show a non-PC lack of equality…

              😉

              Seems like they’re attempting a rather typical merit-based system, just in newspeak. Perhaps the faculty are less browbeaten with publish-or-perish, though.

      1. From OP above:

        Weinstein and Heather just settled with TESC for $500,000—only two years’ salary for the pair—and resigned from the college yesterday.

        I just made the assumption that Weinstein and Heying made approximately equal salaries, and so got $125K each for an annual salary.

        1. $125k is probably the value of their total compensation package including benefits and 401k contributions. An annual salary of around $60k sounds about right for faculty at a 4-year public college in a low cost-of-living area. It isn’t starvation wages, but isn’t that high considering their seniority and level of specialization.

  5. Maybe instead of studying and then being given exams students should just be given exams their first week.

    If they know as much as they think they do they’ll pass and they can just go home.

    If they don’t pass they can admit they still have much to learn and they can shut up until they know what they are talking about.

      1. Not so. There are exams, and faculty evaluations. Students lose their credits if they aren’t performing well. So while a student at a more traditional school might skate by with a low C, at TESC, they would lose credits they have paid for. Which is more harsh, in the view of some.

          1. The evaluations go in the permanent file, and are what they use when asked for a transcript by a future employer, graduate program, etc. The self-eval, from what I understand, can offer a rebuttal to the instructor eval (ie- maybe they lost a parent and their studies suffered, and they want to note that).

  6. The police chief recently resigned. She’d been on the job less than a year. Apparently, she’d been a target since she started. Here’s how one deputy (in testimony to state legislators) described her swearing in ceremony:

    Probably 20 or 30 students … decided that they were gonna get up in front and take over the entire event with noisemakers and drums and horns and a PA. And they actually went and took one of the microphones out of, I believe it was the vice president’s hand, just jerked it out of her hand. … They were cursing, saying all kinds of things. It just went on and on. It was complete chaos. It got to the point where, after about 15 minutes … President [George] Bridges decided that the ceremony wasn’t going to happen. I personally watched some of these students go up to Chief Brown, right up to her face, and call her all kinds of names, cursing at her. As well as, she had her young children with her, who were fearful of what’s going on. … We all cleared the area and let the students basically take over and have whatever they wanted. So the students pretty much ran the show.

    1. Additionally from the following article in The Olympian from August 2, 2017:

      http://www.theolympian.com/news/local/education/article164937057.html#storylink=cpy

      “In a statement provided to The Olympian Wednesday, Weinstein described Brown as a “model police chief.”

      “We could not have asked for better,” he wrote. “She was unfailingly professional, despite being hounded by protesters who clearly wished to lure Evergreen police into public confrontation.”

      Good luck to the school finding the right person for the job.

  7. While I’m glad Meolchior has revealed this information I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to anonymise it?

    I shouldn’t think Koppelman will be too happy with this given how vulnerable she felt already.

    1. PDM, as someone in the region, articles like this make it sound much, much worse than it is. I don’t doubt JAC is working off of the best information he has. That said, the narrative and timing was just too juicy for this one. TESC has always been an envelope pushing, progressive school. They’ve always had rowdy student activists. They also have a fabulous sciences program. Don’t let the loud and rowdy few dominate the conversation.

      1. This isn’t just about the students perpetrating this incredibly hostile campus where they’re allowed to intimidate and assault anyone they claim is racist, it’s about the administration that is completely happy to allow it. Multiple teachers hounded out of a job in just the last year. A head of campus police hounded out of the job. The President taken hostage in his office. Students roaming campus with baseball bats, stalking those that they heard might disagree with them. Campus police being told by the President not to stop protesters no matter what they do. Nobody punished (except those forced by the crazed students to leave).

        I don’t understand how you can portray this as some kind of narrative that is being twisted and blown out of proportion. What timing is “just too juicy?” The timing of this coming up is the time in which it has happened.

        Considering the conduct of not just students, but of the administration in allowing all of this to go on without repercussions, this is about the reputation and fitness of the school as a whole, and it should be viewed as such.

