The college reopened on Monday afternoon after being shut for three days by a threat of violence. Some professors are urging the college to pursue a disciplinary investigation against a biology professor who they say put students and faculty at risk.
For three days, faculty and students at The Evergreen State College have met in parks, cafes and even in professors’ homes, trying to finish up the school year while the campus was evacuated after a call from a man who said he planned to kill people there.
On Monday at 3 p.m., the college reopened after investigators determined the threat was not credible.
Evergreen is the latest college to be roiled by racial unrest and a fierce debate over whether students should be able to shut down professors who express ideas they find objectionable. The college made headlines from coast to coast, and became a lightning rod for critics in conservative media.
The threat came Thursday, when a man left a message on the Thurston County Communications nonemergency phone line. The campus, which has an enrollment of 4,000, was evacuated immediately.
No official connection has been made between the threat and a series of student protests charging that the college is a racist institution. In addition to the first threat, several faculty members and the college’s president, George Bridges, also say they have received profanity-laced emails and voicemails in the past week, some of them threatening. “I’ve never had this kind of flood of emails,” Bridges said. “It’s vile speech.”
He said faculty members of color were specifically targeted.
The college also experienced “the most stunning wave of social-media harassment you can possibly imagine,” said Sandra Kaiser, Evergreen’s vice president for college relations. Bridges and Kaiser were interviewed before The Seattle Times Editorial Board.
Because of social-media harassment, the college’s faculty directory was briefly taken offline.
In a “solidarity statement” posted Monday, 65 faculty members and 34 other staff members urged the college to pursue a disciplinary investigation against a biology professor, Bret Weinstein, who had challenged the Day of Absence, an annual, voluntary event in which students of color leave campus for one day for talks about diversity, sensitivity and related issues. In a twist this year, the program focusing on anti-racism work from a white — or majority culture — perspective was held off campus.
The faculty members said Weinstein’s actions “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.”
In March, Weinstein wrote an email, which became public, which objected to asking white students to leave campus, describing it as a “show of force, and an act of oppression.”
In May, a crowd of about 50 students confronted him outside his classroom and shouted him down, and Weinstein said Evergreen police later told him that it wasn’t safe for him to be on campus.
Weinstein penned an Op-Ed for The Wall Street Journal, and was interviewed on Fox News by political commentator Tucker Carlson.
On Monday, Bridges voiced support for Weinstein. “He has the right to say what he wants to say,” he said.
Still, Kaiser said some of the things Weinstein said on Fox “were not correct,” such as giving the impression that whites were required to leave campus, which was not true. “It was very distressful for everyone,” she said.
Weinstein could not be reached for comment.
Some professors said their students are too scared to come to campus, but faculty member Anne Fischel said she thought it was important to be on campus Tuesday.
The threat “feels like sabotage, sabotaging something we do that’s really important,” said Fischel, a media and community studies professor. “We need to be together, see each other, interact with each other on campus, and reaffirm what we do is of value.”
Trying to finish out the school year has been “a logistical nightmare, and our students are really scared,” said Sarah Eltantawi, a professor of comparative religion.
This is the last week of classes for the quarter. Next week, students will finish the quarter with evaluations, and commencement will take place June 16.
In addition to Evergreen’s own campus police force, Washington State Patrol officers have been patrolling campus, and “will remain as long as needed,” the college said in a news release.