OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A local professor is making national headlines after a disruption of his class.
“There is nothing racist about what I said,” professor Bret Weinstein said Wednesday.
It all started when Weinstein wrote an email to faculty about an annual tradition at Evergreen State College.
“Traditionally people of color has absented themselves to make a point, which I support,” Weinstein said.
Every year, many minority students choose not to attend classes on what’s known as the ‘Day of Absence'. It’s a day to bring awareness to racial inequities but this year, Weinstein said, some groups were calling on white people to leave campus.
“Nobody should tell another group to leave campus and then stigmatize them if they decide not to go,” Weinstein said.
He says that on a college campus, one’s right must never be based on skin color and that it’s inappropriate for one group to target another due to race.
About a month after he spoke up, a group of protesters crashed his class. Weinstein says about 50 protesters cornered him last week, calling him a racist and yelling at him to resign.
“They disrupted my class very aggressively, they shouted at us. I tried to reason with them,” Weinstein said.
The biology professor says some students were even more intense later that day at a meeting with faculty.
Now he is frustrated with the administration’s handling of the situation.
“They have sought to portray it as imaginary, and it was definitely not imaginary,” Weinstein said.
Q13 News questioned the college on Wednesday about the situation.
“Certainly not behavior that would represent our college, we pride ourselves on reasonable discourse,” said Sandra Kaiser, vice president for College Relations at Evergreen State.
But state Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, says the school doesn’t deserve public funding -- not only because of Weinstein’s case but other previous disruptions
“This is like a parent looking at a spoiled brat having a temper tantrum and appeasing that child. These students need to be educated on what it’s like to live in a tolerant society where you are open to ideas,” Manweller said.
Manweller plans to introduce a bill Thursday to pull $24 million of state funding from the college and he also sent a letter to the Human Rights Commission asking for an investigation into the matter.
“I think the president of our college has been very clear about our values, which is mutual respect and tolerance,” Kaiser said.
Weinstein said he disagrees with Manweller’s proposal to defund the school but he did call on the president of the college to resign.
“I can’t see a way the college can move forward without him resigning,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein said he also disagrees with discussions about changing the way faculty members are hired.
The college is considering an equity approach to hiring professors partly based on race and requiring an ‘equity justification’ for every faculty hire.
The college on Wednesday said they had not made any final decisions.
Weinstein said the approach is unrealistic, that faculty should be hired based on their skills.
The president of the college was not available for an interview on Wednesday.
Weinstein has been teaching off campus since last week due to safety concerns.
The college said the professor is welcome back to teach and hopes to see him next week on campus.