Evergreen State College in Washington state is arguably the most liberal college in America. Yet there is nothing liberal about the radical left’s “rules” regarding what used to be called free speech. Just look what happened to this progressive professor who dared to ask, essentially, whether “reverse” discrimination is still discrimination.
By John Friend
Readers of this newspaper are no doubt aware of the stifling effects of political correctness and radical leftist ideologies on college campuses and major universities in America today. In an era of “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and an increasing unwillingness of students, professors, and administrators to honor the cherished principals of free speech and thought—foundational principles of the university education system—those bold enough to think for themselves and question the prevailing political and intellectual consensus often find themselves at the mercy of unhinged mobs of radical leftists and cowardly university administrators.
Just ask Bret Weinstein, a former professor at Evergreen State College in Washington state, who is better suited than most to attest to the state of free speech, free intellectual and political inquiry, and political correctness that prevails on college campuses across the United States today. Weinstein, who resigned from Evergreen State along with his wife, Heather Heying, in September 2017 following controversy surrounding his criticism of a popular demonstration on campus and his wife’s support for his criticism, has served as a witness to the free speech crisis prevalent on so many college campuses today. To this day, the accomplished evolutionary biologist, who also happens to be a liberal, has been unable to find a job at a major university simply because he stood up to the PC police at his college.
In the early spring months of 2017, Weinstein, a popular biology professor and a staunch “antiracist,” sparked controversy when a private email he had sent to other college faculty critical of the “Day of Absence” demonstration was published online.
The “Day of Absence” demonstration is an annual event at Evergreen in which non-white students and faculty are encouraged to meet off campus for workshops focusing on diversity, inclusion, and other leftist ideals. In 2017, the demonstration was tweaked slightly, and white students, faculty, and staff at the college were asked to leave campus for the day to protest their supposed “white privilege.” Weinstein took issue with the proposed demonstration and explained his reasoning to fellow faculty and staff.
“On a college campus, one’s right to speak—or to be—should never be based on skin color,” Weinstein stated in the email, which was later leaked and published online, causing outrage in radical leftist circles on campus.
In late May 2017, groups of students upset with Weinstein’s letter and his criticism of the revised “Day of Absence” demonstration showed up at his classroom to admonish the professor. The students essentially shut down Weinstein’s class, disrupting the professor and his students, and demanded that he either apologize for his alleged “racist” email or resign from the college. Video of the students confronting and protesting Weinstein surfaced online, generating national headlines. Throughout the confrontation, Weinstein attempts to calmly and respectfully engage in a dialogue with the student protesters, who rudely ignore his pleas for a discussion by shouting the professor down, cursing at him, and demanding he resign.
“We don’t care what terms you want to speak on. This is not about you,” one student shouts at Weinstein during the confrontation. “We are not speaking on terms—on terms of white privilege. This is not a discussion. You have lost that one.”
The student protesters eventually left and barricaded themselves in the college library, finding refuge in the Trans & Queer Center/Unity Lounge on campus before outlining a list of demands that were later presented to college administrators. Incredibly, rather than defend and support one of their most popular and well-respected professors, Evergreen State College administrators and leaders caved in to the radical student protesters’ demands.
Weinstein and Heying later resigned from the college after filing a $3.85 million tort claim in July 2017. The claim contended the college failed to “protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence,” according to reports at the time. The couple settled with the college, which agreed to pay the couple $450,000 directly and $50,000 to the couple’s attorney.
“In making this agreement, the college admits no liability, and rejects the allegations made in the tort claim,” Evergreen State administrators wrote in an email to students and faculty shortly after the agreement was reached with Weinstein and Heying. “The educational activities of Day of Absence/Day of Presence were not discriminatory. The college took reasonable and appropriate steps to engage with protesters during spring quarter, de-escalate conflict, and keep the campus safe.”
Many supporters of Weinstein and Heying were outraged at the college’s handling of the situation. Weinstein testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, highlighting his experience at Evergreen State and exposing the tyrannical left running rampant on college campuses today who demand everyone abide by their leftist ideals or face suppression.
“Is there a free speech crisis on college campuses?” Weinstein rhetorically asked during his testimony before the House. “One can certainly make that argument, but that portrayal is at least as misleading as it is informative. What is occurring on college campuses is about power and control—speech is impeded as a last resort, used when people fail to self-censor in response to a threat of crippling stigma and the destruction of their capacity to earn.”
Since his resignation, Weinstein has joined the “Intellectual Dark Web,” a phenomenon this paper has reported on in previous editions. Weinstein has continued to stand up for intellectual freedom and freedom of speech, despite the hysterical left and their calls for censorship.
John Friend is a freelance author based in California.