The drama on the staff and faculty DL is burning bright as ever and until it dies down we will be bringing you one email each and every issue. This week’s installment is brought to you by the Cooper Point Journal’s Man of the Year, one mister Bret Weinstein. Day of Absence, which has historically involved students, faculty, and staff of color leaving campus and congressing elsewhere, will instead this year involve requests that all white faculty and students remain absent from campus, leaving the space free for community members of color. Weinstein, and evolutionary biology professor here at Evergreen, is concerned with feeling unwelcome on campus, and instead offers to put together a public lecture concerning race from a “scientific/evolutionary lens.” He sent this email to Rashida Love, Director of First Peoples Multicultural Advising Services.
Sent March 15
When you first described the new structure for Day of Absence / Day of Presence at a past faculty meeting (where no room was left for questions), I thought I must have misunderstood what you said. Later emails seemed to muddy the waters further, while inviting commitments to participate. I now see from the boldfaced text in this email that I had indeed understood your words correctly.
There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles (the theme of the Douglas Turner Ward play Day of Absence, as well as the recent Women’s Day walkout), and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.
You may take this letter as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume I will be on campus on the Day of Absence. I would encourage others to put phenotype aside and reject this new formulation, whether they have ‘registered’ for it already or not. On a college campus, one’s right to speak–or to be–must never be based on skin color.
If there was interest in a public presentation and discussion of race through a scientific/evolutionary lens, I would be quite willing to organize such an event (it is material I have taught in my own programs, and guest lectured on at Evergreen and elsewhere). Everyone would be equally welcome and encouraged to attend such a forum, irrespective of ethnicity, belief structure, native language, political leanings, or position at the college. My only requirement would be that people attend with an open mind, and a willingness to act in good faith.
If there is interest in such an event, please let me know at email@example.com.