Evergreen State College protest reflects need to proactively address campus grievances

Dive Brief:

  • Weeks after a video of race-related protests on the Evergreen State College campus went viral and threats of violence caused the institution to briefly shut down this month, the administration decided to hold its commencement ceremony in a rented baseball stadium with metal detectors, reports the New York Times
  • Protests escalated after a professor responded to suggestion from organizers of a Day of Absence from black people on campus that it be a day where white faculty and students leave the institution instead. The professor wrote in an email to his colleagues that the original day of absence for black people on campus was a "call to consciousness," while asking that white people leave was "an act of oppression," according to the Washington Post.  
  • George S. Bridges, president of the college, wrote in a letter to The Seattle Times, that social media amplified the protests; at the same time, he wrote of a need for the administration to more effectively address diversity and inequity.

Dive Insight:

The Evergreen State College protest is just one instance in a wave of campus unrest that has swept the nation, especially since the election of Donald Trump. In a time of increased political activity by students in higher education, administrators must take proactive steps to ensure that they are providing the resources to make students feel safe and welcome, particularly if they want to avoid the financial and public opinion fall outs of violent campus activity. A recent report, "Navigating the New Wave of Student Activism," shows 10% of incoming first-year college students in 2015 responded that they are likely to get involved with some form of protest while in school, while another 69% of respondents would get behind policies that limit offensive speech on campus.

The University of Missouri has experienced a 35% drop in enrollment since protests occurred there, and many education experts believe that the decline is due to the controversy, though officials are citing changes in the regional population and decrease of high school graduates. Events at the University of Missouri also demonstrate how campus protests could not only affect finances, but also the presidency position itself, as Timothy Wolfe, who was the president of the Missouri system during the 2015 protests, and R. Bowen Loftin, the school’s chancellor, were pushed to resign following the events. This reality means that administrators ought to be considering effective ways to address both student and faculty grievances from a variety of different socioeconomic, racial and gender backgrounds, in order to avoid potential consequences. 

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Filed Under: Higher Ed
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