Friday classes have been canceled at The Evergreen State College, making for two days of missed education after the campus near Olympia was abruptly closed and swarmed by police due to a telephoned threat.
Students, faculty and staff received emergency alerts Thursday morning telling them to leave campus or shelter in their dorms. The college president ordered the partial evacuation after getting word that an anonymous caller to the business line of the Thurston County 911 dispatch center claimed to be armed and en route to the campus.
Police, sheriff's deputies and state troopers quickly cordoned off the 4,000 student college. A subsequent search did not find anyone dangerous on the loose. During the initial shutdown of the wooded campus, some worried parents had trouble reuniting with their children because of police roadblocks.
Evergreen's Vice President for College Relations Sandra Kaiser said it's unknown if the threat was connected to current campus tensions around racial issues.
"There is a lot of sensitivity,” she said at a early afternoon press briefing. “I think it was a very prudent thing to do to take a look at this threat and make sure people were safe because that is always going to be the top priority.”
The college said its campus police department had contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance on the case.
"A determination on when to fully re-open campus will be made as soon as possible," a college spokesperson wrote in a news release later in the afternoon. The final day of instruction for the spring term is just one week away.
This spring, groups of Evergreen students have staged demonstrations, disrupted events or occupied buildings to protest alleged racism at the progressive school. Earlier this week, the unrest became national news after a white biology professor who questioned the protesters' demands was forced to hold class off campus.
Various conservative media outlets spotlighted the Evergreen State College disruptions as an example of liberal campus intolerance.
“Conversations about equity and free speech will continue. These are incredibly complex issues to navigate,” college President George Bridges wrote in a statement posted Saturday. “While the majority of students, faculty, and staff are fully engaged in the teaching and learning work of the college, a few are on a destructive course of action that hurts themselves and gives a distorted and false impression of our community.”