Campus Argument Goes Viral As Evergreen State Is Caught In Racial Turmoil (HBO)

September 7, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs

Last month, Evergreen State College
in Washington went crazy— when a professor of evolutionary biology named
Brett Weinstein objected to a Day of Absence— when white students and faculty
were asked to voluntarily leave campus. Weinstein branded it a form of racial segregation. A group of student protesters called him a racist. The confrontation incited further protests, debates over free speech, and claims
of systemic racism on campus. And things haven’t calmed down. Tomorrow, Evergreen will hold its graduation… at an off-campus location… 40 miles away. — This is the video, viewed by millions, that put Evergreen State and Weinstein
in the national spotlight. — “This is not a discussion—you have lost that one.” — Yeah, “you’ve lost that one.” — So what are they doing here
if they don’t want to talk to you? — Well, this is part-and-parcel of their central note— they’re just shutting down somebody
that they don’t want to hear from. — Weinstein has taught at Evergreen State for 14 years. He describes himself as “deeply progressive,” but has been denounced as racist tool of
the alt-right by some students and faculty. — Weinstein objected to the Day of Absence
in a “formal protest” email to colleagues, arguing that, quote, “one’s right to speak,
or to be, must never be based on skin color.” Calls for his resignation followed. — By virtue of the way they constructed this, you were making a statement by being
on campus that you were not an ally. And I feel like I am an ally to people of
color in their attempts to gain equity. — Do you have a sense at this point
of why they want you to resign? — Well, they think that I’m a racist. Because if you stand up against one of these
things because you think it’s ill-considered, that you will be branded as a racist. — We just wanted to be like, until you’re accountable for these actions,
you don’t get to teach students at Evergreen. You don’t get to spread this problematic
rhetoric and instill it in students. — So at this point, we would like Bret to be fired. But that isn’t happening. The administration is refusing to take action. They’re choosing to protect this white
cis-male professor over its students. — Later that day, the students held a raucous meeting at
which they presented a list of demands, including the disarming of campus police and
mandatory sensitivity training for all faculty. It’s the one point on which
the protesters and Weinstein agree: Evergreen’s embattled President,
George Bridges, has mishandled the crisis. — I think their concerns are legitimate. They’re articulating ideas that have to do
with race, ethnicity, power, privilege, and we’re taking a look at them. — People were criticizing you for using hand gestures. — Absolutely. They were. — That seems crazy to people
from the outside of Evergreen. — It may, but it’s noise. — But the noise has been effective. — I mean, it essentially sounded
like you’re being held hostage there. — If you were gonna go to the bathroom,
you have to go with two escorts. Is that true? — That’s what the students felt was true. — I was going to go to the bathroom—
— What do you mean, that’s what the students…? — Well, that’s what they said,
if you want to go to the bathroom— I was going to go to the bathroom regardless,
and they wanted to escort me. — I felt very safe there.
— Why? — Why what? — Why did they want to escort you to the bathroom? — I don’t know. — Did you ask them? — No, of course not. — The situation on campus grew even more
inflamed after Weinstein went on Fox News. The protesters say his appearance
provoked threats from the alt-right. — Although Bret has not personally said, you know, “Go out and attack these students,
go out and threaten these students,” that has been the result of his actions. He has incited white supremacists and he
has validated white supremacists and Nazis in our community and in the nation. And I don’t think that should be
protected by free speech. — We received a threat saying that people come here and execute every
single person they see on campus— at that point… yeah, fuck free speech. — When we’re dead, when people die,
and you’re sitting here like, “Well, at least they got
to practice their free speech.” I’m so sorry about it, your free speech is not more important than the lives of, like, black-trans-femmes
and students on this campus. — Yes! — Hate to break it to you. — The protests have been effective, but it’s unclear if they’re widely supported. Many students told us that they’ve
been hesitant to publicly dissent. Kirstin, who also didn’t want us to use her last name, is one of Weinstein’s students: — I’m afraid of having a nuanced opinion, because I’m afraid that my opinions
and I will be stigmatized. — It’s a rather strange sentence
to hear on a university campus— “I’m fearful of my nuanced opinion.” — So I feel that I do not have the ability to speak, if I have disagreements with the methods
that are being used in the protests. — There is this issue of what
I can say and what I can’t say, and who’s going to dismiss me
or demean me for saying it. And that is new in the American discourse. — A student told me that you’re a white supremacist. — I’m assuming the students have
said lots of things about me. I don’t believe I am. — You don’t believe you are,
but you accept that you might be. — No. Well—it depends on what you mean
by a “white supremacist.” What does that mean? I’m a white person in a position of privilege. — Okay. I guess that’s part of the confusion for me, is the precision of language seems to be
being lost in a lot of this conversation. — It is. — Bridges has acceded to
many of the students’ demands. But there’s a demand he hasn’t given into— that Weinstein be fired. Weinstein won’t rule out the possibility
that he’s taught his last class at Evergreen. But if comes back to teach next semester,
he can expect the protests to continue. — I don’t care what happens to Bret anymore. He can go and be racist and be a piece
of shit wherever he wants to do that. Hopefully, long-term,
we can just weed out people like Bret. — At this point, why not beat a hasty retreat and say,
“There’s no point in doing this”? — Frankly, every student in that hallway who had chosen to make that protest has
Ia clue about where they are going wrong. But I think that my standing there did some good.