Education

Evergreen State President Doesn’t Seem To Understand Free Speech

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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The president of Evergreen State College, the site of heated student protests at the end of May, initially defended safe spaces and trigger warnings in 2016.

George Bridges, president of Evergreen State College in Washington state, championed concepts that many see as threatening to free speech and academic inquiry in an op-ed for The Seattle Times.

“Trigger warnings can alert students to genuinely distressing content that could otherwise cripple their learning,” Bridges said in the op-ed. “Colleges and universities must change as the society changes.”

The Evergreen president introduced victims of sexual assault and veterans returning from combat as two groups of people who could benefit from trigger warnings.

“These students can make critically important contributions to their classrooms, but if we refuse to acknowledge that they also have unique barriers to participating in that discussion, we send the message that they are not welcome,” Bridges said.

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Bridges asserts that 90 percent of Evergreen’s students are “traditionally underserved,” meaning that they are low-income, first-generation college students, students of color, disabled students, veterans, and students that do not fall within the usual college age demographic.

The president proceeds to define safe spaces as “places and contexts in which they [underserved students] can reflect on and address these unfamiliar issues without fear of failure or rejection by others.”

This desire to prevent students from feeling “failure” or “rejection” may explain Evergreen’s use of “narrative evaluations” administered by faculty instead of standard letter or numerical grades. However, the qualitative grading system may be indicative of less academic rigor, as Evergreen has a 97 percent acceptance rate and only 20 percent of applicants have a grade point average over 3.50, according to The Princeton Review. Fifty-six percent of the college’s students graduate within six years.

Despite Bridges’ attempt to make Evergreen State as accommodating as possible, students do not seem to appreciate his or other faculty member’s efforts.

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The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Bridges for comment, but received none in time for publication.

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Rob Shimshock