Officials at Evergreen State University are asking professors to take the “emotional commitment” of students who had been involved in recent protests into account when determining their final grades.
Evergreen’s interim provost, Ken Tabbutt, made the request in an e-mail last semester, a copy of which was later obtained by Campus Reform.
In the e-mail, Tabbutt explains that the protests were “difficult for many” in the campus community, and that in particular, “students of color are clearly telling [them] that they do not feel that Evergreen is a safe place.”
“The purpose of this email is to remind faculty that student protesters have diverted time and energy from their academic work to promote institutional change and social justice,” he wrote, adding that the “work of students that have not been involved in the protests may also have been affected” because “many feel that the campus is not safe.”
Although Tabbutt made it clear that final grading discretion would be up to the individual professors themselves, he suggested that they “consider the physical and emotional commitment the students have made, and consider accommodations for that effort, including learning that is going on outside of your program.”
Certainly, fighting for social justice and equality are noble causes, but there are just a few things about this story that struck me as odd. For one thing, the e-mail signature on Tabutt’s e-mail included the fact that he prefers “he/him pronouns,” which makes me think that Evergreen might already demonstrate a pretty damn clear commitment to social justice. Perhaps he added that after, and perhaps that sort of commitment to the comfort of transgender students does not extend to the comfort of minority students. I don’t know, but what I do know is that this is far from the first time that the college has gone easy on protesters in terms of grading: Evergreen president George Bridges had already agreed to give angry protesters a pass on their homework assignments, an assurance that was captured in a video that went viral in May.
In case you aren’t familiar with the video, it shows protesters screaming at Bridges, saying things like “f*** you George” and “shut the f*** up,” demanding that professors “need to be told that these assignments won’t be done on time and we don’t need to be penalized for that” as Bridges agrees to “do it right now.”
The protesters screaming at Bridges were upset because one of the school’s professors, Bret Weinstein, had sent an all-staff e-mail expressing some concerns about the fact that the school had asked all white people to stay off of campus for a diversity event. (Protesters can be seen saying “f*** you, you piece of s*** to Weinstein in another video, here.)
Seriously, just what in the hell is going on? At what point are these students going to be just treated like adults, which involves both being expected to express yourself in a civil manner, and not using your feelings as an excuse to get out of your responsibilities?
Truly, I can think of few places other than a liberal college campus where this kind of behavior would be even tolerated, and here, it’s being repeatedly rewarded. This isn’t just stupid, it’s harmful — not only to the future of free speech, but also to these students’ ability to advance their own causes. If these students really do care about social justice, then they’d be better off learning how to have real conversations about issues rather than just hurling obscenities and behaving in a way that ultimately prevents those kinds of conversations from happening.