Over the last 72 hours, students have taken over a small liberal arts college in Washington state, and only one adult has tried to stop them.
Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, who filmed their exploits and posted the videos on social media, have occupied and barricaded the library, shouting down anyone who disagrees with them or shows insufficient passion for racial justice.
Biology professor Bret Weinstein was berated by dozens of students outside of his classroom Tuesday morning for refusing to participate in an event in which white people were invited to leave campus for a day. Now, he says police have told him to hold his classes off campus due to safety concerns.
Things are “out of control at Evergreen,” he said.
“Police told me protesters stopped cars yesterday, demanding information about occupants,” Mr. Weinstein told The Washington Times. “They believe I was being sought. It appears that the campus has been under the effective control of protesters since 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Police are on lockdown, hamstrung by the college administration. Students, staff and faculty are not safe.”
A spokesman for the Evergreen Department of Police Services confirmed the agency had been in contact with Mr. Weinstein. He said officers would be in touch with The Times, but three subsequent phone calls during business hours were not answered.
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A college spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Weinstein’s situation or any of the other activity on campus.
Evergreen student Blake Vincent said he was participating in the protests and was unaware of any searches for Mr. Weinstein’s whereabouts.
“As far as Bret being told not to hold classes on campus, I would love to know if that’s true,” said Mr. Vincent, who has been posting videos of the protests to his Facebook account, adding that the professor was “never physically threatened.”
Mr. Weinstein was confronted outside of his classroom Tuesday morning by dozens of students who demanded he apologize or resign for writing an allegedly racist email.
His email took issue with a “Day of Absence & Day of Presence” demonstration, for which white students, faculty and staff were asked to leave campus for one day.
He wrote: “On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — should never be based on skin color.”
A video of the confrontation, captured by Mr. Vincent, shows Mr. Weinstein attempting to reason with dozens of students who routinely shout him down, curse at him and demand his resignation.
When the professor tells the students he will listen to them if they listen to him, one student responds, “We don’t care what terms you want to speak on. This is not about you. We are not speaking on terms — on terms of white privilege. This is not a discussion. You have lost that one.”
Another protester asks the professor whether he believes “black students in sciences are targeted.”
After asking for a clarification, Mr. Weinstein says, “I do not believe that anybody on our faculty, with intent, specially targets students of color.”
That remark prompts shrieks of outrage.
Eric Weinstein, the professor’s brother, called the exchange ironic due to his brother’s “center-left” political views and staunch anti-racism.
“If you had asked me who is one of racism’s most powerful foes, I would have said Bret Weinstein,” Eric Weinstein told The Times. “There’s something sort of ‘Twilight Zone’ about one of the most thoughtful commentators on race, at one of the most progressive schools in the country, getting called a racist.”
After shouting at Mr. Weinstein for several minutes, according to Mr. Vincent’s recollection of events, the protesters marched out of the building and were met by campus police shortly thereafter.
“The students, fearful for their lives, began retreating towards the library and ultimately ended up in the Trans & Queer Center/Unity Lounge, trying to stay safe,” Mr. Vincent said in a Facebook post Tuesday. “The white students were then delegated to spread out throughout the library floor and watch for police potentially surrounding the building.”
In order to keep the police out, the students barricaded the entrances of the library and seamlessly turned the retreat into a political occupation. Demands followed.
At a meeting between the administration and students later that day, university President George S. Bridges said no students would be punished for their involvement in the demonstrations, even before an investigation into the matter.
“First and foremost, I want to state that there will be, as far as I know, no charges filed against any students involved in actions that occurred this morning,” Mr. Bridges said. “We will be conducting a major review, an investigation of all that occurred and will be reporting back to you, the campus community, about exactly what happened, why it happened and what we intend to do about the incident — not the incident, excuse me, the actions that were taken, both students, staff and faculty involved.”
On Wednesday, students crashed a faculty meeting that was planned to, among other things, honor professors nominated for emeritus status. Families of the honorees were in attendance.
A member of the faculty interrupted the proceedings shortly after they began and invited the students to the front of the room to share their stories.
“I’m sorry, but I really appreciate you faculty, but students are here right now,” the professor said. “Why do we need to — I mean, I appreciate celebrating our accolades and how much we’ve done for the college, but they’re here. Like, we need to listen to their voice. They are out there, their bodies are on the line, right?”
When they got to the front of the room, the students condemned the faculty for eating cake rather than supporting the library occupiers.
“Didn’t you educate us on how to do s—t like this?” one student said. “It was you that taught us that in class. Right, though? You taught us to go and change the world. Ain’t that what you all sell on that state college page? To when s—t is wrong that we should try to change it? So why you all in here eating cake and chewing?”
One professor asked, “Would it be more helpful if we stayed and talked with you, or more helpful if we go over to the library?”
The student said the latter, and everyone got up and left the room.
Mr. Bridges promised, per the demands, to institute a new student conduct code, to improve the quality of faculty evaluations and to enact an annual sensitivity training for all faculty, staff and police that emphasizes the eradication of anti-black racism.
Securing these programs was the original purpose of the protests, Mr. Vincent said. As for the confrontation with Mr. Weinstein: “We were trying to make an example out of him.”
Despite the fulfillment of the demands, Mr. Vincent said there’s no timetable for ending the demonstrations.
“In fact,” he said, “there have been and will be more walk-ins into different faculty’s classrooms.”
• Bradford Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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