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News >  WA Government

Lawmaker proposes to make Evergreen State College a private college

June 1, 2017 Updated Thu., June 1, 2017 at 12:19 p.m.

FILE – The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – The Washington state Capitol building in Olympia on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
By Walker Orenstein Tacoma News Tribune

A Republican state lawmaker from Eastern Washington on Wednesday blasted recent protests alleging racism at The Evergreen State College, and said he wants the Legislature to privatize the school.

He’s also calling for an investigation to see if civil rights laws have been broken by college actions.

Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, plans to introduce a bill Thursday that would ratchet down state funding for Evergreen over five years, he said in an interview.

He also sent a letter Wednesday to the state Human Rights Commission asking executive director Sharon Ortiz to “take action to correct discriminatory practices or policies” at the college.

His bill has little chance of passing, especially as lawmakers are embroiled in their second special session over a court-ordered fix to public schools. The commission is not launching any investigation at the moment, Ortiz said Wednesday.

But Manweller called the moves a “figurative shot across the bow” to school administration and protesters “that says ‘Hey, the people that are funding you are watching and they’re not happy.’ ”

Some Democrats already are rejecting the bill. The party has a majority in the state House.

State Rep. Beth Doglio, an Olympia Democrat, said Evergreen is a “great institution” that should continue getting state money.

“Students there are working to make it a more inclusive, diverse campus and experience, and that’s important especially in today’s world,” Doglio said.

The legislative debate is spillover from events that have attracted national attention in recent weeks. Protests began in mid-May in response to campus police questioning black students, according to a report in the Cooper Point Journal, the college’s student newspaper.

The campus police department repeatedly denied requests for comment on the event.

Tensions reached a new high after the public airing of an email exchange between school employees over a planned anti-racist “day of absence” event.

Rashida Love, director of the First People’s Multicultural Advising Services program, sent an email asking for some white students to volunteer not to be on campus for the event, to leave the college more open for students of color, said college spokesman Zach Powers.

Typically minority students have retreated off campus on the day of absence, which involves only about 200 of the 4,800 students and staff at the school, Powers said.

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