        1. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have just said “students perpetrating this incredibly hostile campus.” I forgot just how many dozens of teachers signed their letter about how horrible Weinstein and Heying were, how racist the campus was, and standing with the protesters (in spite of everything they did). And, of course, I can’t forget the handful of teachers, like Naima Lowe, who posted about how evil their white supremacist enemies on campus were, and actively encouraged and courted student protesters to be even more aggressive toward Weinstein, Heying, and anyone they felt didn’t agree with their cult.

          So it’s not just students and administration, as a huge part of the faculty has also been involved in it. And only one teacher actually stood up for Weinstein and Heying.

          1. I appreciate your perspective and input. The information I’ve gathered about the issue (in addition to national media, hours of Weinstien interviews, etc) paints a rather different picture than what you have there. What I’m sure we can agree on is the hope that the administration takes this opportunity to advance the conversation regarding free speech and student conduct in a productive way. From what I’ve heard about this week- they may just be doing that.

      2. I’m from the region too and there are a lot of people in the progressive arena around here who are eager to sweep all this under the rug*. The utter nonsense and dangerous stupidity of both the students and the administrators involved really ought NOT to be ignored. Their fascist tendencies -and there is no other way to characterize them- deserve to be called out; this is a public school. The public has skin in the game and we have a right to know what kind of shite we are paying for.

        *and not a few are enthusiastic character assassins of Drs Weinberg and Heying.

  8. A tip for WSJ articles – find the article on their Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/WSJ and you can click on the link to the article, and get the whole thing. They seem happy to allow anyone to do this, so it’s not even ‘sneaky’.

    1. Thanks. That worked. Weird that it did.

      The article doesn’t say much more than what PCCE wrote above. And as usual the comments are NOT worth reading.

  9. “Day of Departure”

    I’m quite sure the event in question was the Day of Absence/Day of Presence. Small thing, but people will be picking at everything on this topic, I suppose.

  10. Remarkable that some on the “skeptical left” are still defensive of Evergreen College, most notably dolts like Peter “Humanisticus” Ferguson and that SIO Podcast, who went down the regressive, post-modernist rabbit hole in a bid to defend Evergreen.

    The thing is, the far left keep on trying to gaslight liberals over the obvious problem of Neo-Marxism on college campuses, and in the online media. It f***ing infests everywhere.

    I remember the video from Evergreen, where student holler at the Dean to keep his hands down. He complies, only to be met with giggles from the students. It was about control and power – just as the Red Guards did in Mao’s China.

    1. The local humanist group that I had belonged to for close to 20 years went that way. I have nothing to do with them anymore.

    2. Agreed. This is now at the level of defending the indefensible.

      The far/intersectional/postmodernist Left has actually sunk to even more evil than I thought they would in regard to the Evergreen incident. I thought they would just ignore it, deflect, and try to sweep it under the rug (e.g. “How can you care about a dinky college in Washington when there are NAZIs marching in the streets of Charlottesville??!!) But instead, they have actually tried to go on a full on, internet-wide, disinformation assault, including creating a fake, defaming Facebook page in Weinstein’s name.

  11. Someone my wife knows, who works at a major university was recently reviewing internal postings of positions available.

    One of the web pages apparently had security settings wrong, and as she scrolled down she saw: “Requirements: minority female”

    She took a screenshot, though I suspect one must think long and hard about future employability before coming forward with that.

    1. This irks me because “female” is an adjective while “minority” can be either adjective or noun.

      “Female minority” is a construction that makes sense. “Minority female” is not.

  12. Jacqueline McClenny’s dismissal of Hitchens’s remark for being English and Roman is itself racist and bigoted, especially its assertion that anything produced by those cultures must be hierarchical, imperialist, and “interested in disposing of inconvenient questions.” The last bit is classic projection and hypocrisy, since it’s McClenny who’s doing the disposing. And yet she inadvertently provided proof of racism: her own.

  13. Concern over politeness hiding the genuine topic can be legitimate. But where does it apply here? [sigh]

    Once again people are using legitimate techniques and tools and making them look ridiciulous by using them wrongly.

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