Exclusive: Weinstein’s lengthy struggle at Evergreen State
Professor Bret Weinstein’s standoff with Evergreen State College substantially predates the violent protests that made headlines in May 2017.
Beneath the fog of turbulent demonstrations that ravaged through the small, 4,300-student institution, was a veiled battle for free expression that dragged on for months, finally culminating in a $3.8 million claim that was filed against Evergreen in early July.
According to the documents filed with Weinstein's legal claim, the roots of alleged discrimination against the professor can be traced to as early as May of 2016. It was during that month that Evergreen formed the Equity and Inclusion Council, a new version of a 2008 committee that would ultimately oversee the college’s “Equity Fund” and maintain considerable influence over the hiring of new faculty.
During the same month, professors also voted on and revised a “Resolution on Faculty Development in Race and Equity,” a document that encouraged educators to “reflect on our learning about equity” and “integrate new learning about equity in our teaching practices.”
After several revisions, 70 faculty members voted in favor of the resolution and only two voted against. One of the dissenting voices was Bret Weinstein.
“Professor Bret Weinstein objected to the lack of discussion, and carefully acknowledged the danger of challenging the wisdom of such a resolution in the current climate,” Weinstein’s lawyers wrote in the factual narrative of the tort claim.
According to the document, the professor “went on to explain that he was afraid that speaking against an ‘equity’ resolution might result in others portraying him as a white person self-servingly acting to protect unearned privilege.”
Some prominent faculty members also allegedly insisted that there ought to be no discussion about the proposed resolution. The factual narrative notes that one of the professors advocating for limited discussion was activist educator Naima Lowe.
Weinstein’s attorneys are also careful to detail other instances of alleged political bias that were observed at the highest echelons of the administration. For example, the voluminous stack of evidence obtained by Campus Reform includes an email from college President George Bridges, who publicly lauded a disruptive Black Lives Matter protest in late last September.
“The concerns raised by our students are shared by many in our community. These concerns are far more important for Evergreen to consider and understand than what was planned for the remainder of yesterday’s program,” Bridges wrote in an email after the 2016 convocation ceremony was interrupted by the demonstrators.
To some, however, the repeated rhetorical support for progressive causes by the administration was apparently not satisfactory. In addition to several issue-specific emails that were sent to all faculty and staff, professor Lowe also published a series of controversial social media posts, some of which targeted white Americans.
“To my white friends: You’re on notice,” Lowe wrote in a Facebook post on November 9. “If you are not paying me cash money, working on an impeachment plan or burning a cop shop to the ground, we don’t have much to say to each other.”
Just days later, Lowe also suggested that “only appointed/approved whites can speak (and only when spoken to),” at an upcoming faculty meeting for the unveiling a new Equity Plan on campus.
Concerned about the lack of meaningful discussion and disappointed by the pressure to back the proposal, Weinstein decided to pen an email objecting to the plan.
“This gathering was announced as a forum, but it was not. ‘Forum' implies an exchange of ideas and observations. No opportunity was provided for general questions or comments,” he said of the meeting.
“I am concerned that we are becoming a college where such things can neither be said, nor heard, and I know that I am not alone in this sentiment,” he prophetically concluded.
Meanwhile, racial tensions on campus continued to worsen. According to the factual narrative, a “Kill All White People” graffiti appeared in a library bathroom while Lowe openly claimed that she wanted to travel back in time to kill the pilgrims.
Sensing the simmering anger within the college, Weinstein publically urged the institution to “address the climate of fear” on campus.
“Evergreen should be a community where any person may publicly evaluate, critique, or rebut any argument or proposal that has been advanced,” he contended. “At this moment, we are far from that state, and we are headed rapidly in the opposite direction.”
Weinstein’s lawyers argue that despite his observations, the administrators “did nothing to investigate whether such a ‘climate of fear’ and ‘retribution’ in fact existed, and took no steps to prevent or dissuade faculty and staff from creating such a climate.”
In the following two months, Weinstein made several documented attempts to spur more discussion about the new Equity Plan. He also raised concerns with controversial social media posts written by Lowe.
In one notable faculty meeting on January 18, the two professors directly clashed over the issue of faculty autonomy.
“If you think faculty autonomy is being targeted, you’re right,” Lowe allegedly told Weinstein, according to an exchange described by the factual narrative. “I am sick and tired of asking our students of color to articulate the experiences of racism that they have faced. We have an obligation to simply accept what they say.”
Following her remark, Lowe allegedly quipped that doing “anything else is Racism with a capital R,” while looking directly at Weinstein.
The voluminous archive of relevant evidence is full of subsequent exchanges concerning freedom of expression at Evergreen State College, including endless attacks on Weinstein and his position on the Equity Plan.
Meanwhile, Weinstein never stopped campaigning for more dialogue concerning the Equity Plan and the threats to free expression on campus.
“On March 1, 2017, Professor Weinstein again requested dialogue about the Equity Plan at
the faculty meeting later that day,” the narrative states. “Again, the Equity Council prohibited any discussion on the subject.”
However, nothing outraged Weinstein’s colleagues more than his objection to the planned Day of Absence program that asked white faculty, staff and students to spend a full day off-campus.
Following his criticism of the proposed policy that he thoroughly articulated in his letter on March 15, the professor of evolutionary biology was showered with condemnations from a sizable group of irate colleagues.
Others who also decided to criticize the plan, including Professor Emeritus Alan Nasser, were also targeted and humiliated in the public email exchange.
“Sir, [p]lease enjoy your retirement,” Professor Erica Hernandez-Scott wrote to Nasser. “You have had your chance to contribute to TESC. Stop embarrassing yourself. Do not think for one more second that you are adding value to this discussion. Don't confuse differing opinions and ideologies with simply being an asshole.”
The events that unfolded in the following two months are well documented by the numerous media outlets that covered the bewildering series of events at Evergreen.
On April 12, the college held its planned Day of Absence event on campus. On the morning of May 23, roughly 50 student protesters interrupted Weinstein’s class, allegedly barring police officers from assisting the professor.
Later the same day, protesters also demanded Weinstein’s resignation, and staged a massive demonstration in the school’s library that was attended by Weinstein, the president of the college and the chief of police who was instructed to come unarmed while wearing plain attire.
Then came additional outcries, repeated demands to fire Weinstein and the subsequent threats that shut down campus in early June. But everything began months prior.
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