The college attracted nationwide attention last week when students confronted Bret Weinstein, a biology professor on the campus. Weinstein protested the college's "Day of Silence," which is an annual day-of-absence program designed for individuals of color on campus. Weinstein questioned the fairness of the event:
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... and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away. 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.
The "Day of Absence" has been a tradition nation-wide since the 1970's to highlight the importance of POC students in the college community. Students were angered that this professor would question the long-standing tradition, and believed that it was evidence of society's "overaggressive policing" and inability to understand unfair treatment of people of color.
After the email was publicized, students called Weinstein and staged protests against him, in order to make a point to college faculty. Some school officials were sympathetic to the complaints, while many faculty members were offended by the aggressive behavior of the protesters. Many students shared videos of the protests that went viral on social media.
Other administrators were attacked on campus, and several students called for a "National No-White People Day" as well. George Bridges, the college's president, refused to terminate employees based on the demands of the protesters. However, he did agree to institute mandatory cultural competency training for all faculty and staff.
Other liberal arts colleges have experienced similar incidents of racial turmoil this year. At Claremont Mckenna College, around 250 protesters blocked the entrance to a school building for a Black Lives Matter protest. Middlebury College witnessed an incident where an assisting professor was rushed to the hospital after a violent protest.
It's quite a tumultuous time for college students — especially at liberal arts colleges like Evergreen State in the United States. Racial tension has escalated, and some professors are being publicly shamed for their coursework and opinions. Colleges are struggling to strike a balance between honoring students' right to protest and interfering to protect the safety of faculty; institutions are racing to find a solution to this rampant issue.
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