Archive for conflict

Bad Mess at Evergreen

The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington has earned its renown as an experimental – indeed avant-garde – institution; its ‘progressive’ bona-fides have been warranted as well. Back in the day, I explored the possibility of taking a faculty position in entrepreneurship there. Although it didn’t come through, this institution has remained close to my heart.

A recent controversy at Evergreen has made national news and has placed at least one professor as well as students and staff in potential peril. From the New York Times:

[Professor Bret] Weinstein, who identifies himself as “deeply progressive,” is just the kind of teacher that students at one of the most left-wing colleges in the country would admire. Instead, he has become a victim of an increasingly widespread campaign by leftist students against anyone who dares challenge ideological orthodoxy on campus.

This professor’s crime? He had the gall to challenge a day of racial segregation.

A bit of background: The “Day of Absence” is an Evergreen tradition that stretches back to the 1970s. As Mr. Weinstein explained on Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, “in previous years students and faculty of color organized a day on which they met off campus — a symbolic act based on the Douglas Turner Ward play in which all the black residents of a Southern town fail to show up one morning.” This year, the script was flipped: “White students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave campus for the day’s activities,” reported the student newspaper on the change. The decision was made after students of color “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”

Mr. Weinstein thought this was wrong. The biology professor said as much in a letter to Rashida Love, the school’s Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services. “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,” he wrote, “and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away.” The first instance, he argued, “is a forceful call to consciousness.” The second “is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.”

Seattle’s The Stranger reports on the “campus lockdown” ordered at Evergreen late this week “after local law enforcement officials received a call with a “direct threat to campus safety'”:

Student activists say they’ve been unfairly maligned. “While it is probably true that some of our strategies were very passionate, they were also peaceful,” an Evergreen student, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in an e-mail. “And while it might be true there was some ‘harassment’ (a subjective term), it was on the lines of condemnation and scorn, rather than threats and stalking.”

One student, who asked to remain anonymous out of safety concerns, said death threats to campus activists followed Weinstein’s media appearances. “A swastika appeared on campus. Student personal information was published on 4chan channels and other neo-Nazi and violent racist internet communities,” the student told The Stranger.

Said another student: “Calling these people ‘Weinstein supporters’ would be irresponsible of me. These people are mostly organized racists from off campus that use internet presence, anonymity, and misinformation to disrupt a narrative, and the threat of violence to suppress those who would fight back.”

Professor Weinstein fears that his and other students have been placed at risk:

On Twitter, [he] claimed that his student supporters were being threatened online by his critics. He subsequently tweeted: “I’m told people are doxing those that protested against me. I don’t know if it’s true. If it is, *please stop.* No good can come from that.” The biology instructor also said that Evergreen campus police warned him that he was “not safe on campus. They can not protect me.”

Student demonstrators refuted Weinstein’s claims that their supporters had attempted to dox the teacher’s supporters. They believe the media’s focus on Weinstein is a distraction from their chief concern: ongoing issues revolving around racism, sexism, and transphobia at Evergreen.

Many of Weinstein’s faculty colleagues want him punished.

Look at Bret Weinstein’s “Rate My Professors” page.

Here are some of the demands from students who objected to Weinstein’s published statements .

A member of the State Legislature has introduced a bill to de-fund and privatize Evergreen.

As a professor and as a person with many fond memories of the energetic intellectual and moral debates I shared or witnessed as a young student at SUNY/Buffalo and Stanford University, I find this Evergreen mess dismaying to the point of heartbreak.

h/t LH

The discussion has left the room

My friend Clarissa writes,

As a long-time blogger, I know that there is a number of subjects you simply don’t write about if you don’t want to attract a bunch of unhinged fanatics. Breastfeeding, homeschooling, and sexual dysfunction are such subjects. Climate is another. I simply don’t engage and find the whole subject repellent because there’s no upside to talking about it. It’s become the sole purview of disturbed people who use it to soothe their psychological traumas.

There can be no doubt that the climate cause is losing. One would think that after decades of abject failure those who care would at least consider trying to do something other than screeching maniacally at whoever departs half an inch from their orthodoxy.

And it’s not just climate, either. Diversity was a great idea until it was overrun by crazy and vulgar people who destroyed the concept in the service of their dysfunction.

I would add “naming individuals on the ‘gender continuum’” to that list of subjects. Alas.

Sharing a friend

Sharing a friend demands profound courtesy. Enough so that it never shows, or rarely.

