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Anti-police fervor permeated Evergreen even amid campus closures and threats

This is the fourth in a series reporting on a 900-page document dump obtained by The College Fix through a public records act request to Evergreen State College.

Less than two months before she resigned her post, the police chief at Evergreen State College told administrators that an anti-police fervor crippled the ability of campus law enforcement to do its job.

In a June 4 email to President George Bridges and Vice President of Student Affairs Wendy Endress, police chief Stacy Brown highlighted the danger posed by outside threats received by the college.

But she also lamented the difficulty in protecting the Olympia, Washington campus because of the student community’s demonstrated antipathy toward her force and police in general.

“If we were to draw from outside law enforcement resources and station more officers on campus, we would potentially be the target of the anti-law enforcement movement on campus,” said Brown.

Citing an “increased hostility” toward campus police, Brown said her department had become “unable to conduct basic functions of our job.”

One of her complaints, shared with state lawmakers at a June hearing, had been that campus police are helpless in the face of an active-shooter situation because administrators won’t let them have rifles.

The turmoil took its toll. Evergreen announced this week that Brown had resigned to take a position with a neighboring municipal police department. She had been sworn in as chief in January, greeted with “vulgar language” by student protesters.

Brown’s email was obtained by The College Fix through a public records act request. Evergreen didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Brown called for complete shutdown

The now-former police chief’s frank assessment to the two administrators came amid a raucous time at the quirky public college, whose most famous alumnus is Simpsons creator Matt Groening.

On May 23, angry student demonstrators confronted a white biology professor, Bret Weinstein, for his refusal to participate in a “Day of Absence” held earlier in the semester in which all white students and faculty were asked to leave campus. Protesters blocked police from responding to calls about the demonstration, according to an email Endress sent to students.

Students also accused the administration of perpetuating racism, issuing a list of demands, most of which the university agreed to implement. Some of the demands targeted the campus police force, calling for “the immediate disarming of police services and no expansion of police facilities” and the suspension of an officer. They did not specify how campus police are armed.

While confronting Weinstein in class, student demonstrators passed out a flyer depicting Brown as a scantily clad Ku Klux Klan member.

Meanwhile, student vigilantes patrolled campus with bats and batons, and The Washington Post reported approximately $10,000 worth of property damage occurred on campus during the unrest. Outside threats received by the college forced it to close initially on June 1 and again on June 5.

Following the initial closure, Brown urged in her June 4 email that the campus be shut down for remainder of the spring quarter – five more days of instruction followed by five days for course evaluations.

“I do not make this statement lightly, as I know that the purpose of Evergreen is to educate. I know this would be an unprecedented move. These are unprecedented times,” she wrote.

Brown described recent events on campus as “alarming and concerning,” noting the threats made toward Evergreen.

“Although, one cannot say, with any certainty, that any day on campus can be ‘safe’; with the rising tension directed at Evergreen, I believe the potential for harm is great to our community during these times of high emotions,” Brown said.

Bridges sent a message to colleagues regarding Brown’s email that simply stated “This does not bode well.” An email addressed to the chair of Evergreen’s board of trustees, obtained by The Fix, indicates Bridges planned to make a call to discuss the situation.

Multiple threats apparently made toward Evergreen

The Evergreen administration didn’t take up Brown’s recommendation that campus be closed for the rest of the quarter. The school didn’t even stay closed for an entire day on its second forced closure, reopening that afternoon.

Brown’s message, as well as other documents obtained by The Fix, show the college was working with FBI, as well as Washington’s Fusion Center, the state’s homeland security facility, to gauge the severity of the threats received.

State troopers were brought on to help Evergreen’s police force, but Brown said she felt it wasn’t enough reinforcement. Yet, she also feared a strong police presence on campus could trigger more unrest.

“While we are used to this ongoing sentiment from some community members, increased law enforcement presence could potentially incite further problems by community members who have been vocal about not wanting any law enforcement on campus,” she said.

Brown pointed to an incident the evening prior when two officers were met with “aggression and non compliance” when responding to a physical assault call.

“The officers were surrounded quickly by approximately 20 students who would not cooperate or assist in providing information to determine facts about the alleged assault. The officers attempted to deescalate the situation to no avail and called for outside law enforcement assistance,” she explained.

The officers eventually withdrew from the chaotic scene and returned to the station, according to Brown.

A $3.8 million tort claim filed against Evergreen by Weinstein, the biology professor targeted by students, and obtained by The Fix states Brown “learned that calling the police in response to violence or criminal activity was considered by some on campus as a racist act in and of itself because they considered police to be inherently racist.”

Since the unrest on campus, Bridges has told state lawmakers he wants more funding for police protection at Evergreen.

In an email sent to students last month, Endress, the head of student affairs, said some of the actions of student protesters in late May were “criminal,” and addressed students interfering with campus police.

“Preventing a law enforcement officer from responding could place community members at great risk,” she said.

MORE: Evergreen State finally tells protesters–two months after melee–their actions were ‘criminal’

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke served as a staff reporter for The College Fix with a specialty on investigative and enterprise reporting from 2017 to 2018. He has also held editorial positions at The Commercial Review daily newspaper in Portland, Indiana, as well as at The Washington Examiner, Red Alert Politics and St. Louis Public Radio. Rubbelke graduated from Saint Louis University, where he majored in political science and sociology.