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Shooting Review Board questions officer’s actions

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 11:21pm

A close look at the internal investigation of OPD Officer Ryan Donald

WIP has conducted an extensive review into documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to the Olympia Police Department’s Shooting Review Board internal investigation into Officer Ryan Donald’s shooting of brothers Bryson and André Chaplin-Thompson on May 21, 2015. WIP found that members of the Board shared many of the same questions about Donald’s use of force that the community has raised. However, due to OPD Use of Force guidelines, Donald was exonerated and returned to service with no written plan for reintroduction. Both Chaplin and Thompson were hospitalized after the shooting, and Chaplin is paralyzed from the waist down, a bullet lodged near his spine. It is not clear if he will walk again.

Eight days to decide

The Shooting Review Board [SRB, or Board] met on September 21, 2015, and was given a comprehensive 886-page binder with only eight days to examine it before reconvening on September 29, 2015. The Board consisted of three members of the OPD: Deputy Chief Steve Nelson, Lieutenant Aaron Jelcick and Officer Jason Winner, as well as Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber and Edward Prince, Executive Director of the Commission of African American Affairs. No other community stakeholders were allowed to participate.

The binder contained documents produced by the investigation into the shooting conducted by the Thurston County Critical Incident Team led by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office [TCSO], including investigators from the Lacey and Tumwater Police Departments. There were witness statements, investigative, forensic and medical reports, transcripts of audio recordings, scene schematics as well as photographs of the scene of the shooting, evidence collected and the men’s injuries. There were also excerpts from OPD’s use of force guidelines.

All members were given the confidential binder with instructions not to write in it or alter it in anyway. The board was instructed to use a provided notepad to make any notes and was informed that any written material produced would be retained and become part of the public record.

Two questions to consider

The Board was tasked with answering two questions. The first was, “Did the force used by Officer Donald adhere to the policies of the Olympia Police Department?” and the second, “Did the actions of Officer Donald precipitate the course of events that ultimately led to the use(s) of force? If so, were those actions reasonable and appropriate?”

SRB presses Donald for answers

On September 29, 2016, the Board reconvened to visit the site of the shooting. They then heard testimony from OPD Officers Paul Evers and Luke O’Brien, who were on the scene at the time of the shooting, before interviewing Officer Donald.

Notes made by the SRB show they had questions about Donald’s actions. During Donald’s testimony “members were afforded the opportunity to ask the officers any questions about the incident, about department policies, and about the involved officer’s training and experience” according to the Review Board Memorandum found on the city’s website.

Lt. Jelcick had prepared four typewritten pages of questions. It wasn’t clear if all were asked of Donald, but Jelcick made notes of Donald’s responses to about a third of the questions, most involving Donald’s second contact with the suspects. [See sidebar for an overview including a transcript of Jelcick’s handwritten notes on page 12]

Many members expressed concern if it was reasonable for Donald to attempt to detain the suspects without backup and wanted to know if he considered waiting, as the danger to the public was “weak” according to a note made by Chief Nelson. One member wrote there was “no light on the road, black, pitch black,” which is contrary to the best practice  of conducting such interactions in well- lit areas.

Chief Nelson noted that Donald had not turned on the light bar on his dark black vehicle, nor his emergency lights, which would have both established his authority and made the situation safer for himself, the suspects and any other vehicles coming upon the scene. Chief Nelson’s notes read that when Donald was asked if he identified himself he replied, “Not at this time.”  Another member questioned “How did they know you were police?” There is no answer recorded in their notes.

At this point, Donald was taking cover behind the driver’s side door of his patrol car as the men approached the front of the vehicle. Donald drew his .45-caliber service weapon. According to Chief Nelson’s notes, Donald testified, “I knew probable cause for assault… I was prepared for them if they were going to be assaultive for me. I got myself in position to defend myself.” Next to this quote Chief Nelson wrote one word, “WHY!”

André and Bryson Chaplin-Thompson then started walking faster, trying to get past the police car. Instead of letting them go, Donald left his protective cover and cut the men off near the rear of his vehicle.  Referring to Donald’s testimony in front of the SRB, Chief Nelson wrote of “significant warning factors to stay back. He [unintelligible], though his intention was not to physically engage suspect. He put himself too close tactically and was grabbed by suspect who lunged for his arm.” This action is also detailed in a highlighted section of a copy of Donald’s May 26th statement, next to which Nelson wrote, “BAD CHOICE.”

