OLYMPIA, Wash. - A committee of Washington state senators are investigating the weeks of protests, threats, and violence that have taken place at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
At times, speakers addressing members of the state senate Law & Justice committee painted a bleak picture of the situation on a number of college campuses, including Evergreen.
Representative Matt Manweller, (Ellensburg - District 13) who is also a college professor with 19 years of experience, said the political divide at Evergreen is happening at campuses around the country.
“Over the past few years we’ve seen an uncomfortable increase of violence on college campuses. Probably more so than any other time since the Vietnam war,” Manweller testified.
The Evergreen State College has seen a recent flurry of angry protests, racial tension and death threats.
In late May biology professor Bret Weinstein faced a large crowd of students who were angry over his emails about the so-called Day of Absence, a long standing demonstration focusing on people of color, after organizers asked white students to voluntarily leave campus in a show of support.
College president George Bridges told the committee national media coverage of the protest fueled more problems.
“We were hit with a flood of hateful harassment that was targeted at students and the Washington state employees that make up our faculty and staff,” Bridges said.
Weinstein's comments to Fox News and The Wall Street Journal were followed by a telephone death threat June 1 when a caller police say was from out of state threatened to execute people on campus. The threat led to a 3-day shutdown of classes at the school. No arrest has been made.
Last week the campus saw a tense and sometimes violent face off between protesters and an alt-right group called Patriot Prayer. The school also decided to move Friday's graduation ceremony 30 miles away to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma for security reasons.
A handful of students were prevented from approaching the speaker's table after the hearing. Outside of the hearing they expressed anger that no students were invited to address the committee about issues of campus safety and discrimination at the school.
“This is not just a spring quarter problem,” said Keah, a student who only gave her first name citing concerns over her personal safety. She said student anger at the school has been simmering for years.
“This is a problem that has been going on for such a long time and we have not been heard for such a long time that we boiled over,” she said.
Bridges told the committee the relocation of commencement ceremonies and additional security cost Evergreen $167,000 that will be paid with a reserve fund. Washington State Patrol chief John Batiste said overtime for troopers working security and riot control at the school cost his department $132,000. Thurston County Sheriff Chief Dave Pearsall said his department racked up $12,000 in overtime costs.
The committee adjourned for special session without taking action or releasing information about future hearings.
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