Background: In Spring of 2107 the Evergreen State College was rocked with protests originating both on and off campus, including a threat by an individual who stated in a 911 call, “Yes, I am on my way to Evergreen now with a .44 Magnum. … I am going to execute as many people on that campus as I can get a hold of. You have that, what’s going on here, you communist scumbag?”
For additional information about the fallout from last spring, visit the college library’s bibliography of news and opinion articles about the “Evergreen Protests 2017.”
Due to a volatile campus environment, the Board of Trustees cancelled its June meeting when Emeritus faculty would normally have been recognized. That meeting was subsequently postponed to November 8 at which Emeritus status was officially conferred upon me. Against this background, the following are the comments I made to the Board at their public meeting yesterday – with most points focusing on faculty working conditions and the campus climate toward equity.
Hello. I have 4 points I’d like to share in my allotted time.
First, I have sincerely appreciated working and teaching in the very rich interdisciplinary curriculum that Evergreen provides its students. I know of nowhere else where I could serve as a graduate director of a teacher education program based on a coordinated studies model. Nor do I know of any other college where I could teach in-depth undergraduate programs in history and political economy – and, yes, multiple summers co-teaching “Poetry Camp at Ft. Flagler.” In this interdisciplinary atmosphere I thank my faculty and staff colleagues – some of whom are present this afternoon – who helped to expand my knowledge base and perspectives, which in turn contributed mightily to my own teaching and scholarship.
Related to faculty scholarship, I next want to draw the Board’s attention to the woeful funding for professional development and travel offered by the college. Nearly stagnate in my 22 years at the college, two years of funding for Evergreen faculty to participate in professional conferences is less than, for example, to what neighboring Saint Martin’s University grants in one year. Currently, funding rarely covers all expenses necessary to attend and participate in professional conferences – and expenses have grown exponentially in the past two decades. An expansion of professional development funds is a necessity to recruiting younger, vibrant faulty and to maintaining the vitality of Evergreen’s nationally-recognized approach to the curriculum. Yes, these are tight budget times, but that is same rationale given to the faculty for no funding increases during my tenure here. Hopefully this can be rectified.
Third, we need to recognize the positive contribution of the faculty union – United Faculty of Evergreen or UFE. In its 10 year existence the UFE has been key in advancing equity for faculty working conditions, remunerations, and academic freedom. Prior to the UFE, faculty voices were limited to the uneven playing field and euphemistic consultative model with management on important property rights of faculty. The UFE-Management relations have too often been misrepresented by the college’s top administrators. Hopefully, administrative misrepresentation of the collective bargaining process and agreement will cease – and a more robust and constructive relationship can be developed and maintained. So, I give a shout-out to those UFE members who, as unpaid labor in UFE-Management deliberations, continue to work to bring fairness and justice to faculty working conditions.
Lastly, to use a boxing analogy, in 2017 Evergreen received a body-blow in national publicity that alarmed and saddened many of us. Therefore, Evergreen must resist and counter the subsequent backlash of an anti-democratic narrative that attempts to demonize Evergreen and higher education overall, a delegitimizing process that has been on the rise since my undergraduate days in the late 1960s. Today this anti-democratic narrative of right-wing harassment finds expression through intolerant Trumpism that contends colleges and universities need more voices representing a privileged status quo.
Let us not allow such anti-democratic forces to move Evergreen away from our stated focus to teach and learn across significant differences and to be a beacon for inclusion, diversity, and equity. Let us not fall into mythic colorblindness that erases differences in favor of privileged sameness. Nor, let us not fall prey to a destructive and self-righteous “call out” culture whose intent is to shut down dialog on thorny issues with long histories. Let us not see diversity as deviance but instead as a historical reality of the complexities of the human condition. At this critical juncture the college needs visionary and inspiring leadership who understands and can act on the complexities of the human condition found in the lived experiences of our students, faculty, and staff. So, let there be concerted and forceful efforts that lead to concrete solutions to dismantle the college’s institutional inequities which are barriers for many on this campus.
Thank you – and, of course, Go Geoducks!