The Evergreen State College, where angry protests over race have drawn national attention, reopened Monday afternoon with additional police officers stationed on campus.
The public college in Olympia, Wash. reopened over the weekend, but shut down again Monday.
Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza said school officials were responding to the threat from last week as well as an incident Sunday night. “They have had people walking around with sticks and baseball bats late at night causing property damage,” including graffiti and broken windows, he said Monday. “They asked us to come out and assist.”
He said campus police told him there was about $10,000 worth of property damage.
The Evergreen State College Police Department referred questions to a college spokesman, Zach Powers, who did not immediately have answers to questions about the property damage.
The school, which has about 4,500 students, became a lightning rod nationally after video of protests over race on campus went viral. In late May, protesters confronted a professor who had objected to a request by school officials that white people consider avoiding campus on a day of discussions about race. The protesters demanded that he be fired, accusing him of racism. Demonstrations continued the next day, with a standoff with the college’s president.
Some — including many members of the faculty, who signed onto a joint statement in support of the protesters — were sympathetic to their concerns about racism on campus and police response to demonstrators. But many people nationally latched onto the story as emblematic of college campuses where liberal extremists write off opposing viewpoints as offensive and not worthy of discussion.
Student protest leaders did not respond to requests for comment.
An opinion piece in the student newspaper, the Cooper Point Journal, included these points: “Police are commissioned to maintain order, the current order of the world, and thus always inherently work in favor of the status quo. Police are peace keepers, but the kind of peace they keep is not peace as an end to structural violence, but a peace based in non disruption of the status quo. If you are a member of a group that the status quo does not favor, if you are among other things not white, not wealthy, not straight, or not cisgender, then the cops do not and can not work in your favor.
” … If the status quo at the Evergreen State College is institutional racism, and the police are here [to] protect the institution that shelters that form of institutional violence, they are a white supremacist threat.”
Snaza said he was concerned about the situation on campus. When 200 to 300 protesters confronted the president and other administrators last month, he said the people who were targeted did not feel they could leave. “When you barricade doors and windows so the staff can’t leave,” he said, “that’s not usually a good sign.”
He said county and state troopers would help with overtime shifts on campus in coming days. “You want to make sure people are safe, whether they join in on a demonstration or not. Just making sure there’s no violence and no damage, those are things you hope for – and that nobody gets hurt.”
Steve Coffman, a 37-year-old student studying history, said the campus is “getting absurdly out of hand and fragmented.” He saw the most extreme of the protesters as “social justice McCarthyites” angry at a campus that he thinks is one of the most progressive in the country.
Overall, he said, there has been “a breakdown of civility, a breakdown of willingness to communicate and find common ground.”
Another student, Melinda Bratsch, said she was worried the campus was becoming a target “for white supremacists and others who don’t like liberals or anything like Evergreen.”
School officials announced Monday afternoon that “law enforcement officials had been examining information received over the weekend. Out of an abundance of caution, Evergreen’s Olympia campus was closed on Monday to give law enforcement an opportunity to evaluate new information.
“At Evergreen, campus safety is our number-one priority,” Evergreen President George Bridges said in the statement. “After consultation with law enforcement today, we have determined there is no active threat to campus. We are ready to get back to the business of teaching and learning.’”