This is where the first set of shots was fired after Donald accused Bryson Chaplin of trying to hit him with his skateboard. The two men  then ran north on Cooper Point Road—one hiding behind a fence, the other escaping into the woods. It is believed Chaplin had been shot for the first time during the scuffle. Donald left his vehicle and gave pursuit. [See “Did Bryson Chaplin use his skateboard as a weapon?” sidebar.]

The SRB also wanted to determine why Donald left cover once he had already allegedly been assaulted and considered the skateboard a deadly weapon. Almost every member of the Board had notes questioning this decision. One SRB member wrote that Donald’s decision “increased safety risk.”

Notes show Donald alleges he was trying to set up a perimeter to contain the suspects when he engaged them and fired his weapon again, injuring both men. [Please see for an in depth look at the events of the night.]

Conflict of interest

Multiple members of the Board also wondered about Officer Evers’ actions to pass Donald and park around the corner on 14th Street. This left Donald alone “because his back-up unit failed/chose not to stop with him.”  Another note remarks that Evers “never thought suspect would re-engage after the [first] gunfight.” In his witness statement dated May 21, 2016, Evers credited his presence for possibly altering the suspect’s behavior, “Our turning onto the road [14th] deterred them from going in that direction. And…may have caused them to backtrack.”

This raises the question of whether Officer Evers followed proper procedure. A FOIA request to see any disciplinary records for Evers for the past five years produced no results.

There is also potential conflict of interest with Evers being both a witness and having a  position as Police Guild President.  Evers escorted Officer Donald to OPD headquarters for processing, which placed the two officers alone in Evers’ vehicle for the trip downtown. This may have allowed collusion between the officers and could have been easily prevented by Donald being transported by an officer from a different agency.

On a related note, on a page of notes entitled “Random Questions to Consider,” Chief Nelson is curious about Evers’ involvement when Donald gave his initial statement to the TCSO on May 26, 2015. He wrote, “Why is Evers asking RD questions during Thurston County Sheriff’s (TCSO) interview?” In the official transcript of the interview released by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office, Evers is not even listed as being present. Most likely he was there due to his Guild position, but since he was also witness to the shooting there is again a conflict in having him present when Donald was being interviewed.

OPD use of force guidelines

In his notes, Edward Prince of the Shooting Review Board summarizes the OPD’s definitions and guidelines for use of force, giving the reader a sense of the rules that the SRB used when making their decision.

  • Protection of life is more important than apprehension of criminal offenders or the protection of property.
  • The responsibility to protect life includes our employee’s own life. Deadly force may be employed only when necessary to protect the officer or others from what he/she reasonably believes is an immediate threat of death or serious injury.
  • Life-threatening behavior is behavior by a subject that supports a reasonable perception that death or serious body harm to an individual or officer is imminent or highly probable.
  • Deadly force is designed to be employed with subjects who display life-threatening behavior.
  • Deadly force is the application of force, by any means, that is reasonably likely to cause death or serious physical injury.

Resolution of the inquiry

The SRB then took hours in a thorough review before making a final decision about disciplinary action against Donald. Ultimately, despite their misgivings over Donald’s decisions, the Board unanimously determined that his actions “adhere to the policies of the OPD,” and furthermore they “did not precipitate the course of events that ultimately led to the uses(s) of force.” [See sidebar below for complete transcript of the SRB decision.]

The decision was then given to OPD’s Chief Roberts, who concurred with the findings. This means that Donald faced no disciplinary consequences for shooting two men and endangering the community.

No plan for reintroduction

In a document entitled “Review Board Inquiry Summary” found on the City of Olympia’s website, the city states that “because of the trauma of the event and the length of his absence, the Department has a plan to reintegrate Officer Donald before assigning his routine duties.”

WIP tried to obtain documentation of this reintegration plan through FOIA requests and was told by Amy Iverson of the OPD that she had “contacted the Lieutenants and verified with them that there was no written plan. There is no responsive record for this request.”

Works in Progress opinion

The largest questions that WIP continues to have centers on whether Donald should have waited for backup in the first place, and furthermore should not have pursued the men, who were ostensibly not a threat to the community. Certainly less threat than a stray bullet through a bedroom window.

