Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein, whose stand against an equity event attracted national attention, plans to sue the college for $3.85 million for damages.
Bret Weinstein, the Evergreen State College professor whose stand against an equity event at the Olympia school attracted national attention, plans to sue the college for $3.85 million.
Weinstein’s attorney, Joe Shaeffer of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless, has filed a tort claim with the state Department of Enterprise Services’ Office of Risk Management. That’s a prelude to suing the college.
Weinstein was a vocal critic of a college event that asked white students to leave campus for a day as part of an activity called Day of Presence/Day of Absence.
A group of students confronted Weinstein and called him a racist for his opposition to the voluntary event, and a video of the incident went viral. Later, protesters took over the administration building, and Evergreen was criticized by pundits on the left and right for allowing students to shut down speech they didn’t like.
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For some, the biology professor became a hero for standing up to what they considered intolerant, politically correct millennials quashing free speech on college campuses. But others on campus said Weinstein misled outsiders about what was going on. About 200 white students left campus voluntarily as part of the Day of Absence event in April.
Weinstein discussed the issue on Fox News with commentator Tucker Carlson the following month, and the college’s president, George Bridges, has said Weinstein left viewers with the impression that students were forced to leave.
But Weinstein has defended his statements, saying the event was coercive.
Weinstein and his wife, Heather Heying, who also is a professor at Evergreen, are both claiming damages totaling $3.85 million. In an interview at the time, Weinstein said he feared for his safety after the protests, and held his classes off campus.
In a letter outlining the case, Shaeffer wrote that the college is liable for subjecting Weinstein and Heying to “extraordinary events and failing to protect them as targets for their protected activity.” Weinstein was harassed by faculty and students, according to the letter, “leaving the harassers in charge of the workplace and Professor Weinstein on the run.”
College officials declined to comment on the litigation, or say whether Weinstein or Heying would be teaching this fall. At the time, they emphasized that the Day of Absence event had been held at the college for a number of years without objections, although this year was the first time organizers had asked white students to leave the campus. In the past, students of color left.
Shaeffer, in contrast, described the Day of Absence as illegal discrimination in violation of state law because it divided people by race, and said that it led to “strong objections, racial divisiveness, confusion and anger, vituperative attacks among colleagues, and ugly retaliation against those who objected … the whole enterprise and the events leading up to it created an illegal racially hostile work environment, and its aftermath to a retaliatory one.”
He said it is “legally irrelevant that The College implemented this plan (the Day of Absence) to achieve positive goals.”
In early June, shortly after Evergreen made national headlines, the college was shut down for several days after an anonymous phone caller said he planned to kill people at the college. Robert Kerekes Jr., 53, of New Jersey, was arrested earlier this month and charged with making terroristic threats, criminal coercion and causing false public alarm.