Evergrowing Evergreen

My desire to learn more about Evergreen State College continues – for this post, I looked at two news sources: The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Washington Post. The Chronicle article was written on June 2nd by Chris Quintana, and the Post article was written the same day by Susan Svrlunga and Joe Heim. The Chronicle is a well-regarded newspaper pertaining specifically to postsecondary education, and the Post is a left-leaning news site that covers a myriad of topics. My previous comments on the situation at Evergreen State College can be found here and here. Before going in and reading these topics, I have some hypotheses about what I will find. Because the Chronicle is read by professors, deans, administrators, and the like, it will focus more on the college administration. Because the Post is somewhat “trendy” and left-leaning, it will give some focus to students.

My goal here is to compare how the situation is handled in the Chronicle and Post as compared to the Times and Wall Street Journal. The Times and the Wall Street Journal were both supportive of biology professor Bret Weinstein, who protested when organizers for the yearly Day of Absence at Evergreen asked that white students and faculty leave campus for a day. According to Weinstein, “On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.” Weinstein’s protest led to students of color rising in outrage and calling for his dismissal from the institution, calling him a white supremacist and racist.

The Chronicle article uses the word ‘brouhaha’ in the first sentence, which made me like it right off the bat (I like silly words). The author states that someone threatened to come to campus while armed, and it was unclear whether the caller had any connection to recent student protests. According to the article, different media outlets have called the situation an extreme case of political correctness. The article uses Evergreen professor of economics Peter Dorman as a source for the story, but neglects to hear from students. According to Dorman, the reality on campus is more complicated than just being an extreme case of political correctness: “It’s fair to say there’s a lot of polarization on campus…. No one was required to do anything; it was all about invitation…A lot of the behavior on all sides has been unhelpful.” Quintana focuses on the college president’s response; he was willing to listen to student complaints and was being responsive. The Chronicle seems to be somewhat supportive of the college administration at this point. The Chronicle includes a bit of information that other news sources I read neglected to mention – organizers asked white people to voluntarily leave rather than telling them. This article cited a student representative, and they said that “a professor chose to misrepresent the nature of the events” and then called on the president of the college to publicly condemn Professor Weinstein. The main source of this article is Dorman, who says that the faculty is divided in their opinion of the situation. A good quote from this article is:

“Bret Weinstein’s decision to take his case to Fox News was regarded as quite negative, probably by most people on campus. We have a sense that the people Bret talked to and who took advantage of his comments are people who don’t wish us well and don’t want to see us succeed in any event. There’s a bad feeling from that.”

As I suspected, the Chronicle focuses more on the administration and faculty of Evergreen, which is not surprising given the nature of the publication. I didn’t learn much from this that I didn’t already know, except that faculty are divided.

The Post article started with the same set of information about the threat to campus. They summarized the situation well:

“Last week, students of color confronted a professor who had objected to a request by school officials that white people consider avoiding campus on a day of discussions about race. They called him racist and angrily demanded that he be fired.”

The Post includes a YouTube video of students protesting. This has not appeared on the other news sources I’ve looked at, which makes it a nice and welcome change. In the video, students kept talking over one another and who I assume to be some kind of Dean. When the college faculty person asks students to give him some privacy due to his claustrophobia, they refuse and one student adds that “students of color have to work in grinding environments every day.” The video is hard to watch because much of it sounds like whining – though this could be my white privilege talking.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo-BGLoCDZU&w=560&h=315]

The authors then discuss backlash against both the students and the school; either the school supports racism or the students protesting should be expelled. One student involved with the protests wrote that “our movement against police brutality & campus racism got co-opted by an angry white man.” Students demanded that the school fire several people, including Weinstein, who – according to the article – earlier in the year had criticized the school’s equity action plan for not being beneficial enough to students of color and is now being deemed a racist.

The Post did something none of the other news organizations did – it used a student as a source. This particular student said that she didn’t think Weinstein’s email had racist intent and that media coverage saying students took over the school are conflated.

We finally see some facet of the perspective of the students! It’s still not quite enough, as I think that the video shown may have been edited to make the students look bad. I would be interested to see what exactly the student leaders of the protest are saying about this situation, and what will happen at Evergreen in the future.

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