The president of Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, says he is “grateful” for the “passion and courage” demonstrated by a mob of students that has taken over his campus and driven a professor to teach off campus due to concerns for his safety.
In a speech delivered May 26 responding to student demands, college President George S. Bridgessaid he is “grateful to the courageous students who have voiced their concerns” about discrimination on campus.
“Let me reiterate my gratitude for the passion and courage you have shown me and others,” Mr. Bridges said in his remarks, as reported by student newspaper The Cooper Point Journal. “I want every one of you to feel safe on this campus and be able to learn in a supportive environment free from discrimination or intimidation.”
The speech began: “I’m George Bridges, I use he/him pronouns.”
The president’s statement comes after a week of protests at the college, during which students have shouted down and cursed at faculty and administrators who show insufficient passion for social justice.
One professor targeted by protesters, Bret Weinstein, was told by campus police to hold his classes off of campus out of fear for his safety.
The biology professor wrote an email in March saying he would not participate in a no-whites “Day of Absence” at Evergreen.
“You may take this letter as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume I will be on campus during the Day of Absence,” Mr. Weinstein wrote in the email. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.”
That missive, and others he had written criticizing a proposal to increase the role of race in faculty hiring, later became public and prompted about 50 students to surround and berate Mr. Weinstein outside of his classroom May 23.
In an interview Friday on Fox News, Mr. Weinstein said students have threatened violence if their demands are not met.
New video also has surfaced showing the student protests at Evergreen last week. The footage depicts students shouting and cursing at Mr. Bridges at a May 23 meeting.
“Why is it all these black women and femmes doing all this emotional labor in this space?” one student shouts. “These white-a— faculty members need to be holding him and him and all these people accountable!”
Another student says: “I said, I’m tired of white people talking about what black and brown people need. You don’t know.”
Mr. Bridges tries to answer, “I’m just trying to respond—”
“Stop giggling and laughing every time we say something!” another student yells at the school president.
He tries to respond, “I am not giggling—I’m not laughing at you.”
“That’s how whiteness works!” another Evergreen student yells at Mr. Bridges, who is white. “Whiteness is the most violent f–ing system to ever breathe!”
That footage came at the end of a May 23 meeting between the administration and students. Much of the more damaging footage was not included in initial videos posted to social media by the students.
The video also appears to be the one students alleged was “stolen by white supremacists and edited to expose and ridicule the students and staff.” In their demands last week, students ordered it be “taken down by this administration by this Friday.”
In his address — delivered just three days after the meeting depicted in the video — Mr. Bridges submitted to most of the students’ demands.
First, he agreed to make the student conduct code a “living document that will adapt over time in order to serve evolving student needs.”
“Students will work on the code with staff over the summer, as well as work on other strategic initiatives,” he said. “Students will be paid for their labor.”
He also promised to hire a full-time affirmative action and equal opportunity officer to investigate claims of discrimination, and said outside investigators would be brought on if necessary.
In response to a third demand, Mr. Bridges said the administration would expand annual training for campus police to address “anti-black racism, de-escalation, minimizing use of force, serving trans and queer students, sexual assault response and responding to the access of special needs students with disabilities.”
Faculty member Grace Huerta then read a statement saying professors are committed to imposing “annual mandatory training for all faculty beginning in the fall of 2017” to cover “subjects including but not limited to institutional racism, and the needs of students of color, LGBTQIA students, undocumented students, victims of sexual assault, and students with disabilities.”
Mr. Bridges also promised, per the demands, to build a new equity center.
According to the school’s website, Evergreen already boasts four such centers: The Longhouse Education and Cultural Center, the First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services, the Trans & Queer Center and the Veterans Resources Center.
The president said students will have final say over design plans for the new center and will be paid to consult on its creation.
Still responding to the demands, Mr. Bridges promised to hire full-time coordinators to oversee the Trans & Queer Center and to support undocumented students.
He also told students that the administration is not considering any punitive measures in response to the demonstrations.
“As of today, we’re not contemplating any action associated with the demonstrations of the last two weeks, but we can’t control what complaints we might receive,” he said. “If we receive complaints, we’ll need to follow up on them.”
Mr. Bridges concluded his remarks by expressing his “gratitude” for the “passion and courage” demonstrated by the students.
“I welcome your questions,” he said. “I hope we can break bread together and continue the conversation informally.”
(Warning: Cursing in video.)
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