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.