Posted April 20, 2016 by Cooper Point Journal in News
 
 

Evergreen Draws Criticism for Handling of Bias Incident

Students Allege School Mishandled Assault of Trans Student



By Nix Chace & Felix Chrome

On Wednesday, April 13 in the library lobby a panel made up of trans-identified students, staff, and local activists addressed transphobia at Evergreen. One of the panel’s organizers and Coalition Against Sexual Violence (CASV) coordinator Hel Dastvan stated that the panel was organized specifically because of the assault of a twospirit student on campus on January 31 of this year, as well as an ongoing pattern of transphobia on campus.

This student was assaulted during an incident where a man was caught tearing down queer-friendly posters in the Evergreen library, and then got in a physical altercation with a police officer when confronted. It was when this man was running from the police that he hit this evergreen student in the head, causing a severe concussion.

While the information was included that “a student was knocked over” as the man ran from police in the initial reporting of this incident, the students who organized this panel felt that Evergreen did not properly inform people about the incident, or respond to the fact that trans student was assaulted.

According to Dastvan, “This part of the story was not covered in the police report, it was not mentioned in a campus email, and it was not written about in the Olympian. It was silenced like so many of our trans voices.” Dastvan then went on to express the rage they and others felt at the school’s response to anti-trans violence, and went on to say, “Evergreen’s trans community has a long history of being oppressed at Evergreen”

After Dastvan explained the incident and what the panel was in response to Flynt Gabow, the evergreen student who was assaulted, then spoke, saying “I chose to speak today because I am very tired.” They shared their story, and other troubling experience of hate at evergreen, stating, “Over the past year, due to a large amount of verbal, non-verbal, and physical bigoted acts on campus targeted at the trans community, I have not felt safe. I have felt extremely unsafe.”

When questioned about the assault of a trans student on campus Police Services Director Ed Sorger confirmed the incident, writing, “A student who reported a preferred name different than their legal name and a pronoun different from that which would be associated with their legal name was hit on the head by the same suspect that assaulted Officer O’Dell as the suspect was running toward the bus loop. The student reported that they went to urgent care and were diagnosed with a concussion. Our officer referred the student to the Counseling Center and the student decided not to press charges.”

The perpetrator was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer after the incident. There was no mention of a non-white gender-nonconforming student’s assault in any of the reporting at the time, or in the material made readily available to students and the public.

When asked why this information was not shared more fully or made more clear to the student body at the time of the incident Sorger stated that all actions of the department are available through public records request, but did not provide further information about the school’s response or reasoning.

In the days after January 31, numerous emails and other releases about the assault of Tim O’Dell were shared with students, further describing the incident and providing updates on the investigation but none of them mentioned it was a trans student who was assaulted.

We contacted a representative of Student Affairs, which is involved with responding to bias on campus according to Evergreen’s Bias Related Incident Response Protocol, however they declined to comment further stating Sorger has already responded to our request.

Todd Sprague, Executive Director of Marketing, Communications and College Relations, then reached out to the CPJ to say that in information about the event Evergreen “described that the officer was assaulted and a bystander was knocked down as the suspect fled campus,” and assert that “information was not withheld.”

Sprague went on to explain that “[His] office was not aware of the gender identity of the person that was knocked down and there was no indication that the suspect targeted that person for a particular reason (e.g. because they were transgender).”

Evergreen student publication Advisor, Andrea Boss, was on the panel as well and had not been informed by the administration that a trans student had been assaulted. “I was shocked,” said Boss, “having it confirmed [that the assault] actually happened was pretty shocking, not just due to the fact of it being an incredibly shocking and horrifying thing, but I would have expected there would have been some sort of statement or acknowledgement from the administration at this point. I was expecting the truth to have come out long before [the panel] so for it to be coming out at this late of date feels really strange.”

When the incident first happened the Cooper Point Journal heard that a student had been assaulted in addition to officer Tim O’Dell but since it was not stated clearly that this had happened in the description of events released by the school at that time we felt we “were unable to fully verify if this did or did not happen.”

Evergreen’s website states in relation to their Bias Incident Response Procedure that “The College has a zero tolerance for hate crimes and bias incidents and will act swiftly and effectively when such are reported.” However, multiple speakers on the panel felt Evergreen had failed to live up to this. Dastan said “It is ridiculous that two trans students had to start a trans panel in response to a trans hate crime”

Gabow pleaded with the school to do more, saying, “My rage and fear about the lack of action at that evergreen has taken about to prevent further escalation of this hateful violence makes my body shake. My question to the administration and the institution as a whole are these: When is violence violent enough to take action beyond sending an email? Do we have to wait until violence gets physical? how long are we to be kept waiting in an unsafe environment?… Words and emails are not action, they are passive responses to hate crimes. So my question is this—when are you going to do something and how will you show us, through direct action, that our lives matter?”

After all of the panelists spoke, student testimonies and anonymous testimonies were read about other specific incidents of transphobia at Evergreen. To conclude the panel, a list of demands for a safer campus was handed out to audience members.

DEMANDS:

A queer resource center, which has an advisor but is student run, where people get paid for their work.

Make it mandatory for program faculty to go over names and pronouns of all students at the beginning of every quarter.

Faculty and staff must enforce pronoun usage if mis-gendering persists in class.

More gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.

The creation of a student-led bias response team and payment for those who contribute.

Zero-tolerance policy for trans antagonistic language on Evergreen’s campus and Greener Commons.

Mandatory training for faculty and staff on systematic oppression and allyship.