Mike Paros is a professor at Evergreen State College, one of a very few who supported Professor Bret Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying when student protesters took over the campus to demand his ouster last spring. Today, Paros has written an update on Evergreen for Heterodox Academy, a site that supports viewpoint diversity on college campuses.
I am often asked about the current state of affairs at The Evergreen State College since student protests in May of 2017 cast this obscure experimental liberal arts college into the limelight with the likes of Yale, Middlebury, and Berkeley, and catapulted former Evergreen professors Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying into the “Intellectual Dark Web”.
On a personal note, I am doing well despite a past public condemnation of the current president’s handling of student protesters and former colleague Weinstein. As the only remaining Evergreen professor who is a member of HxA, I have found refuge with like-minded academics that share a wariness of like-minded academics…
This fall, we expect less than 300 freshmen to attend Evergreen, a fifty percent drop from two years ago. It is the only four year institution in the state of Washington that has seen a decrease in applications, and is currently publicly funded for 4200 students, far greater than this year’s anticipated total attending class of 2800.
Advocacy and activism rather than the pursuit of truth and knowledge is being promoted as a way of recruiting desperately needed new students (In 2011 Evergreen changed its official mission statement to read: “Evergreen supports and benefits from a local and global commitment to social justice”). Bringing in new faculty or guest speakers with conservative or centrist political perspectives is considered risky and out of the question at the moment. Fear and self-censorship is pervasive among Evergreen faculty, especially under the existing budget crisis. An “independent” External Review Panel exonerated the president and administrators while blaming Evergreen’s woes on Bret Weinstein and ‘alt-right’ agitators prompted one journalist to ask, “Who Will the Evergreen Mob Target Next?”
Back in February, President George Bridges said the school needed to prepare for a potential 18.5% decline in enrollment this fall. He presented that as a worst case scenario at the time. Subsequently, the school announced layoffs and plans to cut $5.9 million from the budget. The school also put plans to revamp college dorms on hold over fears of declining enrollment. This is just the latest confirmation that the final tally this fall is going to be pretty bad.
What I believe is new here is the breakdown by graduating class. A drop in the total enrollment by 18% is bad news but a drop in the number of enrolled freshmen by 50% is even worse news. It shows that the students abandoning Evergreen aren’t simply those who were present for the campus takeover last year and who decided not to return. It turns out the greatest impact was on students (and parents) considering the school for their future. Obviously, that has the potential to become the new normal. Simply put, if this trend continues for four more years, the student body will be about half what it was before the student takeover (not including graduate students, though their numbers might decline as well).
And that’s assuming things don’t get worse. News that Evergreen is struggling, cutting staff positions, and slicing budgets is not likely to help them bring in new students or retain current ones. Failure is not an appealing quality in a college.
All of this is happening as enrollment at competing schools is up. This year the University of Washington announced it was welcoming its largest freshman class ever. So this is not a regional trend. This is about Evergreen and what happened there last year. If the school really wanted to turn things around it would start by firing president George Bridges. What we’re seeing now is at least partly the result of refusing to take that step.