Who Defines What Is Racist?Students demand firing of Evergreen State professor. Police chief urges him to stay off campus for his safety. Supporters say he’s the one upholding principles of equity.By Scott Jaschik, May 30, 2017 209 COMMENTSIn the heated debates of campus politics these days, it is not unusual for some groups (on or off campus) to demand the firing of a faculty member. But the rancor at Evergreen State College over the last week stands out. There, a professor whom some students want fired was told by the campus police chief that, out of concern for his safety, he should stay off campus for a few days. He did, teaching a class nearby in Olympia, Wash., and is not sure when he can return to campus.The professor’s critics say he’s racist, and groups of students have been holding demonstrations — sometimes turning into marches across campus and impromptu searches for the professor. They have been chanting that racist professors must be fired. Bret Weinstein (right), a biology professor, is the main target and is the faculty member who moved his class off campus. …The debate over Weinstein has become particularly intense. He and his supporters say that he’s not a racist and is standing up for principles of equity. The president of Evergreen State, George Bridges, says Weinstein’s job is not in danger. But Weinstein says Bridges has not taken the kind of public stand that is required when a professor’s right to speak out is under attack. Weinstein’s student critics, meanwhile, say his public defense is shifting attention away from their grievances.Why is Weinstein so controversial?He has spoken out on two campus issues, in both cases taking positions he maintains were opposing racism.‘Day of Absence’ One involved a campus tradition called Day of Absence, which is based on a 1965 play by that name by Douglas Turner Ward. The play is about an imaginary Southern town in which all the black people disappear one day. The idea behind the play is that societies with deeply racist ideas in fact depend on the very people they subjugate. The play is in some sense the inspiration for events like this year’s national Day Without Immigrants.For many years at Evergreen State, minority students and faculty members have observed a Day of Absence in which they meet off campus to discuss campus issues and how to make the college more supportive of all students. Later a Day of Presence reunites various campus groups. Weinstein said he’s been aware of the tradition for some time, and never objected to it. But this year, organizers said that on the Day of Absence, they wanted white people to stay off campus. Weinstein opposed this shift, and he posted a message on a campus email list in which he objected to the proposal to ask white people to stay off campus.“There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the recent Women’s Day walkout), and a group encouraging another group to go away,” Weinstein wrote. “The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”Weinstein went on to say he would be on campus on the Day of Absence and would encourage a similar stance by white people being asked to stay away. People should “put phenotype aside,” he said. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.”That email is one of the reasons Weinstein is being called racist, with students saying his tone belittled the people behind the idea of having a Day of Absence without white people on campus. The other reason cited against Weinstein is that he has come out against a recommendation on faculty hiring by the college’s Equity and Inclusion Council. That recommendation, currently under consideration by college leaders, would require an “equity justification/explanation” for all faculty hires.In an interview, Weinstein said he believes that there are many things colleges can and should do to attract diverse candidates for faculty jobs. But he said the proposal at Evergreen State “subordinates all other characteristics of applicants to one thing.”He said that in the sciences, for example, the rationale for faculty positions is to teach science, not to promote equity or diversity. “The most important thing is that the person in front of the room knows something about the subject and has insight in teaching,” he said.Here’s the college president’s response:
George Bridges Statement in Response to Student DemandsDelivered in the Longhouse on Friday, May 26I’m George Bridges, I use he/him pronouns.I begin our time together today by acknowledging the indigenous people of the Medicine Creek Treaty, whose land was stolen and on which the college stands. I would like to acknowledge the Squaxin people who are the traditional custodians of this land and pay respect to elders past and present of the Squaxin Island Tribe. I extend that respect to other Native people present.In response to Native Student Alliance requests, we commit to opening every event with this acknowledgement. We also received requests from our Native students late yesterday. We discussed many issues they seek to have addressed. We are working on these requests, too. In our meeting, I committed that Native American students, staff, and faculty can sustainably collect, gather, and harvest the natural resources from any of The Evergreen State College’s lands for ceremonial purposes with legal impunity and asking no permission. Their additional requests include but are not limited to important items such as: funding and resources for the recruitment and retaining of Native students; paid positions to support the Native Student Alliance; a pre-orientation retreat for new and continuing Native students; funding for a Native American graduation; …
These will be the focus of much work and commitment in the weeks ahead.We are grateful to the courageous students who have voiced their concerns. …We have heard from students very clearly that they experience racism on campus that interferes with their education. We acknowledge that the status quo isn’t acceptable. We don’t know all the answers. We want to come together with you to learn from your experience, to build solutions, and to take action. We are grateful for this catalyst to expedite the work to which we are jointly committed.For a long time, we’ve been working on the concerns you’ve raised and acknowledge that our results have fallen short. We should have done more to engage students in our work on equity and inclusion. This week, you are inviting us into the struggle you have taken up. We share your goals and together we can reach them.Bridges then goes on to give in to the bullies on most of their demands and promise more spending for each of their identity groups.Have you ever noticed how most student protests these days have two fundamental points:
1) This campus is a racist hellhole.
2) Please don’t make us ever have to leave this campus! Please give us jobs! We demand to grow old and die on this campus![Comment at Unz.com]