No classes at Evergreen State College on Friday after threat

KOMO/Air 4 photo

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Evergreen State College in Olympia was shut down suddenly Thursday and all students and staff were evacuated in response to a "serious threat."

The college announced late Thursday afternoon that there will be no classes again on Friday. Staff will be on the campus to help resident students and law enforcement will also be on scene.

Evergreen said the FBI has been contacted and "is pursing any information that might affect the safety of our campus."

Evergreen said it will make a decision on when the campus will reopen as soon as possible.

Law enforcement has searched campus buildings and determined that they are secure, the college said. Authorities determined that no one was actively posing a threat.

The news of the threat came Thursday in an announcement on the college's website. "In response to a direct threat to campus safety, the college is closing immediately for the day. All are asked to leave campus or return to residence halls for instructions," the announcement said.

Witnesses said that the evacuation was orderly. The closure was announced via text, email, the Internet and also on loudspeakers in buildings and around the college grounds.

Aerial footage from KOMO's Air 4 showed law enforcement officials stationed strategically in and around the campus after the campus was closed.

Campus officials later said that the threat was called in Thursday morning to the the business line for the Thurston County 911 dispatch center. Officials there informed Evergreen campus police about the threat, and they passed it on to college president George Bridges.

College spokesman Zach Powers said that the closure was “a precaution ... due to a serious threat against the college.”

Sandra Kaiser, Evergreen's vice president for college relations, told reporters Thursday that she did not know the source of the threat or whether it was tied to recent protests at the college, which asked everyone to leave or return to residence halls for further instructions.

Officers were "visible and present" on campus Thursday, and school officials were waiting to hear from law enforcement when they "can give the all clear," Kaiser said. She hoped classes would resume Friday.

Officials said it was not known who made the threat. Officials say they do not know if the threat was related to protests on the campus in recent days.

Racial tensions have been high at the state college following a recent "day of absence" event that encouraged white students to stay away from the campus. The event was followed by a protest after a white professor objected to the event as an "act of oppression."

Officials would not say immediately whether the closure was linked to the "day of absence" or the protest. Powers referred to it as a "general threat."

A state legislator has introduced a measure to withhold state funding from the college and force the institution to privatize.

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