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Lawmaker wants to approach Evergreen with ‘carrot and stick’

Protesters at The Evergreen State College in 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A Washington state lawmaker is promoting legislation in response to Evergreen State College’s controversial spring quarter. If passed, it would not only impact Evergreen’s campus but universities across the state.

“I think that with a carrot and a stick we can get good reform at Evergreen State,” Representative Jim Walsh told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

RELATED: Patriot Prayer holds rally at Evergreen State College

Walsh is sponsoring HB 2223, which requires Washington’s colleges to adopt policies of free speech and anti-student-on-student harassment. It’s a response, he says, to Evergreen State College’s lack of true diversity.

“I’m glad we have a diversity of left-wing opinion in our colleges,” Walsh said. “I don’t mind that Evergreen exists and is here. But they have to commit to true, open debate. I don’t mind we have a left-wing institution here, as long as they engage honestly.”

“I look at the administration here, it’s not just the profs; they are loading the dice, they are stacking the deck so it’s not a fair exchange of ideas on our campus,” he said. “The fact that it’s a so-called ‘hippy school,’ I don’t mind that. But I don’t like the fact they are rigging debate there.”

The digest of HB 2223 states:

Requires each governing board of an institution of higher education to adopt a policy that affirms certain principles of free speech, which are the public policy of this state.
Requires the policy to be made available to students and faculty annually.
Requires each institution of higher education, with respect to disciplining students for their speech, expression, or assemblies, to adopt a policy on “student-on-student harassment” which is defined as unwelcome conduct directed toward a person that is discriminatory on a basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law, and that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.

The road to HB 2223

The issues surrounding Evergreen State College over last spring have brought the college plenty of attention in its hometown of Olympia — attention from lawmakers who want to defund the school. It began when a professor objected to a “Day of Absence” event which encouraged white students not to attend classes for a day. The day was aimed at being an educational experience about racial disparities. But Professor Bret Weinstein argued it did not teach the proper lesson.

The objection caused outrage and protests, as well as violent threats which shut down the campus. Some at the school said that the campus devolved into “anarchy” and that some students were, by legal definition, “kidnapped and imprisoned.” Professor Weinstein sued the college over the incident. The case was recently settled for $500,000.

Walsh argues that the tense spring at Evergreen is the result of a college administration that is not truly educating students, rather, only emphasizing one perspective. At the same time, he says, it shuns debate and does not encourage an open mind. Walsh likens it to “newspeak” in George Orwell’s “1984” — where terms often mean the opposite.

“It’s the most narrow-minded, close-minded worldview you can imagine,” Walsh said of Evergreen. “And they dress it up in words like ‘diversity,’ or ‘openness’ and ‘safe space.’ When in fact, like in George Orwell’s famous books, it’s the opposite – they are not fostering true diversity. They are not fostering open dialogue and a safe space for debate. They are closing their minds to all of that.”

“I want them to become classically liberal, which is truly open-minded to multiple perspectives and opinions,” he said. “And I hope that is what they become. But if they don’t, if they don’t clean their act up, if they don’t reform how they engage with their students and their community, the option, of course, is to defund them and let them try to make a go as a private college.”

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