Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at one of the most liberal colleges in the country who self-identifies as “deeply progressive,” has been targeted by a widespread campaign focused on pressuring him to resign after raising concerns about potential hiring policy changes and his objection regarding the event known as the “Day of Absence.”
Weinstein is a tenured professor at Evergreen State College, an educational institution located in Olympia, WA, who expressed concern regarding an upcoming “Day of Absence” where white students and faculty members were requested to leave campus for a day. He emailed his objections regarding the event and refused to participate.
Members of the student body interpreted Weinstein’s stance as racist. Some chose to surround Weinstein in the halls and openly express their discontent, including through the use of berating and aggressive language. As reported by the New York Times, some protestors said to Weinstein, “You’re supporting white supremacy.”
They went on to stalk Weinstein, as well as other students or faculty members who were seen to support his decision, with some protestors going as far as to stop vehicles coming onto campus and requesting IDs in a reported attempt to locate the professor.
Large scale demonstrations were also held, with one reported involving approximately 200 protestors.
The protestors also intercepted George Bridges, the college president. At one point, they prevented him from going to the bathroom and also told the president to stop talking with his hands.
The actions of the protestors became so aggressive that local police stated they could not guarantee Weinstein’s safety. As reported by King 5, during one of Weinstein’s classes, which he choose to hold in a downtown Olympia park, Weinstein said, “I have been told by the Chief of Police it’s not safe for me to be on campus.”
A member of the administration confirmed Weinstein was told it “might be best to staff off campus for a day or two.”
The policy change Weinstein opposed involved allowing race to play a larger role in hiring decisions. Speaking about the issue, Weinstein said, “When one opposes these proposals, what happens is one is stigmatized as ‘anti-equity’ and because I am light-skinned the narrative suggests I’m a person who has benefited from privilege and that I’m trying to preserve that privilege in the face of a legitimate challenge.”
The traditional “Day of Absence” involved people of color leaving the college to show their contributions to the campus clearly. During that time, white faculty members and students would attend workshops on anti-racism. This year, the event was set to play out in a somewhat opposite manner, with white students and faculty members being asked to leave.
Weinstein’s email regarding the “Day of Absence,” as reported by the Washington Post was sent to Rashida Love. The rest of the staff and faculty were also copied on the message.
Speaking about his objections, Weinstein wrote, “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 or coalition encouraging another group to go away. The fist 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’s email went on to say, “You may take this as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume I will be on campus on the Day of Absence. I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation, whether they have ‘registered’ for it already or not. On a college campus, one’s right to speak – or to be – must never be based on skin color.”