Evergreen rally seeks open dialogue, safety

Faculty, students and staff from The Evergreen State College gathered Wednesday afternoon for a Re-Convocation Rally to urge healing and open conversations following last spring's controversies that prompted protests, threats of violence and close
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Faculty, students and staff from The Evergreen State College gathered Wednesday afternoon for a Re-Convocation Rally to urge healing and open conversations following last spring's controversies that prompted protests, threats of violence and close
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Students, faculty and staff call for equity, healing at Evergreen rally

By Lisa Pemberton

lpemberton@theolympian.com

September 27, 2017 05:54 PM

About 200 students, faculty members and others gathered in Red Square on Wednesday afternoon for a Re-Convocation Rally at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

There were songs, poems, stories and artwork.

And there was still a lot of pain from the racial tension, protests, threats and student unrest that rocked the public liberal arts college last spring.

“Lots of students have been traumatized,” student Van Lynn Ramses told the crowd.

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She said there’s a national trend of groups oppressing student protesters, and that’s what she believes happened at Evergreen.

“There are days I feel like no one’s there to protect me — to protect us,” Ramses said.

During Wednesday’s rally, faculty member Julie Levin Russo said she was impressed by students who organized the protests last spring and that their actions made her “hopeful for this campus.”

“I think that talking to each other about what we experienced is one of the most important things that we can do,” she said.

In May, the nearly 4,000-student college in west Olympia made national headlines as students protested, alleging institutional racism.

Two state legislators introduced bills that would pull the school’s funding, and the campus was closed several days because of threats and protests.

But racial tension at the college had been brewing for months, interrupting last year’s convocation and a ceremony dedicating a remodeled building to former president Les Purce, as well as a would-be swearing-in ceremony for the former campus police chief.

Wednesday's event was organized by a group called Staff and Faculty Acting for Equity.

“We believe that our success as members of a community is dependent not only on ourselves, but on the success of the most vulnerable,” the group wrote in a news release.

“We acknowledge the particular strengths of and challenges faced by first-generation, Black and Brown, undocumented, Latinx, trans*, queer, veteran, and disabled students who have been traditionally underserved by higher education. We strive to center their voices as we move toward more equitable outcomes for all our students.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton