OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Evergreen State College said it will remain closed for a second day on Friday because of a "credible" threat of violence directed against the school.
The threat came after a recent series of protests that have drawn national attention to student allegations of racism on the progressive campus, which has an enrollment of nearly 4,200 students.
Thurston County received a call Thursday morning that was "threatening in nature to the campus at Evergreen,” spokesperson Zach Powers said.
Officials said on the college website Thursday evening that someone called the Thurston County Communications Center at 10:25 a.m. Thursday claiming to be armed and on the way to campus. Officials say the call was made from an unknown telephone number to the communications center's regular business phone line and not their 911 lines.
After notification, the college immediately decided to evacuate students from all classrooms.
“One of my professors said, 'Everyone, I just got a text, we have to evacuate immediately,'” said one student.
Confused students started pouring out of classes. Students left campus or went on lockdown inside their residence halls.
Investigators checked the campus and found no immediate danger to students.
The disruption comes on the heels of racial tensions at the school. Many minority students choose to participate in an annual ‘Day of Absence’ in April to send a message about racial inequities. It’s a tradition at the liberal college, but this year some groups were calling on white people to stay off campus on that day, too.
Professor Bret Weinstein says he supports the ‘Day of Absence,’ but has a problem with the idea of one group telling another group to stay away based on skin color. He says it’s inappropriate and oppressive.
“Nobody should tell another group to leave campus and then stigmatize them if they decide not to go,” Weinstein said.
The situation escalated when a group of about 50 students then crashed Weinstein’s class and called him a racist and yelled at him to resign.
“The stigma of racism was thrown at me. It’s preposterous, there is nothing racist about what I said,” Weinstein said.
Addressing the protests, the college said on its website that demonstrations May 23 and May 24 were nonviolent. It also said: "Everyone on our campus has the right to feel safe. Free speech must be fostered and encouraged. Every faculty member, student, and staff member must have the freedom to speak openly."
The college says they do not know if last week's unrest is in anyway related to Thursday’s threat.
“There have been some racial problems, you would probably find that in a lot of places,” one student said.
“I don`t know what's going on with the passive aggressive mood that’s been prevalent here,” student Andy Lai said.
The students Q13 News spoke with on Thursday did not agree with the way Weinstein was cornered. They say the situation should have been handled better.
Several students told Q13 News that race relations are tense at the small college. One student says the problem goes deeper than just last week’s protest, saying Weinstein’s case is just a small part of an overall issue.
In light of the threat, the school says they will have suspended operations on Friday which means the school will have campus services for the approximately 900 students who live on campus.