Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Evergreen State College President Asks Legislators For More Campus Security

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
File photo. Washington State Patrol troopers in body armor provided security on the Olympia campus of The Evergreen State College last Thursday during a ''free speech'' rally.

Evergreen State College President George Bridges said he'll be seeking state assistance to add more training, equipment and staff for campus security. Student unrest and outside threats caused repeated disruptions during the recently ended spring term on the Olympia campus.

Bridges was called before a Republican-led state legislative committee Tuesday to answers questions about campus safety.

"We cannot rely on the lean public safety presence that has been the tradition at our college,” he said. “The safety of all students, faculty and staff must be paramount if we are to succeed at our core job."

Conservative legislators repeatedly raised concerns to Bridges about what they perceived to be a lack of disciplinary action against disruptive protesters. Bridges said the public college is already at work on changes to its student code of conduct.

Bridges also said some students identified in a widely-circulated video of a crowd confronting a professor will shortly receive a warning letter telling them that future outbursts will not be tolerated.

The state Senate committee did not invite any testimony from students at The Evergreen State College. Several students who came to the session to listen complained afterwards that if lawmakers really cared about student safety they should have sought more diverse perspectives.

"Students are being demonized," said Evergreen student Vee Ramsey.

Since last fall, groups of Evergreen students have staged demonstrations, disrupted events or occupied buildings to air grievances about racial equity or campus policing at the 4,000-student liberal arts school.

Tension on campus ramped up in late May when national media outlets latched on to the unrest and painted Evergreen as the latest example of campus intolerance and political correctness gone wild. Anonymous telephoned threats prompted the college administration to suspend classes for three days at the beginning of June.

Professors, students and campus organizations also reported receiving direct threats or online harassment.

Biology Professor Bret Weinstein, who became a lightning rod after questioning some demonstrators' demands, was originally scheduled to testify to lawmakers along with the Evergreen administration. However, Weinstein recently retained an attorney who informed the legislative staff that he counseled the professor to not appear.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.