Professor Bret Weinstein of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, will receive $500,000 from the college in a settlement announced this week. Readers of TAC may recall details of the campus turmoil that descended on Evergreen last spring, detailed in a cover story by Gregg Herrington in TAC’s September/October issue, also online here.
Weinstein was accosted on campus by students, and was advised by college officials that he should remain off campus for his own safety, as campus security personnel, it was stated, couldn’t protect him.
Students also commandeered college president George Bridges in his office, holding him there and subjecting him to more than four hours of verbal abuse before releasing him. A sampling of the abuse: “No fuck you, George. We don’t want to hear a goddamn thing you have to say….You talk so fucking much….No, you shut the fuck up.”
Weinstein, a political progressive who supported Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid, ran afoul of campus leftists when he challenged plans by students, faculty, and staff members of color to urge white students to vacate the campus for a day so nonwhites could contemplate their grievances without whites in their midst. In previous years, those of color had themselves vacated the campus as a demonstration of solidarity, but now the tradition took on a more menacing aspect to whites.
Weinstein rejected the underlying sentiment of the change. He wrote publicly: “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 under-appreciated 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….I will be on campus on the Day of Absence.”
Subsequently, Weinstein’s class was interrupted by 50 protesters labeling him a “racist” and calling for his suspension. When police arrived to escort Weinstein out of the building, students sought to thwart the protective maneuver. The next day, for the sake of his and his students’ safety, he took the campus police chief’s advice and held class off campus.
Weinstein and his wife, Heather Heying, also an Evergreen faculty member, in July filed a $3.85 million tort claim against the college alleging it failed to “protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence.”
In an email to faculty and staff late Friday, Evergreen officials reported that the college will pay the Weinsteins $450,000 in redress and $50,000 to defray attorney fees. The announcement also stated the college “admits no liability, and rejects the allegations made in the tort claim.” It added that the Day of Absence activities “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.”
Both Weinstein, a biology professor, and Heying, who taught anthropology, resigned their academic positions at Evergreen, effective on the day of the settlement announcement.