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Evergreen Professor Receives $500,000 Settlement

September 18, 2017
 
 

Evergreen State College has settled a lawsuit brought against it by the professor who was at the center of protests that rocked the campus in May.

As part of the settlement, Bret Weinstein and his wife, Heather Heying, resigned from their faculty positions effective Friday, The Seattle Times reported.

Students were protesting racism on campus, although Brett Weinstein, the professor who they called to be fired, filed his $3.85 million suit on the grounds of "hostility based on race," alleging that the college "permitted, cultivated, and perpetuated a racially hostile and retaliatory work environment.... Through a series of decisions made at the highest levels, including to officially support a day of racial segregation, the college has refused to protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence."

Weinstein drew ire from students when he pushed back against a call to change the tradition of minority students and faculty holding their annual Day of Absence. Based on ideas in the 1965 play of the same name by Douglas Turner Ward, those participating meet off campus to discuss campus issues and how to make the college more supportive of all students -- and at the same time, they hope their lack of presence is felt. Similar ideas were the inspiration behind events like “day without immigrants” protests, where immigrants closed shop to protest anti-immigrant political rhetoric, while at the same time highlighting how much everyday society depends on them and their labor.

The wrinkle to last year’s Day of Absence, however, was that white people were called to (voluntarily) stay off campus. Weinstein, who is white, objected.

"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 underappreciated roles (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the recent Women's Day walkout), and a group encouraging another group to go away," Weinstein wrote on a campus email list. "The first is a forceful 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."

Weinstein also drew criticism for coming out against a recommendation on faculty hiring by the college's Equity and Inclusion Council that would require an "equity justification/explanation" for all faculty hires.

As part of the settlement, Evergreen did not admit wrongdoing, The Times reported, citing an email officials sent to faculty and staff members on the matter.

“In making this agreement, the college admits no liability, and rejects the allegations made in the tort claim. The educational activities of Day of Absence/Day of Presence were not discriminatory. The college took reasonable and appropriate steps to engage with protesters during spring quarter, de-escalate conflict, and keep the campus safe,” the email read.

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