This is a very interesting story about a little-discussed issue that took place at Evergreen College last year. Two professors, one a white male and the other a Hispanic woman, were investigated after filing complaints against one another. The school hired a Seattle law firm to investigate and the firm concluded that while there was no evidence the white man discriminated against the Hispanic woman, there was evidence that the Hispanic woman had violated the school’s non-discrimination policy with regard to the white professor. This story is not easy to summarize but I’ll do my best using the hour-long video by Evergreen grad Benjamin Boyce (below) as a guide. I do recommend Boyce’s entire video if you have the time.
Professor Jon Baumunk teaches business and accounting at Evergreen State College. Last year he received an annual review which he took issue with. The review was mostly positive toward him and his teaching but at one point his supervisor mentioned his race (he’s white) and wondered aloud if students of color in his class felt free to speak up in his class. Baumunk asked the university to revise his review and remove the reference to his race on the grounds that it’s a protected characteristic and not something that belongs in a performance review. At the same time Baumunk, who is a member of the union at Evergreen, filed a grievance asking that the union support him.
Evergreen State College agreed with Baumunk and agreed to revise the review and remove the language and acknowledged that the race or sex of a professor is never mentioned in performance reviews, but the school seems to have taken its time correcting the review. Meanwhile, the union decided that it would not back Baumunk’s proposed grievance against the school because his review was seen as largely positive and so the reference to his race was deemed immaterial.
In March of last year, Baumunk went to the office of the president of his union, Grace Huerta, and asked why the union wasn’t supporting him. At this point, the stories diverge. Baumunk says he spoke to Huerta for five minutes and that she almost immediately became very defensive. Huerta claims Baumunk cornered her and spoke for 20 minutes, making her worry about missing a meeting. Both parties agreed the exchange had been unpleasant and agreed not to speak to one another again.
That changed on May 24th when Baumunk and Huerta had another interaction in the office of President George Bridges. The incident came in the midst of the student takeover of Bridges office which occurred that day. During that incident, Baumunk spent 2 1/2 minutes defending himself to the students. Huerta then spoke up and said she didn’t take his claims seriously because he had confronted her, a minority faculty member, at her office back in March. “As a faculty member of color, you personally addressed and challenged me at my office door saying why didn’t we as a union protect you when we did our best to protect you and address your concerns. And yet you come to a faculty member of color and charge her for not protecting your needs. So I refuse to listen to you grandstand and co-op this student meeting.”
In response to this, Baumunk took one small step forward, pointed at Huerta and said…something. It’s not clearly audible on the recording because students are talking over him. I do hear him say, “Grace, I want to tell you something…” but that’s all I can make out. As the students reacted, Baumunk stepped back and put his hands in his pockets. But it was too late. Students in the room demanded he leave and at least one demand he be fired (shades of the mob that showed up at Prof. Bret Weinstein’s class demanding he resign).
Subsequently, Baumunk was called out at a large student meeting where he was described as lunging and charging at Huerta (which didn’t happen). A student asked him to stand up and said he would be held accountable for his aggressive, privileged behavior. I have this clip queued up to a video showing the exchange between Baumunk and Huerta and the harassment of Baumunk that followed at the student meeting. It’s about 3-4 minutes long. Baumunk is the guy in the red shirt. You can stop watching around 8:30:
So, as mentioned above, after this incident, a Seattle law firm was hired to investigate the competing claims. And what the firm found, in a report which has been buried by the school, is that Baumunk’s approach to Huerta in March was reasonable and based on her position (as the head of the union) not her protected status as a Hispanic woman. That’s a win for Baumunk.
As for the May interaction seen in the video, the report concluded that Baumunk did not direct his comments toward Huerta or raise any of her protected characteristics when speaking. He did point at her (just as she had waived a piece of paper at him) but certainly never lunged or charged at anyone.
However, Huerta’s comments to Baumunk did relate to his (and her own) protected characteristics in a way that is at odds with Evergreen State College’s non-discrimination policy “as well as a significant body of legal precedent.” In short, Huerta violated the rules and diminished Baumunk in front of students based on legally protected characteristics. Baumunk did not do the same to Huerta.
You could argue that since Evergreen brought in the law firm it made an effort to handle this responsibly. Except that doesn’t explain why Baumunk had his race brought up in the first place or why he was falsely accused in a meeting full of students while President George Bridges (who was standing directly behind Baumunk in the office) said nothing and applauded as Baumunk was falsely accused. Baumunk’s reputation may be cleared, belatedly, by the report but there should never have been a need for a report in the first place. Why can’t the school most sensitive to singling people out based on race avoid doing so with its own professor?
Here’s Boyce actually reading the conclusion of the report. Stick with this for at least 3-4 minutes where he points out that the evidence of a systemic racial problem at Evergreen is the one punishing white professors like Jon Baumunk and Bret Weinstein for asking that the same non-discrimination rules that protect everyone also be applied to them.