Prof blames Weinstein for student hysteria at Evergreen State
A professor in Washington is blaming Bret Weinstein for the recent hysteria at Evergreen State College, accusing him of being “dismissive” toward student concerns.
“Bret Weinstein chose to voice his objection in an unfortunate form, sparking an already charged campus community into an explosion,” Whitman College professor Christopher Leise asserts in an op-ed for Inside Higher Education.
Weinstein found himself at the center of a national controversy earlier this year when students became aware of his response to a faculty-wide email announcing that Evergreen State’s annual “Day of Absence” had been changed so that white students and faculty would be asked to leave campus for a day of diversity programming, rather than black students and faculty absenting themselves from campus for the same reason.
In his reply, Weinstein asserted that there was “a huge difference” between the two approaches, calling the new program “an act of oppression in and of itself.” A mob of students then confronted him during one of his classes, eventually forcing him to flee campus after police officers told him they could no longer guarantee his safety.
Leise contends that because Weinstein “chose to castigate rather than investigate the students’ actions” and “came off as dismissive rather than unconvinced of an inchoate by legitimate proposal,” he caused students to “become defensive rather than inquisitive,” thereby provoking their over-the-top reactions.
“As a faculty member at a liberal arts college, Weinstein might have chosen not to chide but to question the student leadership encouraging the participation of white people in absenting themselves from the Evergreen community,” Leise writes, suggesting that Weinstein could instead have asked, “Who are the white people in our community?”
This question, Leise asserts, would have forced the campus community to define “white identity” and identify who enjoys the “specific privileges” it confers.
“Evergreen’s students initially acted bravely in standing up for a righteous cause. Tired of leaving diversity issues to ‘the other,’ they took them to white people,” Leise continues, though he concedes that some students took things “too far” by “personally insulting” the school’s president, George Bridges.
He nonetheless argues that Bridges faced an intractable situation after Weinstein “moved the issue past the Evergreen students’ specific proposal to generalizing broadly about exclusion,” saying this forced the administration to address “already-defined national causes and concerns” that restricted its ability to take meaningful action.
“That a group of Evergreen students might not yet be able to articulate the reality of American white identity speaks less to their ideals and their ambitions than it does to the fact that the conversation does not seem to have gotten where it needs to go,” Leise concludes. “Absent a will to instruct through reasonable questioning even—or especially—in fraught circumstances, I worry it rarely will.”
Neither Leise nor Weinstein responded to a request for comment from Campus Reform.
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