Students at a Washington state college are calling for a professor to be fired after he objected to an event that would have kicked white students and faculty off campus for a day.
Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at Evergreen State College, faced backlash this week after he outlined his objection to a “Day of Absence” event. Typically, the event marks the day when black and Latino students leave campus to bring attention to the significant role they play at the college.
This year, students wanted to reverse the format. Rather than minorities leaving the campus, many wanted to see all the white students and professors vacate the college in order to create a safe space for those who remained.
Weinstein — who appears to be an “intellectual progressive” — was not on board with forcing students to leave campus because of the color of their skin.
“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 … and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away,” he wrote in an email. “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."
“I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation,” he continued. “[O]n a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color.”
@EricRWeinstein @BretWeinstein Here's the (incredibly thoughtful and well-written) email. https://t.co/3NecW0tNfw— William Treseder (@William Treseder) 1495649494.0
After Weinstein sent the email, he was met with a mob of unruly, screaming students who hurled insults and vulgar language toward the biology professor for objecting to an event that would have barred people from being on campus because of the color of their skin.
“There’s a difference between debate and dialectic,” the professor calmly told students. “Debate means you are trying to win; dialectic means you are using disagreement to discover what is true.
“I am not interested in debate,” he continued. “I am only interested in dialectic, which does mean I listen to you, and you listen to me.”
But the students were unappeasable. One told Weinstein: “We don’t care what terms you want to speak on. This is not about you. We are not speaking on terms — on terms of white privilege. This is not a discussion. You have lost that one.”
Another accused the Biology instructor of being a “racist.”
Shortly into the confrontation, one student asked Weinstein if he believes black students in the sciences are “targeted.” The professor said he does not believe any professor intentionally “targets” minority students — a response that sparked a cacophony of angry comments.
Weinstein then said that, if he and the students could have a peaceful discussion, they could be successful in steering the college in the direction of their values. That only served to further enrage students, leading one to call on Weinstein to resign.
“I’m not resigning,” the professor swiftly — but calmly — replied.
Seeing that the conversation didn’t appear to be going anywhere, the angry students filed out of the hallway and began chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Bret Weinstein needs to go!”
As a result of the backlash against him, Weinstein, who has taught at Evergreen f0r 15 years, told KING-TV he has been told by the Olympia, Wash., chief of police that “it is not safe for me to be on campus.”
In the meantime, Weinstein held a Thursday class session in a downtown Olympia park, away from the Evergreen campus.