As with all Evergreen news, this comes from Benjamin Boyce who has been following this for several weeks. Instead of having the Day of Absence this year, the school instead held an “Equity Symposium.” The keynote speaker at this symposium was a woman named Nikkita Oliver. Boyce describes her presentation as “a church service” for a woke congregation.
Oliver is apparently a lawyer but this presentation is light on law and heavy on slam poetry. Watching Boyce squint and struggle to get through some of her poetry is one of the joys of this clip. He’s a bit of a poet himself, having written an entire novel in iambic pentameter. He confesses to not be a fan of this kind of poetry and, really, it’s not hard to see why. But the poetry does make a point and it’s a point Oliver returns to later.
“The reason we should do this work of equity is out of love. Love for ourselves and love for others,” Oliver says at one point early on. But a moment later she brings up another point which turns this in an interesting direction. “What happens when you turn on the lights when you’ve been in the dark for a long time?” she asked. Responding to someone in the audience she answered, “Your eyes hurt. See we’ve made the mistake of thinking that any sign of pain is bad.”
Boyce points out that Evergreen College has done a terrible job of opening its eyes to the light. Enrollment data and other signals are telling them they have a problem but they are shutting their eyes and continuing as if it’s not true.
But I take something more sinister from what Oliver said. She starts with the foundation of activism being love but then quickly suggests the actual experience for many people will be pain. Applied to oneself that’s bad enough but what happens when this is applied to everyone around you, i.e. if you love people you have to be prepared to hurt them. So if people respond badly to the activism you deliver, that’s a sign the activism is working. But what if the activism is just bad or ugly or unnecessarily hurtful? How would anyone who follows Oliver’s path know to stop when those negative signals start coming from other people? Oliver’s whole pitch seems like an invitation to treat other people badly and consider yourself a hero for hurting them.
Boyce argues that what Evergreen is now teaching isn’t part of an ordinary college experience. “It’s a process that’s promising you some form of enlightenment. This is not college. We know that, right? We know that this is not a college, this is a cult.” Later he adds that the colleges who adopt this social justice stance “no longer focus on skill and mastery, they openly try to negate skill and mastery and turn everything into story and words and reality and subjectivity based on their oppression points.”
Further along in the speech, Oliver made it clear what she wanted to see happen at the school. “The fact that you all are having this Equity Summit in light of some of the things that happened a few years ago, shows your tenacity and your resilience to continue to engage this conversation. And I want to push you to engage action on it even further.”
The school is already down to the lowest enrollment since the 1970s and it will get worse next year if there are no further protests. I don’t know what the final impact of that will be on staffing and budgets but it has to be pretty severe. What Oliver is counseling here would only make that situation worse. She must know that, but she obviously doesn’t care. If you have to hurt everyone around you to enlighten them, so be it.
If you stick around for the second half of this you’ll get to Oliver’s take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You can probably guess what that is but it’s worth seeing it for yourself. As Boyce points out, the SJW project is to reduce everything to a simple oppression narrative, even bed time stories. In Oliver’s view, the fact that Goldilocks is a blonde girl with blue eyes isn’t incidental. It’s really the point of the story she’s trying to convey.
Evergreen, for reasons I can’t imagine, is recreating the conditions that led to the first campus takeover. We may have a whole new series of student protests in a few more months. And if that happens, you’ll have a lot more professors out of work next year.