Speaking of Heads Exploding. An update on Bret Weinstein and the Evergreen scandal. Unreal. Professor Naima Lowe is mentioned in the article. If you want to see footage of some IP extremism, you can find footage of her on Youtube screaming profanities at her colleagues, and also preaching Critical Race Theory and “all whites are racists.” I’m sure she’s otherwise a really nice lady.
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Biology professor Bret Weinstein has settled his lawsuit against Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. Mr. Weinstein became a pariah last spring when he criticized an officially sanctioned “Day of Absence” during which white people were asked to stay away from campus. He and his wife, anthropology professor Heather Heying, alleged that Evergreen “has permitted, cultivated, and perpetuated a racially hostile and retaliatory work environment.” They claimed administrators failed to protect them from “repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence.”
Last week the university announced it would pay $500,000 to settle the couple’s complaint. Evergreen said in a statement that the college “strongly rejects” the lawsuit’s allegations, denies the Day of Absence was discriminatory, and asserts: “The college took reasonable and appropriate steps to engage with protesters, de-escalate conflict, and keep the campus safe.”
A different story emerges from hundreds of pages of Evergreen correspondence, which I obtained through Washington state’s Public Records Act. The emails show that some students and faculty were quick to levy accusations of racism with neither evidence nor consideration of the reputational harm they could cause. The emails also reveal Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Heying were not the only ones concerned about a hostile and dangerous campus.
Consider a February exchange, in which Mr. Weinstein—a progressive who is skeptical of identity politics—faulted what he called Evergreen administrators’ “reckless, top-down reorganization around new structures and principles.”
Within minutes, a student named Mike Penhallegon fired back an email denouncing Mr. Weinstein and his “racist colleagues.”
Another student, Steve Coffman, responded by asking for proof of racism within the science faculty. Mr. Coffman cited Christopher Hitchens’s variation of Occam’s razor: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
Jacqueline McClenny, an office assistant for the First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services—a campus office that helped organize the Day of Absence—observed that because Hitchens’s razor is an “Englishman’s popularization of a Latin proverb,” it “would seem to itself be the product of at least two traditionally hierarchical, imperialist societies with an interest in disposing of inconvenient questions.”
Media professor Naima Lowe urged one of Mr. Weinstein’s defenders to read about how calls for civility are “often used to silence and/or dismiss concerns about racism.” She also said that the “white people making changes in their white supremacist attitudes and behaviors” were those “who do not immediately balk and become defensive,” instead acknowledging that “white supremacy is literally ingrained in everything.” In other words, merely defending oneself against the accusation of “white supremacy” is evidence of guilt.
The implications of such a mind-set became clear later last spring, when hundreds of students protested Mr. Weinstein’s opposition to the Day of Absence. To them, the existence of dissent was sufficient to prove the college condoned racism. Mr. Weinstein was not their only target.
After a mob occupied the library, the college’s facilities engineer, Richard Davis, wrote in an email that he believed “the students are testing how much lawlessness will be tolerated,” and “they have not found a boundary yet.” He described how two students stalked him and screamed at him, adding that he was disturbed by the lack of police. “Many of us are stating that as long as the students are not violent, their behavior is acceptable,” Mr. Davis continued. “Apparently, violence in this context is bloodshed.” (Mr. Davis retired in June.)
The protests were “loud and at times intimidating,” wrote John Hurley, Evergreen’s vice president for finance and administration. “Unfortunately some members of our community were stopped as they tried to leave campus and that was scary and others felt barricaded in their office.”
Nancy Koppelman, an American studies and humanities professor, described being “followed by white students who yelled and cursed at me, accused me of not caring about black and brown bodies, and claimed that if I did care I would follow their orders.” Ms. Koppelman, who is 5-foot-1, said the students towered over her, and “the only thing they would accept was my obedience.” She reported that the encounter so unnerved her that she was left physically shaking.
Ms. Koppelman wrote that she was worried about “features of the current protest strategy that violate the social contract, and possibly the law.” Tolerating such tactics, she argued, “may create a working environment which is too hostile for some of us to continue our employment at the college.” Her email concluded: “I have not decided whether or how to share these thoughts more widely. If I do, I will very likely be tagged as ‘a racist’ by some of my colleagues and the students they teach.”
As for Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Heying, there’s no doubt the environment at Evergreen was too hostile for them to continue their employment. The college declared in its statement: “They have agreed to resign from their faculty positions at Evergreen, effective today.”
Ms. Melchior is an editorial page writer at the Journal.
Appeared in the September 22, 2017, print edition.