A biology and agriculture professor says he’s the first — and so far the only — faculty member at The Evergreen State College to publicly come out in support of Bret Weinstein, the professor whose comments stoked tensions over racism at the Olympia campus.
Tenured faculty member and veterinarian Mike Paros of Centralia confirmed he sent a letter in support of Weinstein to his state lawmaker, Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen.
Walsh’s office shared a copy of the letter with The Olympian.
“He has been attempting to share some support for Weinstein and has been thwarted as his support for the actions of his colleague doesn’t fit the narrative,” Kari Dodson, Walsh’s legislative assistant, wrote to The Olympian.
Paros declined to provide comment beyond the letter, other than saying: “Most of the country at least either supports what Bret Weinstein did, or is concerned about Evergreen as a college where free inquiry can occur.”
The college has been embroiled in controversy in recent weeks, and has been the target of protests, threats and vandalism. Leaked videos, social media posts and Weinstein’s willingness to go on FOX News and other outlets have driven the 4,000-student school into the national spotlight.
On Wednesday, a small group of faculty members met with The Olympian’s editorial board, saying they believe Weinstein’s protest against the structure of the campus’ annual Day of Absence/Day of Presence and his remarks on national media have fueled much of the unrest on campus.
Also, in a letter signed by nearly 60 faculty members and about 30 staff members, Weinstein’s colleagues asked college president George Bridges for a disciplinary investigation of the professor.
“Weinstein has endangered faculty, staff and students, making them targets of white supremacist backlash by promulgating misinformation in public emails, on national television, in news outlets and on social media,” the letter stated.
Weinstein has declined interview requests with The Olympian.
Paros has taught at Evergreen for about a decade.
In his letter, he described the controversy on campus as being complicated by “a collection of professors that are so blinded by their advocacy, that they cannot fathom different viewpoints.” He wrote that “the college is now contributing to the vilification, paranoia and irrational rhetoric that fuels hatred and violence.”
Paros also indicated other people on campus support Weinstein, but they’re afraid of being labeled bigots. He said he met a student recently who was angry that she was told to shut up at a student rally, based on her skin color.
“She did not comply and was called a racist,” Paros wrote. “I asked her if this bothered her. She said, ‘No, because I am not a racist.’”
He urged other faculty to stand up and speak out.
“To the faculty, too afraid to speak out: I urge you to walk toward the fire,” he wrote. “After all, if this brave student is a bigot, then I guess I am too. They are just words. You will not lose your job, but you might lose your dignity.”