A college so crippled by going woke that all 3 candidates to be its new president withdrew their applications

It’s one thing for students to shun applying to colleges that disgrace themselves with wokeness excesses: it’s quite another when applicants to run the campus all bow out.  

The ideology of wokeness that now is in command at virtually all[i] of the nation’s leading colleges and universities is toxic, not just to the outside society and economy, but to the institutions that have embraced it. While the most highly-endowed institutions like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton – hedge funds managing tens of billions of dollars with educational subsidiaries that justify their tax-exempt status – will survive, other degree-granting establishments further down the prestige hierarchy may end up forfeiting their survivability.

Case in point: The Evergreen State College, founded in 1967 as a non-traditional institution where students can design their own courses of study and professors write evaluations in place of assigning grades, but owned and subsidized by the State of Washington. Evergreen made national headlines, drove away applicants, and ended up paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle a lawsuit when it implemented and defended a segregationist event on campus in 2017.

Professor Bret Weinstein, a leftist, refused to participate in the evacuation of white people (only) from the campus of Evergreen State College and sued the college for the hostile work environment he alleged that he and his wife subsequently suffered. Without admitting that charge, the state-supported institution that already faces a $2.1 million deficit and layoffs, is going to cough up a cool half million bucks to avoid the expense, spectacle, and risk of a jury trial.

Exposure of the College’s extremism resulted in serious declines in applications and enrollment, and therefore a deficit:

Administrators at The Evergreen State College have announced that the embattled school faces a massive $2.1 million budget shortfall due in part to a drop in enrollment, and the institution has already handed out some temporary layoff notices as officials grapple with balancing the books.

In an Aug. 28 memo to the campus community titled "Enrollment and Budget Update," officials report that fall 2017-18 registration is down about 5 percent, from 3,922 students to 3,713. But the problem is nearly all of the students they lost are nonresidents, who traditionally pay a much higher tuition to attend, officials explained in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The College Fix.

Jason Rantz summarizes why the layoffs came:

Turns out, being nationally recognized for unhinged Progressive students who are allowed by cowardly administrators to run amok doesn't pay off, as Evergreen State College is learning. (snip)

I hope this serves as a wake up call. The behavior we saw on the Evergreen campus surrounding Professor Bret Weinstein has consequences. Evergreen administrators seem to hate being criticized and rather than change their behavior, they lash out. It wouldn't surprise me if the reason for some of the drop off is their notoriety as a bastion of political correct lunatics.

But as much as the school wants to placate childish and dangerous behavior of campus activists who are offended when someone doesn't agree with every one of their tactics, they do so at their own peril (and budget shortfall).

The Daniel J. Evans Library at Evergreen reflects the brutalist style of architecture that predominates on campus

Photo credit: Greg M. Erickson (cropped) CC BY 3.0 license

Instead of embarking on reforms that would push wokeness out of the curriculum while laying off its worst practitioners, Evergreen decided to go with the political flow in higher education, and muddle through with the existing extremism free to reign on campus. The result: a mess that keeps compounding, and situation to unmanageable that nobody wants to manage it, even for a salary of $300,000 a year. The local newspaper in the campus area, The Chronicle, reports:

A year-long process to find the next president of The Evergreen State College came to a shocking conclusion Wednesday when the college’s Board of Trustees emerged from a three-hour meeting and announced that the three finalists for the job had withdrawn their names from consideration.

Board of Trustees Chairwoman Karen Fraser said all three finalists — Michael Dumont, Catherine Kodat and Lee Lambert — withdrew following recent interviews with faculty, students, staff and alumni.

I am not optimistic about the ability of the trustees to grapple with the genuine issues:

Trustee David Nicandri said the common conceit about the college is that its biggest challenge is in recruitment and retention, but he also cited a “deeper set of problems” facing the college, which he did not identify.

“A forthcoming interim president or interim administrator or permanent appointment must engage constructively and continuously with the campus community with one primary objective in mind — that we engage in the ideal model of shared governance in a collegial and constructive manner,” he said.

I doubt that prospective students are worried about shared governance so much as they are about a college that won’t give them a useful education because it is so consumed with ideology.

Evergreen is owned by the State of Washington, which may be reluctant to shut it down, as this would be an admission of failure. Private institutions that disgrace themselves and have no such financial backstop may fall by the wayside, financially crippled as students avoid them. This happened to Antioch College of Yellow Springs, Ohio, though in its case, alumni raised enough money to purchase the campus and revive the college’s name in a newly constituted institution. Hampshire College in  Massachusetts, another bastion of trendy progressivism, is also having trouble with survivability.

Demography alone – declining cohorts of students graduating high school and applying for college – means that the current number of colleges and universities will not sustained. The rise of cheaper online degrees will further reduce the number of those willing to pay a premium for 4 years on residential campus.

“Get woke, go broke” is a clever slogan invented by Professor Glenn Reynolds. While it takes a long time to deliver the death blow, progressivism in the form of wokeness is gradually destroying the moral and financial basis for supporting higher education.  


[i] Hillsdale College, Grove City College, and a few others are notable exceptions, but are either despised or ignored by the makers of the all-important college ranking surveys that channel so many high schoolers to compete for places in the highest prestige institutions that they imagine are their pathway to a desirable career.

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