Evergreen Investigating Riot, Taking Steps to Ensure Future Safety

February 20, 2008

The Evergreen State College Police Services Department and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department are continuing their joint investigation of a riot that occurred at Evergreen in the early morning hours of February 15 in which one police vehicle was destroyed and others damaged.  “Based on the evidence, we will hold the people involved in the violence and destruction of property accountable for their actions,” said Evergreen President Les Purce.

The college convened a campus forum on February 19 to discuss the incident, answer questions and begin the process of addressing related issues.  Approximately 300 students, faculty and staff attended. 

“The range of emotions I have gone through from just being flat sad, to disappointed to angry, to violated, have just swung back and forth in me,” Purce explained, “because I think about when you students first came to this campus, the promises we made to you and to your parents about what this place was and what we strive for it to be, and to have that kind of event occur in our house caused me great pause…While we may never know everything about this event, one thing I know and we all have to know is that what happened is not acceptable by any standard.”

President Purce announced a moratorium on student-sponsored concerts and other events that involve substantial safety and security considerations until processes are improved.

“We aren’t having any more concerts until we can get our house in order,” Purce said. “We have to ensure that we have the appropriate kinds of security and safety on campus and a revisiting of our policies as they relate to all aspects of approval of concerts, so that we can be assured that our house is safe.”

The college will convene a committee of students, faculty and staff to review policies and procedures for planning and implementing campus events. Recommendations will be forwarded to the Vice President for Student Affairs.

As the group is being formulated and convened, Phyllis Lane, Dean of Student and Academic Support Services, in consultation with Art Costantino, Vice President for Student Affairs, will determine which events will be allowed in the short-term. While all events will be evaluated for security needs, college-sponsored lectures and art exhibits, for example, will continue as planned.

Purce also repeated his intention that the college will pay for the damage to the Thurston County Sheriff’s vehicle destroyed in the incident.

At the forum, Evergreen Police Services officer April Meyers, who responded to reports of a fight at the concert and made an initial arrest, explained the timeline of events from her perspective. Others shared differing views of how the incident unfolded and expressed a broad range of concerns related to relationships with campus police, respect for diversity on campus and other issues of campus climate.

The college will also refer this specific incident to its Police Services Community Review Board – a body of students, faculty and staff charged with reviewing law enforcement issues and concerns on campus – to assess the actions of Evergreen Police Services related to the incident.

According to Costantino, Evergreen is planning a follow-up campus forum at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 27 in Lecture Hall 1 to continue discussion and begin the work to develop longer term strategies related to both to this incident and other issues of shared concern that affect safety and quality of life on campus.

If you have information that would help in our investigation, please contact Police Services at 360-867-6832.