US A Campus Argument Spreads Online. Now the College Is Under Siege.

06:53  17 june  2017
06:53  17 june  2017 Source:   The New York Times

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — It started with a suggestion that white students and professors leave campus for a day, a twist on a tradition of black students voluntarily doing the same.

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A professor objected, and his argument with a loud and profane group of protesters outside his classroom soon rocketed across the internet.

On Friday, more than three weeks later, Evergreen State College had to hold its commencement 30 miles from campus, at a rented baseball stadium where everyone had to pass through metal detectors.

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In between, Evergreen, a small public college in Olympia along the Puget Sound, found itself on the front line of the national discontent over race, speech and political disagreement, becoming a magnet for extremes on the left and the right.

After the dispute gained national exposure — amplified by the professor’s appearance on Fox News, his op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, and right-leaning websites’ heaping derision on their newest college target — the professor, Bret Weinstein, said he had to stay away from campus for his own safety and move his family into hiding.

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Student protesters briefly occupied the president’s office to press their complaints of racism on campus. In one encounter, the president, George Bridges, was recorded meekly complying with a demand not to use hand gestures when he spoke because they were threatening.

The campus has received threats of violence via social media and calls to the county sheriff and 911 that forced administrators to lock down the campus for three weekdays in a row. The college had another lockdown on Thursday, as dozens of professed free-speech defenders tangled with anarchists who were waiting for them at Red Square, the campus plaza named for its red-brick walkways.

“I thought I’d be speaking from Red Square where graduation is traditionally held, and then as the alt-right backlash hit us, I wondered if we’d have graduation at all,” Anne Fischel, a documentary filmmaker and Evergreen professor, said in her commencement speech on Friday. “No one should see this graduation as a return to normalcy, to the way things were before. For one thing, the lives of some of our community members have been threatened, and they can’t be here today.”

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Since the presidential election in November, colleges from Middlebury to Auburn to the University of California, Berkeley have become swept up in a running battle over free speech and politics.

But the conflict at Evergreen has been deeply distressing to many students and faculty members who see their college as a little utopia that has produced such creative alumni as Matt Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons,” and Macklemore, the hip-hop artist.

Students at Evergreen, founded in the progressive fervor of the 1960s, have no majors or grades and study in small groups, taking interdisciplinary classes where a marine biologist, for instance, might team up with a philosophy professor and a music professor.

“There is a tradition of trying to work things out,” said Ruth Hayes, a professor of animation. Referring to Professor Weinstein, she echoed the feelings of a number of her colleagues: “That he took this public I just feel like is a breach of trust.”

What also sets the Evergreen turmoil apart is that it began not with a controversy-courting guest speaker like Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos, but a Bernie Sanders-backing biology professor who has been a fixture at the college for 15 years.

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The conflict stems from the college’s Day of Absence, a tradition in which black people leave the campus to show what the place would be like without them. This year, organizers suggested the reverse: that white people who wanted to participate would leave while nonwhites stayed, and both groups would attend workshops to, as the email announcement put it, “explore issues of race, equity, allyship, inclusion and privilege.”

In an email to his colleagues, Professor Weinstein, who is white, said that when black people decided to leave, it made sense as “a forceful call to consciousness.” But to ask white people to leave, he wrote, “is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”

“I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation,” he wrote.

What followed can be viewed by anyone with a smartphone: a protest outside his classroom in which students derided his “racist” opinions and called him “useless,” preceded by an expletive; his appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show; and scenes of students and professors arguing with other professors and their college president.

“Yes, they were rude,” the president, Mr. Bridges, said in an interview about the meeting in which he put down his hands. “What mattered was de-escalating the anger.”

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And though students occupied his office for a couple of hours one afternoon, he said he never felt threatened.

“I was hired to be a change agent,” he said. His mission, he said, was to ask, “How do we address the equity gaps here?”

Professor Weinstein, who declined to be interviewed, has been lying low. But he is quite visible online, with a growing Twitter audience and a new blog offering his subscribers insights into “evolution, civilization and intolerance” for a nominal monthly fee.

On the other side, Naima Lowe, a media professor who has opposed him, and Rashida Love, the director of Evergreen’s First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services, who sent the email announcing the format of the Day of Absence, have also made themselves scarce, after being mercilessly ridiculed online.

There is a bigger context to the dispute, faculty members say. Overall enrollment at Evergreen has been declining since 2009, while minority enrollment, which now stands around 29 percent, is rising.

Some faculty members have said the college has not been adequately serving minority students, and an “equity council” developed a plan to address those issues. Professor Weinstein was among those who objected to parts of the plan. He saw its call for an “equity justification/explanation” for each potential hire as code for racial preference.

Trinity College closed due to threats after professor’s Facebook post

  Trinity College closed due to threats after professor’s Facebook post <p>Trinity College said Wednesday it would “close the campus until further notice” in response to threats made after a professor’s Facebook post.</p>“Given the threats to campus and upon consultation with the President’s Cabinet, the decision has been made to close the college until further notice,” the private liberal arts college in Hartford stated in an email message. “All employees and guests are to leave campus for the day and stay tuned for updates.

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Ms. Lowe, who is black, said that he was misinterpreting the proposal and that its goal was to hire people with the right skills and experience to relate to “marginalized communities,” regardless of their race. As for the Day of Absence, held in April, organizers have said that it was voluntary and that no one implied that all white people should leave.

But the time for academic word-parsing has passed; the final days of the term were marked by riot police officers, barricades and metal detectors.

Strange alliances have formed. On Thursday, a group calling itself Patriot Prayer, a right-leaning band of 60 or 70 people from off campus waving American flags and one showing Pepe the Frog, a symbol of the alt-right movement, was joined for a while by two students.

One of them, Tamara Lindner, said she had been a student of Mr. Weinstein’s wife, also a biology professor at Evergreen, and wanted to support his right to free speech.

The other, Colin Trobough, said he was distressed at the way Evergreen had been portrayed. “I love Evergreen,” he told the Patriots gathered in the traffic circle.

The group marched onto campus, where about 200 people awaited them: anarchists and “anti-fascists” looking like graphic-novel ninjas, with black scarves hiding their hair and faces, flanked by aging professors in rumpled rain slickers.

The Patriots’ leader, Joey Gibson, strolled into the crowd of ninjas, where he was sprayed with Silly String, hit in the head with a can of it and then attacked with what may have been pepper spray before state police officers in riot gear restored order.

The college spent $100,000 to rent the minor-league stadium in Tacoma for the commencement on Friday. “I’m very glad we’re all here together,” Mr. Bridges said in his address, acknowledging the “fierce and disturbing” events of recent weeks.

Ellis Paguirigan, a 1991 Evergreen graduate whose daughter, Melia, was graduating and planned to go into ocean conservation, said they were both disappointed in Professor Weinstein’s stance.

Melia had Professor Weinstein in her freshman year and liked his class, Mr. Paguirigan said. But, he added, “my daughter is a person of color — she kind of takes it personal.”

College Professor Fired Following Appearance on Fox News Where She Defended a Black Lives Matter Party .
A college professor who recently appeared on Fox News to defend a Black Lives Matter event in which only black people were invited has been fired. It was announced Friday that Lisa Durden, a former adjunct professor at Essex County College in New Jersey, would be let go from her job following a heated argument on the June 6 episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight. While speaking about an “all-black Memorial Day celebration” hosted by a Black Lives Matter group, Durden, who is black, told the host “you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card” to attend the event.

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