Embattled Evergreen professor Bret Weinstein plans to sue college

Bret Weinstein, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College, has been at the heart of a controversy. He and his wife Heather Heying recently filed a $3.85 million tort claim against the Olympia college.
Bret Weinstein, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College, has been at the heart of a controversy. He and his wife Heather Heying recently filed a $3.85 million tort claim against the Olympia college. The Evergreen State College

A lawyer for Bret Weinstein has filed paperwork indicating that the professor plans to sue The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

Joe Shaeffer with MacDonald Hoague & Bayless in Seattle filed a tort claim on July 5 with the state Department of Enterprise Services Office of Risk Management, according to documents obtained by The Olympian. The claim is on behalf of Weinstein, and his wife, Heather Heying.

“In general, filing a tort claim is a prerequisite to filing a suit against the state,” said Enterprise Services spokeswoman Linda Kent.

Weinstein teaches biology and Heying teaches anthropology at Evergreen. Together, they plan to seek $3.85 million in damages, Kent said.

Weinstein has criticized college officials for the way they handled recent protests and student unrest on the campus over allegations of institutional racism.

The 14-page narrative from the tort claim goes into depth about racial tension building up on campus over the past year at Evergreen, with details on numerous events including the Day of Absence/Day of Presence activity that Weinstein took issue with in a series of emails with another professor, his objections to the implementation of an Equity Plan, actions of other faculty members that he felt were inapprorpiate and threats that he and his wife received in recent months.

In May, Weinstein went on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to give his account of an email exchange in which he questioned the idea of changing the format of the campus’ annual Day of Absence/Day of Presence. Traditionally, students of color leave campus for the day to demonstrate their contributions, while white students have discussions about diversity. This year it had been suggested that white students who choose to do so could leave campus for the day and talk about race issues, and minority students stay on campus for diversity events. Weinstein said he felt that was an act of oppression.

“(Evergreen) has permitted, cultivated, and perpetuated a racially hostile and retaliatory work environment,” the narrative states. “Through a series of decisions made at the highest levels, including to officially support a day of racial segregation, the college has refused to protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence. TESC consistently has failed to set and enforce necessary boundaries in the workplace on campus, selectively has chosen not to enforce its student Code of Conduct, and sent the unmistakable message that the school will tolerate (and even endorse) egregious violations (and even crimes) purportedly to advance racial social goals, diminishing the collegiate experience for all, and fostering a racially hostile work and retaliatory environment for faculty and staff.”

The narrative states that college officials didn’t take steps to alleviate “the racially hostile and retaliatory work environment and make the campus safe” for Weinstein and others. It states college officials falsely asserted that demonstrations on the campus were “nonviolent” and publicly rejected Weinstein’s complaints of racial segregation “for which he has been repeatedly excoriated, threatened, attacked, and wrongly accused of being a racist in the workplace, for months.”

The activities that took place during spring quarter put the college in the national spotlight and at the center of debates over racism, academia and freedom of speech.

But it also forced the college to be evacuated and closed for two separate threats, contract with the Washington State Patrol for additional security and move its graduation to Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.

“For safety reasons, Professor Weinstein did not attend, and watched his own students graduate on the live-stream, sending them congratulations electronically as they did so,” the narrative states.

Evergreen president George Bridges recently outlined a 60-day plan to address campus safety. It includes letting students know why some of the activities such as blocking doors to a public building and physically removing Weinstein from his classroom were illegal, beefing up the campus Police Services program and getting a full external review of the college’s actions, policies and procedures.

“The college isn’t going to comment on pending litigation,” Evergreen spokesman Zach Powers told The Olympian.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton