Recollections of a Greener

May 24th, 2022 by Ken

(As the school year ends, and The Evergreen State College is still around.  I thought it might be interesting for a student’s perspective on that first year 1971.  Here’s mine.)

Resent research shows that memory at its best is only 70 percent accurate and the further away from the event the less you recall accurately.  With that in mind, here goes my recollection of Evergreen’s first year of operation from a half century later.

I was enrolled in a coordinated studies program called “Causality, Freedom and Chance”.  Its purpose was to explore the idea of “free will”.  Did man really have free will?

We were given our list of reading material in advance of the college’s opening in the fall of 1971.  It appeared we had around 100 students and four (or five) faculty members.

The campus wasn’t ready for opening.  All of the dorms had not been completed and some students were staying at an apartment complex called Village Capri off campus in West Olympia.  I lived off-campus and wasn’t impacted.  The main building on campus was the Library building, which would contain most of the college activities.  The first and second floors contained the library and classrooms while the third floor was college administration and the top floor contained the cafeteria and other admin facilities.  I’m not certain if the lecture hall and student union building were open during that first year but were open for sure by the second year.

Because classrooms weren’t ready, we spent the first week of class on a small island just off of Fox Island.  All faculty and all students were to work together, get to know each other and spend time discussing our readings.  There were two rooms for sleeping and an area for food service.  Most of us slept outside for the few days in sleeping bags, around campfires with guitars and smoors, with an occasional toke.

It was during the height of the Vietnam War and the beginning of the Women’s Movement.  Both events cast an impact on our studies.  When we began unloading supplies from the ferry that took us to the island, the men (boys) created a chain and began moving supplies from the waterfront to the main building.  The women (girls) were standing around watching.   I shouted out at the top of my lungs “I thought you women wanted to be equal, why aren’t you helping?”  A few of the girls started moving towards the line and very quickly, almost all of them were helping carry supplies.

Most of the students were in their late teens, just out of high school.  I was 29, had a wife and a kid and was a military veteran of nearly six years in the service.  I became the leader, because of  my decade of maturity over most of the group, but I was out of step with the tenor of the students.

Because the classrooms still weren’t ready, we spent our second week in the House Chambers of the Legislative Building.  I think we only met twice that week but we did discuss our readings when we finally began to accept our new classroom space.

By late October, we were ready to move into our classrooms.  Each sub-group of about 20 students and one faculty advisor were give a home classroom.  The chairs were all wrapped in plastic and tied together with plastic zip ties.  The classroom phone was still sitting in a box under the outlet, waiting to be installed.  Because the chairs were all wrapped up, some of the students sat on the floor in a small circle, which became larger the more people joined.  Soon we had one large circle around the whole room.  Our faculty advisor initially stood in the center, before he too sat down and began the instructions.  That was our normal classroom style for the whole year, even after the chairs had been unpacked.

The next few weeks are uncounted for in my memory, but we did have seminars with other groups and other faculty members.  We took field trips to farms to study natural growth, visited a lab to examine fruit flies, read books after books and wrote paper after paper.

I found I was a fairly good writer and organized a writing group within our class with the intention of reading each others papers and giving feed back.

My attention soon became focused on The Paper Cooperative which had created a student newspaper called “The Paper.”  I wrote several articles for the paper and decided  I had come upon my profession.  We finished that first year out.

I was signed up to do a contracted study group for the next school year with an emphasis on journalism.  A month before school was to start, I was informed that my professor had been deported for running guns for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and I had to scramble to find something to replace it.  I managed to get an internship at “The Olympia News” and found myself a sponsor.  I spent the whole school year of 72-73 working as an intern for two local weekly newspapers.

I did a contracted studies program over Christmas Vacation to fulfill my attendance requirements and graduated in the summer of 73.

During my time at Evergreen I was selected as the student representative to the Board of Trustees and later become the Vice President of the Evergreen Alumni Association.   In later years I worked at the college in the college relations office and taught a class in journalism.  I also spent time at advisor to the school newspaper.



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