Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, was surrounded by a group of student protesters Wednesday after he wrote an email objecting to plans for a Day of Absence.
In the past, the Day of Absence has been a day where black and Latino students leave campus to highlight their significance on campus. This year students wanted to change the format. Instead of leaving campus themselves, they wanted white students and professors to leave campus, thereby creating a safe space for the students left behind. Professor Weinstein objected to that format and wrote and email saying he would not be leaving campus and encouraged others not to do so. Here’s his full email:
Here's the (incredibly thoughtful and well-written) email. pic.twitter.com/3NecW0tNfw
— William Treseder (@williamtreseder) May 24, 2017
“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 (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the recent Woman’s Day walkout), and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away,” Weinstein wrote. He continued, “The first is a 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.” Weinstein added that he would not participate and added, “On a college campus, one’s right to speak—or to be—must never be based on skin color.”
Student protesters decided that email was racist and a firing offense. They gathered at Weinstein’s classroom and began shouting at him and, eventually, demanding he be fired or resign. There are two video clips showing this from different angles. Here’s the clip from near Weinstein (video from the reverse angle is here):
For about 3 minutes there is something like a discussion but when Weinstein suggests this moment could be a turning point in favor of the student’s values, one of the protesters says, “Yeah, resign.” The professor refuses and the protesters start chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Brett Weinstein has got to go!”
Students then complain that Weinstein isn’t listening to them and that he’s trying to “control” the situation. At this point, the audio in the clip drops out. The students eventually file outside and quickly forget about Weinstein as they are confronted with another problem: the police. Again, audio is shifted so it doesn’t match the video but it seems the police were responding to word that Professor Weinstein had been surrounded by a group of students. The students yell at the police for a few minutes and the whole group ends up outside.
We’ve seen this same sort of exchange before. Last September I wrote about a group of Yale students who confronted professor Nicholas Christakis about an email his wife had written and berate him as he tries to have a discussion with them. In that case, one student even got in Christakis’ face and tried to intimidate him. Students then claim he’s not listening, even though he’s clearly interacting with everything they are saying, and someone eventually gets angry and demands the professor lose his job. It’s the same script. The lesson for professors: You can’t hold a discussion with an angry mob.
Addendum: Sam Harris gets it right:
These kids don't belong at a university. They need cult deprogramming first. https://t.co/vwyxpw6lAr
— Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) May 25, 2017
And on that note, I’ll link to this post about intersectionality as a religion without salvation.
“I have been told by the Chief of Police it’s not safe for me to be on campus,” said Weinstein, who held his Thursday class in a downtown Olympia park.
An administrator confirmed the police department advised Weinstein it “might be best to stay off campus for a day or so.”…
When student Marissa Parker, one of the protesters, heard Weinstein was advised to stay off campus, she responded, “If he feels unsafe or frightened for two days, he can only imagine what black and brown bodies have feared for years.”
So students wanted to demand white people leave campus. When a white professor objected to that they demanded he be fired. Now he has in fact left campus out of concern for his own safety. So the protesters, through the threat of violence, got what they wanted. And at least one of the protesters thinks this is fine.