An FAQ on the city’s website gives less than satisfactory answers. To the question of “Why would an officer attempt to locate suspects in a low-level crime?” the city states, “When the police receive a report of a potential crime, regardless of its severity, we are expected by our community to respond. The community also expects we will attempt to locate suspects of a crime in order to prevent them from causing other crimes. Once suspects are detained by police, the rest of the criminal justice process is initiated.”

The Shooting Review Board stated that Donald was “familiar with tactical guidelines on high-risk field interviews” which include waiting in a well-lit area for backup Donald did neither.

To the question “Why would an officer contact suspects by him/herself?” the city’s website states, “…It is routine for officers to make initial contact with suspects by themselves. Usually, other officers will respond to the location for the safety of all parties. Sometimes, there are circumstances where the officer needs to take action before other officers arrive, such as to stop physical harm, prevent a suspect from fleeing, or to render aid to anyone who is injured.”

Under this explanation, Officer Donald took action to prevent the suspects from fleeing since the other two reasons do not apply. At the time of contact, Donald was aware backup was on the way, including a K-9 officer, according to his statement given on May 26, 2015.

Donald did not positively identify himself or take command of the situation. In his book, To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police, Norm Stamper, former Seattle Police Chief, says law enforcement needs to “bring to the scene problem-solving rather than problem-causing behaviors” and should avoid using “loose, lazy and ineffective language.”

In his May 26, 2015, statement Donald says “both subjects appeared to be taller, heavier and bigger in physical size to me.” Again, this begs the question as to why Donald initiated contact in the first place.

Between the men being intoxicated and Donald drawing his weapon early in the confrontation gives clues as to how first contact was made. It is unknown how or why the situation escalated.  A SRB member asked Donald why he used his gun. The handwritten note says Donald “thought he might rush me.” Yet the men continued walking on the other side of Donald’s car, indicating they were trying to get away. It was Donald who left his position of cover to initiate contact with the men at the rear of his patrol car. Donald accuses one of the men of lunging at him. This does not seem consistent with the men’s other evasive actions, both before this contact and after.

A scuffle allegedly took place, and Donald fired his weapon multiple times, sending a shot into a nearby house and most likely hitting Chaplin for the first time. A note in the SRB binder says that Donald “brought the first confrontation to the suspects.”

The men then tried to escape, running away and finding hiding places, which again seems to mean they were trying to avoid further contact from Donald. At this point, they were no longer a threat to Donald. The safest thing for Donald to have done would have been to stay with his vehicle and wait. In both his written and oral statements given on May 26th, Donald stresses his fear, yet his actions were aggressive.

Despite the SRB ruling, it is not hard to imagine a different scenario had Donald taken better control of the situation from the first moment of contact, or had even delayed contact until backup arrived.

Norm Stamper discusses the urge police have to pursue, saying, “The hardest thing in the world for most cops to do is back off. From the classroom to the locker room, the culture teaches them: you cannot back away, or back down, and you certainly cannot lose. Whether it’s a fistfight or a car chase, you must come out on top. Allowing certain suspects, under certain circumstances, to evade arrest just might be the smartest thing a police officer could do in a given situation, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Every fiber of a cop’s being is dedicated to catching those who flee, especially those who have hurt other people. It’s a noble aspiration, but one that demands strong policies, tactical smarts, close supervision, and steely self-discipline.”

Excessive use of force is often a consequence of fear in the officer, “Because fear tends to be a socially unacceptable, indeed an inexpressible emotion within the cop culture… A scared cop overcompensates, which means he or she is likely to come across as loud, abrasive and arrogant. And mean – a bully.  And that leads to an inescapable conclusion: scared cops are a danger – to themselves, and to the people they’ve been hired to protect and serve,” explains Stamper.

Given the evidence, it is hard to take the position that Donald did not directly contribute to the events that led to André and Bryson Chaplin-Thompson  being shot. Even Edward Prince of the SRB noted in his findings, “I believe Officer Donald made a tactical error by moving to the rear of the car which contributed to the assault in the first use of force. In my opinion, all other uses of force stem from the first incident.”  Deputy City Attorney Darren Nienaber expressed similar concern in his findings, saying “going to the back of the car may have increased the risk of attack on him more than needed.” Chief Nelson agreed that “Donald put himself too close to them tactically.”

Had Ryan Donald stood back, had he listened to his alleged fear, Bryson Chaplin and André Thompson would not now be living with life-changing injuries and a community would not have been traumatized.

