Day of Absence  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Every April since the 1970s until 2018, Evergreen State College has held a daylong event called Day of Absence, inspired by the Douglas Turner Ward play of the same name, during which minority students and faculty members voluntarily stay off campus to raise awareness of the contributions of minorities and to discuss racial and campus issues. As of 2017, approximately 25% of Evergreen students were racial minorities. Since 1992, the Day of Absence has been followed by the Day of Presence, when the campus community reunites.

In 2017, the Day of Absence was altered after students of color voiced concerns about feeling unwelcome on campus following the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. For that year's event, white students, staff, and faculty were invited to stay off campus. Events for students of color were held on the Evergreen campus. Bret Weinstein, a professor of biology at Evergreen, wrote a letter in March to Evergreen faculty explaining his objections to the change in format: "On a college campus, one’s right to speak — or to be — must never be based on skin color." and "There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles [...] and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away." Weinstein's emails were leaked and widely shared among conservative media outlets such as Breitbart and Heat Street, which led to harassment and threats towards school officials. In late May 2017, student protests—focused in part on the comments by Weinstein—disrupted the campus and called for a number of changes to the college. Weinstein says he was told that campus police could not protect him and that they encouraged him not to be on campus, which caused Weinstein to hold his biology class in a public park. Weinstein and his wife, Professor Heather Heying, later resigned and reached a $500,000 settlement with the university after having sued it for failing to "protect its employees from repeated provocative and corrosive verbal and written hostility based on race, as well as threats of physical violence".

A June 1 threat to "execute" people at Evergreen led to an evacuation and two-day closure of the campus. Vandals with sticks and baseball bats caused approximately $10,000 in damage to the campus and forced closure of the school for an additional day. A June 15 protest on campus by the far-right group Patriot Prayer led to campus being closed early. The following day, Evergreen's 2017 commencement ceremony was also moved off-campus because of safety concerns.

A report from the college suggested that the protests may adversely affect Evergreen's enrollment, which has been declining over the last decade. Consequently, the college cut its budget by 10% and increased student fees.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Day of Absence" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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