Renewing Our Commitment to Tolerance and Respect at Evergreen: A Statement by the Board of Trustees
For nearly 50 years, The Evergreen State College has fulfilled its mission to provide an exceptional education to the students of Washington state, so that they are prepared for the workforce and society. Our graduates have highly successful careers in the sciences, arts, technology, government, education as well as other fields.
We are deeply committed to ensuring that Evergreen provides a civil, safe campus environment for all. During the last week, the conduct of a small percentage of Evergreen’s community members exhibited unacceptable behavior that is completely contrary to Evergreen’s values. Although almost all of students continued to attend classes and receive the extraordinary education that Evergreen delivers, the lack of tolerance and respect displayed by a few during these recent events and disruptions is indefensible.
Freedom of speech, civil discourse and open debate has been a cornerstone of our country’s history — and Evergreen’s history. In difficult times, these pillars become even more significant. Intellectual inquiry, freedom of expression, tolerance and inclusiveness are core tenets of Evergreen’s philosophy and approach to education. Anyone who prevents Evergreen from delivering a positive and productive learning environment for all students has, and will continue to be held accountable for their actions and face appropriate consequences.
Evergreen’s commitment to leveling the playing field in higher education for communities of color, the underserved and marginalized groups is unwavering. That is why we established the Equity Council in fall 2016. That is why we also launched the recruitment for a new vice president-level position for equity and inclusion at the same time. We will announce the new vice president later this month.
Evergreen is not alone in colleges currently experiencing conflict, but because of our longstanding commitment to open and respectful debate it is imperative that the campus dialogue reflects these values. The tumultuous events of the last week have revealed the need to delve further into issues of diversity and equity at Evergreen. Going forward, the college will take a measured approach, which is crucial to ensure that we respond appropriately, rather than reactively.
As trustees, we will continue to work to encourage civil discourse, ensuring that all voices are heard and conversations are productive — in an environment where all teachers can teach and all students can learn. This has always been a part of the education at Evergreen.
We remain passionate about Evergreen’s vision, mission and values, including social justice, diversity and serving the public interest. President Bridges’ unmatched leadership and experience, combined with the college’s outstanding faculty and staff, provide an extraordinary education that serves both our students and the state of Washington. As trustees, in close collaboration with President Bridges, we will continue to ensure that we do so in the months, years and decades ahead.