Candace Mercer is an artist/writer/activist who has lived in Olympia for 20 years. She has worked with the Thurston-Mason Crisis Clinic, the Northwest Justice Project, Olympia Rafah Sister City Project and the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. She has written for Dissident Voice, Electronic Intifada and


The post Shooting Review Board questions officer’s actions appeared first on Works in Progress.

Sacred Stones speak

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 11:15pm

In support of Standing Rock and their efforts to protect the water

Hundreds of tribes from the United States and Canada are gathered along the Cannonball River next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. They have come together to stand as one in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The camp is located on treaty land ceded by the Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires) in 1851 and 1868, at the junction of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers. The Cannonball empties into Lake Oahe, a portion of the Missouri River extending from near Bismarck, North Dakota, 230 miles south to Pierre, South Dakota. Lake Oahe is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s primary source of domestic and irrigation water as well as a source of recreation for the region. The Missouri is in turn the main tributary of the Mississippi River.

Energy Transfer Partners, owner of DAPL, expects to move approximately 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois. The pipeline contract is worth $3.8 billion. Present plans call for routing the pipeline under Lake Oahe. This portion of the route was originally planned to cross under the river near Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, but the mapping was altered to avoid Bismarck. The pipeline reminds Native people of ancient Indigenous prophecies that told of a “black snake” that would cross the land and bring an end to the world.

The swirling water of a whirlpool at the mouth of the Cannonball River shaped river rocks such that the native people called it River that Makes the Sacred Stones, thus the name of the camp where the water protectors converged. Like the whirlpool, this area has been a vortex of human and natural history.  Three to four hundred Sioux were massacred by the U.S. Army in 1863 approximately 50 miles east of here in the Whitestone Massacre. In the late 1950s, the Army Corps of Engineers began building the Oahe Dam which altered this portion of the Missouri River and displaced most of the tribal farming in the rich river bottomlands. During the construction, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the mouth of the Cannonball River, destroying the sacred stones.

Historic convergence at the Camp of the Sacred Stones

Over Labor Day weekend, we travelled to Sacred Stone Camp to offer support through donations of time, money, camping gear, and a readiness to spread the word. As soon as we heard about this situation, we both knew we had to offer assistance to the tribes.  Most participants we talked with had heard about it through Facebook and were drawn to come immediately as well. More than 200 tribes had already made the trek to Camp of the Sacred Stone by the time we arrived and more continued to come after we left. This gathering of the tribes is a significant historical event since it is the first time the council fire has burned in over 140 years.

After a formal procession into the sacred circle and a welcome by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, incoming tribes shared their flags, words of support, songs and dances. A number of Pacific Northwest tribes arrived by canoe after a two-day paddle down the Missouri River from Bismarck.  Many Northwest tribes were represented at the council fire including the Yakama Nation, Swinomish Tribal Community, Lummi Nation, Puyallup Tribe, Nisqually Tribe, The Suquamish Tribe, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, and the Hoh Tribe.

The Sioux Nation has three regional dialects of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota.  All three names mean friend or ally, and they have 13 reservations in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Montana, and Minnesota. They have been traditional enemies with the Crow Nation for 243 years. The two nations recently reconciled to face a common foe in the oil industry, and while we were there a large number of Crow arrived at the camp to join the protest.  By the time we left camp, more than 200 out of 586 federally recognized reservations in the U.S. had posted their flags at the camp and offered support.

Several people from First Nations in Canada said the border crossing has been difficult for them as the U.S. border guards are disrespectful and are aggressively discouraging them from entering the U.S.

We met a civil engineer in camp who reported evidence that the pipeline company is buying defective pipes and valves to reduce costs. Even with premium materials, oil pipelines have been the source of spills and explosions on US waterways.  As of 2015, 55 oil and gas pipelines cross the Missouri River. In 2015 the Poplar Pipeline leaked approximately 30,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River at Glendive, Montana.  In 2011, ExxonMobil’s Silvertip pipeline also leaked 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River 20 miles upstream of Billings, Montana. The Yellowstone River is a tributary of the Missouri River.

Now, in September of 2016, as bulldozers cleared earth, hundreds rushed into the construction area to protect the sacred site. This was just one day after attorneys, representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, filed evidence in federal court documenting the DAPL’s proposed route through a sacred burial site. However, the pipeline contractors began bulldozing that sacred ground and the people stepping in to halt the destruction were met by oil pipeline security guards armed with dogs and pepper spray. Several were bitten and sprayed, but they were able to stop the bulldozers and force the security personnel to leave the site. Despite being met with aggression, all who defended the sacred site did so through nonviolent action.

