Education

Letter from Evergreen students: ‘We reject the McCarthy-esque witch-hunting which has taken place’

A man walks through The Evergreen State College campus in Olympia on Thursday. The campus reopened Monday afternoon after being closed three days during the past week, and many students are now weighing in on the racial tension at their campus.
A man walks through The Evergreen State College campus in Olympia on Thursday. The campus reopened Monday afternoon after being closed three days during the past week, and many students are now weighing in on the racial tension at their campus. toverman@theolympian.com

A group of 17 students, referring to themselves as Concerned Students of Evergreen, posted an open letter Tuesday condemning The Evergreen State College’s administration and some protesters for their actions and responsibility “in making this campus unsafe and inaccessible.”

“We reject the McCarthy-esque witch-hunting which has taken place,” the letter stated. “Simply crying racist has become sufficient to destroy credibility and empower accusers. This has been accompanied by vigilante action against those dubiously accused of racism, and this behavior has not been reined in by the administration.”

Evergreen’s Olympia campus reopened Monday afternoon after it was evacuated on Thursday, closed all-day Friday and most of Monday due to threats. In recent weeks, escalating racial tensions have come to a boil at the liberal arts college.

Students, faculty members and staff members were “back to learning and teaching” on Tuesday, college spokesman Zach Powers told The Olympian.

During the past week, college president George Bridges, Evergreen’s Board of Trustees and a group of faculty members have released statements on the racial tension on campus.

The students’ letter said they are appalled by several recent events, including:

▪ The actions of a small group of students that “have gone beyond protesting to criminal action,” that has included verbally and physically harassing and even physically assaulting other members of the student body.

▪ The extent to which the college’s administration has, through inaction, “allowed student protestors to control campus, which has led to the campus being unsafe” for everyone.

▪ The enabling of individuals “to deflect criticism and avoid responsibility for their actions, perhaps out of fear of cries of discrimination based on race/sexuality/gender identity/disability status.”

▪ The inability of the administration “to maintain a reasonable working relationship with student protest groups, faculty and the rest of the student body.”

Justin Puckett, 19, a freshman, wasn’t associated with the student letter. However, he agreed that many students are concerned about the recent events on campus and how Evergreen’s story has been covered around the country.

“The national media has portrayed Evergreen in a very negative light, and an untrue light,” said Puckett, who was recently appointed as the new student representative to the college’s Board of Trustees.

Puckett said the college has turned into a “toxic environment” during the past two weeks.

“Both sides have some wrong in this,” he said.

Puckett said he believes faculty member Bret Weinstein escalated tension by appearing on FOX News.

“He should have spent his time having a dialogue with students who felt hurt by his email,” Puckett said. “And I also believe the students should have allowed him to have that dialogue and allow him to voice his opinion.”

After a confrontation with Weinstein on May 23, and a student protest and occupation of the Library building a day later, things further spiralled out of control.

“There are students who have been followed and harassed because they have different opinions, and there are students who have been verbally and physically assaulted,” Puckett said.

Although some feel the college’s administration has fumbled its response, Puckett, a 2016 Olympia High School graduate, said he supports the way Bridges has handled the situation.

“I’m a black student, and I personally feel the administration has done a very great job,” he said. “...I’m hoping we can all come together to as a community to figure out where we went wrong and what we can do better.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

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