You got some issues, Evergreen. Fix yourself.

Side note: This opinion is coming from a former attendee.

Evergreen State College is located in Washington state’s capitol city of Olympia. Known for being progressive in methods towards earning a degree, Evergreen brings curious students in from all over the United States every year. Hell, with it’s 99% acceptance rate and beautiful act of projects (no tests/mid-terms/finals) it seems to be a personal gospel chorus for kids who hate tests, excel in projects, and find meaning in things often unnoticed.

A prime example of said kid: myself. Coming from a small suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, I’d never physically been to Washington state. The closest I’d been was the Montana border into Idaho (it’s just a tad further). I failed tests that I’d studied weeks over and my placement test scores were so low, I was convinced I’d not be accepted anywhere. Seriously, though. It was the first time I saw the number I’d dreamed of seeing on my bathroom scale. Life is so unfair sometimes.

I remember sitting down with my mom at the kitchen table to discuss colleges. I had a criteria. It would be on the west coast, rain a lot, and equal in distance to both the mountains and Pacific ocean. It narrowed it down a bit, I guess.

After flying down to Seattle and touring the campus, I was convinced. I wrote my application essay about twin identity and finding myself. The admissions counselor who reviewed my application said she was floored–moved to tears. I’d be an instant fit among the community. I was beyond excited.

Flash forward a few months and I was in-transit about to start my first year. I won’t bore you with too many details. Orientation was great! They had a chef on campus, exhibits filled of art and culture. When parents were asked to leave, the exhibits were packed up and the chef was sent home. Honestly, I didn’t expect anything else and it didn’t bother me. It’s a college, not a year-long festival.

I was the awkward forgotten girl in high school. I was determined to be different— to live differently. I was going to speak to boys I thought cute, laugh at jokes I wouldn’t have found funny before, and try to be exposed to new things!

It took me one week before I became exposed to every drug. I was asked to attend a party at an abandoned house in the middle of the woods (should’ve been a red flag). I walked into a party with my new friend to witness several people snorting coke on a nearly broken coffee table. A girl sat twitching in the corner. When asked what was wrong with her, “Oh, she’s high on heroin. Ignore her,” was the response.

Let me just get this out in the open before continuing: I’m not completely opposed to drug use, but think it’s an extremely dangerous path that almost never works out in your favor. With pot I personally prefer not to use it. I will never be oh-righteous and deem your enjoyment of it as “terrible.” If you enjoy it, enjoy. It doesn’t bother me. Just respect me enough to not pressure me into using it myself. But pot is different than heroin in many ways. With hard drugs, you will almost always become addicted and it almost always turns your life upside down.

Luckily the girl I’d come with was as scared and appalled as I was. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t had her. I wouldn’t have wanted to walk back alone in the woods on a path I’d barely made out once. I also wouldn’t have wanted to stay and be as scared and feel as vulnerable either. Best to stay safe, right? But which one do you feel is safer? It took me months before I gained enough courage to attend another party.

Classes were a mix of positivity and shame. One professor had convinced me that my writing was similar to that of a preschooler while another became one of my biggest life inspirations. I went from excelling in work to barely alive.

I could tell you stories upon stories detailing my year, but it wouldn’t do any justice. Slowly my anxiety became my biggest nightmare. I’d faint at random, sleep for days only to be awake for twice as long. I was drinking three bottles of pepto-bismol a day due to intense stomach pains and a lack of appetite. Overall, I’d lost 40 lbs. To put it politely, I was a mess. I’d lost myself completely. And, honestly, I’m still struggling to find myself because of it.

I’m not writing this to bring further shame to Evergreen or it’s community, I’m simply writing about my experiences. I do not believe Evergreen to be evil or a prime example of fault in our college system. I believe it is a beautiful idea with obvious challenges.

Sometimes we get so lost that we forget our basics. Sometimes, the most obvious solution is what is standing right in front of us. It’s time for Evergreen to refocus on what matters: their students, the community they’ve built. A heart needs to beat in order for the rest of the body to feel alive. Right now, they are on a long journey to a standstill coma.

Violence is not the answer. Words of hate and acts of greed are your only blinders.

Simply put, it needs to take the advice which stems from it’s very own mission statement:

“— innovative public liberal arts college, Evergreen emphasizes collaborative, interdisciplinary learning across significant differences. Our academic community engages students in defining and thinking critically about their learning.”

Embrace your beautiful ideal. Define, embrace, and think critically about what matters most.

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