A day after a Jewish professor’s complaints about being targeted by a left-wing “campus mob” went viral, the college at which he teaches was shut down in response to what the school called a “direct threat.”
The nature of the threat that closed Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, was not immediately clear, and spokespeople for the university and the campus police did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The threat and resultant shutdown came after a year of roiling protests at the college, and as a late-breaking media backlash to the actions of student protesters at a campus known for its long history of radical politics.
In recent weeks, the Evergreen biology professor, Bret Weinstein has gone public with complaints about student protesters who disrupted his classes and called for his firing. Weinstein held classes in a nearby park in late May after campus police that it was unsafe for him to be on campus. Weinstein did not respond to requests for comment.
Weinstein wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about his experience, and appeared on Tucker Carlson’s program on Fox News Channel, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
“That looks like something out of Phnom Penh, 1975,” Carlson said after viewing a video of student protesters confronting Weinstein. He compared the incident to the Communist genocide in Cambodia that killed 2 million people.
Breitbart and other outlets have picked up Weinstein’s story.
Weinstein appears to have initially drawn the ire of student protesters with an email he sent earlier in the year to fellow faculty members. In it he contested plans for white students to be asked to attend an off-campus seminar on a day reserved for programs around issues faced by students of color.
In the March email, Weinstein called the plans a “show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.” Student protesters took offense at the email, which was published in the student paper, and some included calls for Weinstein’s firing in a litany of protest demands.
Protests have riled Evergreen since last September, according to a timeline published in a campus newspaper, the Cooper Point Journal.
The disruption of Weinstein’s classes May 23 was the latest in a series of mounting protests and confrontations on campus. In a video of the incident, students shouted at Weinstein in a hallway. According to the campus paper, campus police responded to the disruption. Protesters are now calling for the suspension of one of the police officers who responded.
In his Wall Street Journal op-ed on the incident, Weinstein wrote that the controversy was part of a broader struggle over the future of Evergreen. He suggested that he had fallen afoul of the campus administration’s broader efforts to reshape the school.
“I dissented and ended up teaching in the park,” he wrote.
Yet most coverage of the incident has focused on Weinstein’s email and on the notion that the professor was targeted for opposing a “white people-free day,” as the New York Post headline had it.
In a statement, Evergreen disputed the characterization. “White students have never been required to leave campus, for Day of Absence/Day of Presence events, or any Evergreen activity,” the university said.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.