By Chloe Marina Manchester
Return to Evergreen is an annual event entering its fifth year, gathering together Evergreen students, alumni, faculty, and retired faculty for a day of learning as a community, in true Evergreen fashion. The day begun with the President’s Scholarship Brunch. It’s supposed to be a time for current scholarship recipients to be honored. They were recognizable by the lanyards they were given that say “I am a scholarship recipient, thank you for funding my education!” This was also an event to honor the donors, solicit more donations from them, and encourage other people to donate for the first time. Inside the folders that were handed out with the name tags were envelopes with cards asking how much you would want to donate, with the lowest amount listed being $125.
After the initial rush at the buffet table had subsided, Evergreen President, George Bridges began to speak. He began with, “I know people tell you never to begin presentations by talking about the weather, but how about this weather? But in this building, you will be safe, warm, and dry.”
Bridges spoke about the importance of scholarships in the role of education and then invited a scholarship recipient, Iya Condo, to the stage to speak about her experiences with the importance of scholarships. Condo began by saying that she chose Evergreen because she wanted to go somewhere where knowledge is encouraged. She said she started out at Evergreen by doing the Evergreen Student Civic Engagement Institute, which let her into the community. She spoke about the importance of education and how her scholarship let her pursue that education. Condo wants to go on to medical school in the field of women’s health and ended her speech by thanking donors.
George then took the stage again and presented The Joseph Albert Dear Award to Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. Gibbs-Bowling graduated from the Tacoma Campus in ‘04 and the MiT in ‘06, he brought his mother to the ceremony. Bridges said that on the day he visited Gibbs-Bowling’s classroom at Lincoln High School in Tacoma where he teaches advanced placement government and human geography noticed that his classroom is socratic, with his discussions feeling more like and Evergreen seminar than an ordinary high school class. Gibbs-Bowling was the 2015 Washington State Teacher of the Year and a Finalist for National Teacher of the Year.
Gibbs-Bowling began his speech by praising Evergreen, saying “There are institutions in this state where I will not send my children, but I would send my children to Evergreen, I wouldn’t be who I am today without this school.” He went on to say how important the MiT Program at Evergreen is, and how it prepares students to be teachers more than any other program of which he knows. He was then presented with the physical Joe Dear Award by George, which concluded the President’s Scholarship Brunch.
One of the scheduled sessions was A Village Conversation with Maxine Mimms, Stone Thomas, Felix Baffith, and York Wong. It took place in the CCAM in the library building. This event also started on Evergreen time, about twenty minutes after the advertised start time. Maxine Mimms sat down and said, as soon as the audience became quiet, “Well, hello, Oprah!” She went on to equate the conversation with “sitting around with the weed pipe.” She said that village conversations are necessary because Evergreen has got to understand that we are a village. Ostensibly, the purpose of the village conversation was to act as a faculty fishbowl seminar, something that was frequent in Evergreen’s past.
The seminar was about designing a potential program for Evergreen, though that was pushed to the periphery of the conversation as it progressed. The program was, at the end of it, to be a coordinated studies program, with “lectures being storytelling,” as Wong put it. It would be completely student driven, though the students would be required to go into the archives to study the faculty and professors and other parts of Evergreen history that falls through the cracks. It would not be about diversity but about other ways of knowing.
One of the main themes of this conversation was, as Wong put it, “There are other ways of knowing.” Which means that one must explore a topic in more ways than what you want, more ways than what comes naturally. He elaborated on this later in the discussion by talking about a time when traditional medicine, rather than Western medicine was what healed his snake bite.
Mimms founded the Tacoma Campus, not program, but campus. She said that calling it a program rather than a campus is a form of degradation through language, especially within the context of the Tacoma Campus being a historically black college. She said that in the beginning of the Tacoma Campus, “In order to keep my enrollment up, I would go to the graveyard. See, whites love numbers, they don’t care about what’s happening as long as the numbers are there. So I would go to the graveyard and write down names so that when I had eight or nine students, it looked like I had 30 or 40!”
At one point during the interview with Mimms, she called over president George Bridges (whom she says she has no solid opinion on) and started talking to him about how to better run Evergreen. A lot of this was centered on how to bring enrollment back up, how to get more money for the college. Mimms said that Evergreen has no business being empty on the weekends, no business having declining enrollment when there are so many things in the world that Evergreen’s curriculum could respond to. Mimms told Bridges that “you cannot be rigorous or scholarly without a community campus. “[The campus] is not open, that’s your problem,” she said to Bridges.
“Evergreen is no longer radical, it’s a maintenance state school and that scares me. I don’t think it’s possible for Evergreen to change right now, we haven’t spent a lot of time getting creative, to get it to evolve. The heart is not there anymore.” Mimms declined to respond on the incident at convocation on the basis that she was not there. She did say that we have to stop writing about it, however. Thomas, who read accounts of the student protest at convocation, offered his opinion on the matter. He said that it’s good that students are still interested in the struggle, still wanting to bring attention to the struggle. “Marketing makes you think Evergreen is diverse, but something is lacking in the environment to make people of color feel welcome. The bigger issue I see is how do you, if you use progressive language, how do you live up to that language in the climate of the institute. People came here expecting it to be different,” said Thomas.