Today is the last day of our week-long virtual stay at Oregon’s Evergreen State College, the setting of one of the latest – and craziest – episodes demonstrating that student radicalism has gotten way out of hand on many campuses, representing a threat to many people’s freedom of speech and personal safety.
This week’s story of collegiate Cultural Revolution has centered on Bret Weinstein, a professor of biology at Evergreen whose refusal to cooperate with a student initiative he (quite rightly) considered racist – in this case, anti-white – led to his demonization as a racist.
Weinstein wasn’t just targeted by students. In a two-hour interview on Dave Rubin’s widely viewed podcast, Weinstein mentioned Naima Niambi (aka Naima Lowe), a fellow professor who during at least one faculty meeting, he said, accused him point-blank of racism. When Weinstein replied calmly that somebody should look objectively into evidence of whether or not he was, in fact, racist, he was chided by the chair of the faculty, who told this this was not the time or place to defend himself from such charges. When Weinstein asked where and when he could defend himself from those charges, Niambi said that he should not expect there to be a venue for such self-defense.
During this entire exchange, the college provost sat silently. So did the college president, George Bridges. Now, during this week we have examined details of this story which suggest that Bridges is the very personification of cowardice, giving way to student demands with pathetic alacrity and actually issuing a statement of praise for them that appeared to break all records for sheer cravenness. But Weinstein, in his conversation with Rubin, suggested that Bridges, far from being cowed by these kids, was, along with Niambi, perhaps the real power behind their movement. But Weinstein wasn’t consistent: he alternated between depicting Bridges as having been intimidated by the students and as directing their actions.
Weinstein had more to say about Niambi. At faculty meetings, he told Rubin, she routinely insisted that there is intense racism at Evergreen, and would say “vile” things (he wasn’t clear about what things they were and whom she said them about). When she was doing making these accusations, said Weinstein, fellow faculty members would “reflexively” thank her. After the present chapter began, moreover, Niambi tweeted an explicit threat to Weinstein’s wife, Heather, also an Evergreen faculty member, suggesting that somebody do her harm. So far, Niambi (a B.A. in Africana Studies and an M.F.A. in Film and Media whose so-called academic work consists overwhelmingly of race-fixated “performances,” “exhibitions,” “installations,” and “experimental films”) has apparently received not a whisper of criticism from any college administrator for any of this.
Weinstein talked about faculty members other than Niambi, though he refrained to name names. Some of his colleagues, he noted, had openly turned on him, joining in the chorus of “racist,” either out of sheer lack of guts or for cynical careerist reasons. Others have remained publicly silent while lending him “private support,” too scared to speak out on his behalf. In other words, Evergreen – like so many U.S. college campuses today – is experiencing developments not unlike some of those that have been familiar features of totalitarian nations.