“If you are pro Black, pro Hispanic, or pro Asian, why don’t you say so … ?”

After we got back in touch with each other in 2009, Lorraine sent me the correspondence below – between me and a ‘literary agent’ – which she had kept after leaving Prometheus Books decades before.

Lorraine wrote me: “In one of my periodic cleaning binges, lo — my Prometheus ‘DO YOU BELIEVE THIS’ file re-emerged this week, after a disappearance of nigh onto twenty years! The attached provided me with a cascading set of giggles.  I hope you will still find the exchange as amusing as I did.” I did, and do. Thank you, Lorraine.

(I’ve obscured my antagonist’s information.)

Note #1 to my students: The approach I chose here is generally not recommended for your own workplace correspondence. Please stay courteous! Your goal, almost always, is to foster and maintain relationships.

Note #2 to my students: You also might want to avoid misspelling *your own job title* in workplace correspondence. I was the senior “Acquisitions” editor for a year before I remembered that “acquisitions” has a “c” in it. (That was around the same time I was shocked to see that “smooth” wasn’t spelled “smoothe.”)

PS – The “LMP” is The Literary Marketplace guide.

aquisitions

johnagenty

Nobility

From Clarissa:

For centuries, nothing was more meaningful or more defining than whether one was born to a noble family. One’s entire existence was influenced in every single aspect by the accident of birth into a certain social class.

After WWI, the titles of European nobility started to lose their value. Save for a couple of Windsors or Borbons, the rest of the “nobles” accepted that their titles’ place was on the trash heap of history. I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant for the antiquated aristocrats to see how “nobodies” were stripping them of importance but that’s the march of history for you.

Today the same is happening with citizenship. And people are just as unhappy that the accident of birth that used to give them so much good stuff is becoming meaningless. Like the nobles of 100 years ago, they can’t believe that the lottery win they thought they had gained just by being born in the right place is losing its value.

Of course, their loss is somebody else’s gain. Just like 100 years ago.

“The Accident of Birth”

All of Clarissa’s posts on Liquid Capital and the end of the nation-state are compelling.

Come to Canada

In a tart post this morning Atrios notes that he would be

shocked if foreign enrollment in [American] colleges and universities wasn’t down 10%+ next year (I completely made up that figure, of course, but you get the idea) even if they started handing out green cards to anyone who asked for one. And those institutions really rely on full paying foreign students these days, for better or for worse (certainly for worse in some ways, but just ripping away that revenue source isn’t going to help).

Prediction: If the travel bans and if the “extreme vetting” stay in place, Canadian universities like Kwantlen will see a surge in applications. And what a tremendous thing that would be for my country and for my colleagues in postsecondary institutions across Canada. But at such a cost.

cross-posted from nocontest.ca

My university’s president, Dr. Alan Davis …

… issued a statement about the past two days that I want to share here:

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) proudly and unabashedly embraces diversity, and remains steadfastly committed to the values of inclusion and belonging.

For this reason, I am deeply disturbed by events of the last few days. On Sunday, six people were killed and many more were injured during an attack on Muslim worshipers at a Quebec mosque. On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order restricting travel to the United States for 90 days on individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

KPU stands with Universities Canada in expressing our opposition to the executive action taken by the Trump government. …

It was only three months ago that KPU was proud to join with SFU and the City of Surrey to become Canada’s first international City of Refuge, and to work together to offer temporary sanctuary—respite from danger and fear—to writers and artists who are persecuted in their home countries for their creative work. …

Among KPU’s international student population are students from countries affected by the travel ban, and we are currently reaching out to those students directly. Students from other countries who come to KPU to study enrich the university’s global learning environment by furthering cross-cultural engagement. To these students, I offer the university’s abiding encouragement and support, and a pledge that we will do our utmost to ensure their academic experiences are minimally impacted by the order. Further, we remain committed to supporting the international academic pursuits of all our students and faculty members, and that includes maintaining our relationships with universities around the world. …

In terms of any pending or current education leaves, professional development or scholarly activities, KPU strongly advises those who might be subject to these travel restrictions to carefully consider whether their travel plans should be amended in light of the current situation.

Further, we understand that these restrictions may impact the ability of scholars to freely travel across borders.  In some instances, some of those scholars may have been scheduled to speak at KPU. We will review on a case-by-case basis any instances where these travel restrictions will impact plans to have visiting scholars speak at KPU and what might be done to still ensure their voices are heard. …