Anti-free speech demonstrators protesting in the name of “social justice” could cost The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington $3.8 million in legal payments.
In late May, fifty Evergreen students barraged long-time biology professor Bret Weinstein for refusing to comply with radical Left-wing activists’ calls for a Day of Absence for white faculty and students. The leftist protesters, convinced Weinstein is a white supremacist for daring to show up to work on their own racist segregation day, hurled vitriolic insults and demanded the college terminate the professor’s employment contract. Videos of Evergreen students verbally assailing the professor and school officials quickly went viral.
After being told by the college chief of police that he was “not safe” on campus, Weinstein wisely had his family live in hiding. In response, the beleaguered Weinstein has filed a $3.8 million tort claim against the college.
Weinstein himself is no card-carrying conservative, however. Weinstein, a self-professed liberal, has taught biology for fourteen years, is an outspoken Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter, and by all accounts is “the kind of teacher that students at one of the most left-wing colleges in the country would admire,” as the New York Times glowingly put it in its June 1 article, “When the Left Turns on Its Own.”
Shutting down conservatives has become de rigueur. But now anti-free-speech activists are increasingly turning their ire on free-thinking progressives. Liberals shouldn’t cede responsibility to defend free speech on college campuses to conservatives. After all, without free speech, what’s liberalism about?
Ironically, when Weinstein was a student he penned an October 6, 1987 opinion piece to the Daily Pennsylvanian decrying a fraternity for hiring strippers during a fraternity rush party as sexist and abhorrent. Weinstein chose to voice his opinions peacefully; his students chose wanton chaos. In an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal, Weinstein notes that the Evergreen faculty administration has done little to preserve order, free speech, and diversity of thought as the school has “slipped into madness”:
Equality of outcome is a discredited concept, failing on both logical and historical grounds, as anyone knows who has studied the misery of the 20th century.
[The college administration’s new race-based hiring plan would] shift the college “from a diversity agenda” to an “equity agenda” by, among other things, requiring an “equity justification” for every faculty hire.
This presented traditional independent academic minds with a choice: Accept the plan and let the intellectual descendants of Critical Race Theory dictate the bounds of permissible thought to the sciences and the rest of the college, or insist on discussing the plan’s shortcomings and be branded as racists. Most of my colleagues chose the former, and the protesters are in the process of articulating the terms. I dissented and ended up teaching in the park.
The Day of Absence that led to the incident stems from a tradition at Evergreen in which black students and faculty leave campus to display the importance of their roles at the school, following the theme of Douglas Turner Ward’s play, “Day of Absence.”
But in 2017, Reason reports, the tradition was altered: “a student group asked that their white peers and instructors take a ‘Day of Absence’ from campus life to ‘explore issues of race, equity, allyship, inclusion and privilege.’” A powerful tradition has been morphed into a campaign to snuff out free speech, and silence dissent. Unfortunately, Evergreen is not the only campus with such problems.
Freedom of speech on college campuses in America is under widespread attack. CRC has covered much of the campus anti-free speech epidemic at Claremont McKenna College, where student activists were disciplined appropriately.