Evergreen State College pres. chided dean who revealed financial woes

Feb 23, 2018, 7:00 AM | Updated: 7:40 am
Evergreen State College, Evergreen College...
Evergreen State College. (AP)

Staff members at The Evergreen State College, witnessing dramatic decreases in student enrollment and subsequently cash-flow, are being fed talking points by the school’s president that won’t “be used against us.”

In an email to staff, Dr. Jennifer Drake, Evergreen State College’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, warned that the total student enrollment may drop significantly and, consequently, they will experience layoffs and a strict adherence to hours with part-time faculty members.

The email from Drake, apparently, concerned Evergreen State College President George Bridges. He wondered if Drake ran the contents of the email by the school’s Communications and Public Relations Manager Zach Powers before sending it to staff. He wrote, according to an email forwarded to me:

In reading through this message, I wonder whether you ran its content by Zach Powers before sending. If not, given the sensitivity of some of the language — losses of students instead of projected losses; losses of faculty position instead of possible budget reductions — might end up appearing elsewhere in ways that will be used against us.

While I realize that the scope of our challenge is becoming known, I would have preferred that such detail not gone out in an email without review. If it was reviewed, then my concern is not with the message but the reviewer and review process. Please let me know.

In other words, Bridges is asking that the messaging refer to layoffs of staff as simple “budget reductions” and downplay the expected decline in student enrollment.

Evergreen State College president makes a mistake

But Bridges accidentally sent that email to more than just Drake. It prompted a follow-up email, citing his concern that some may use the details to damage the public perception of the school. He wrote:

Colleagues: I apologize for sending this to all. This was intended to go to Jen alone. These are difficult times and we remain subject to the scrutiny of many who may not have the best interests of the College in mind. We face many challenges and I do want members of our community to be fully informed about them. Thanks for your ongoing engagement in this work.

I will try desperately not to send email messages after a tiring day. So sorry.

Evergreen spokesperson Zach Powers declined to offer comment on these emails.

Bad news

One can understand why Bridges found the day to be so tiring. This news is bad for the school and for his job. And Bridges, for the last year, has come under a steady stream of scrutiny from students and the media; it got so bad, that he sought counseling – a position, as I explain here, is one I have empathy for, as I, too, sought counseling after working in a toxic environment.

This is not the first time an Evergreen staffer expressed a paranoia about critics out to damage the school. Nevertheless, the Drake email sent ripples through the campus with at least one staffer expressing concern over the school’s financial health.

Staff members noted that the Board of Trustees was considering dipping into the school’s emergency reserve fund. Indeed, this item was listed on the BOT’s meeting agenda for the meeting on February 21. And while the minutes have not yet been posted, Evergreen spokesperson Zach Powers confirmed that they have dipped into those funds.

This all spells trouble for the struggling Evergreen. I reported to you last year that enrollment for 2017-2018 was down 5 percent. Now they’re expecting a near 20 percent drop?

This news comes as the school saw a series of nationally embarrassing stories about Progressive student activists run amok; during one of their encounters with the school president, they wouldn’t even let him use the bathroom. Instances like this led the non-partisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to name, this week, Evergreen as one of the ten worst colleges for free speech.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Evergreen State College pres. chided dean who revealed financial woes