The opinion in the camp was strong that this was a deliberate act of destruction of sacred sites and that the pipeline contractors intended to destroy these sites before anyone could physically stop them. We arrived shortly after the incident and were invited to attend a sacred prayer circle at the desecrated site with hundreds of others from the camp. As everyone walked a mile or so to the site we were photographed by unknown people parked in cars along State Highway 1806. An oil company helicopter, a small fixed-wing plane, and a surveillance drone were on patrol all day and continued to fly daily over the camp. This event is more evidence of the historic, unabated persecution of indigenous peoples in North America.

Roots of the conflict

To understand the root of this conflict and the history of colonial and post-colonial government treatment of the Native Americans, we learned you have to start with the Vatican. At the camp we spoke with Phyllis Young, Chair of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution. Phyllis was a coordinator of the 1977 UN Conference for the Rights of Indigenous People in Geneva.  She coordinates the Camp of the Sacred Stone, is an advocate for environmental protection, and works tirelessly to uphold the treaties between the tribal nations and the U.S. government.

According to Phyllis, over the centuries popes have published numerous decrees called Papal Bulls. Five Papal Bulls have had hugely negative effects on tribes, Africans, and non-Christians around the world.  Of the five, the Papal Bull of 1493, the Inter Caetera Bull, has likely caused the most harm for indigenous people. The Inter Caetera Bull called for indigenous people to be subjugated so the Christian Empire and its doctrines could propagate. This Bull led to the passage of the Doctrine of Discovery in the U.S.

In 1823, in the case Johnson v. McIntosh, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed colonial powers to claim lands belonging to foreign nations. According to the court, title to lands “discovered” lay with the (nominally Christian) government whose subjects travelled to and occupied a territory whose inhabitants were not subjects of a European Christian monarch. This “doctrine” allowed the colonial powers moving across North America to justify the genocide of the indigenous inhabitants of that continent for over 500 years.

According to Phyllis Young, “The crying is over.  We are moving aggressively forward.  As women we have the obligation to protect mother earth.  We give birth in water.  We are at a new threshold.  We have reached the peak of spirituality.” Phyllis is currently involved in efforts to have the devastating Papal Bulls rescinded.

Perspectives from participants at the Camp of Sacred Stones: how others can help

We interviewed numerous people to get their thoughts on how others can assist the tribes with protecting the Missouri River and getting the pipeline stopped.

Betty Osceola of the Miccosukee Tribe, Florida:

“Use the power of the voice and tell social media and the politicians. We are having the same issues in Florida with the Sabal Trail Pipeline for natural gas.”

Martha Tommie of the Seminole Tribe, Florida:

“Humbly, we have to stick to prayers.  We are here to support love, honor and respect for each other.  It is time for unity.”

Theron Iron Cloud, Lakota of the Standing Rock Tribe, North Dakota:

“Pray to stop the pipeline.  It’s not about physically being present at Standing Rock, it is about being here spiritually supporting the effort.”

Dallas Goldtooth of both Dakota and Diné (Navajo) heritage is from the Lower Sioux Indian Reservation, Minnesota:

“It is most helpful if calls can be made to:

  • Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers (Civil Works)                         703-697-8986
  • The White House to inquire why there has not been a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the entire pipeline and to make it happen.  202-456-1111
  • All levels of public officials to find out where they stand
  • Ask why we build such infrastructure for oil when we need renewable energy?

Make this a national issue.”

Colleen Johnson of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon:

“Let others know we need supplies, monetary support for legal fees, to get word to politicians and others.  How would they feel if we plowed Gettysburg?”

Phyllis Young, Lakota of the Standing Rock Tribe, North Dakota

“We have to take war out of this nation.”

Winona Casto, Cheyenne River Sioux Lakota, head cook at the camp:

“I’ll be here to the end. I welcome all who can help.  I’ll be drying squash, corn and meat for the long winter.”

Martina Smith, Ojibway Tribe 200 miles east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

“It is historical that people across the world are coming here.”

United voice emerges

People of all races, from throughout the US and Canada and as far away as Europe and New Zealand were coming in support of Standing Rock during our stay.  The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has agreed that the route for the pipeline was mapped without proper consultation with the tribal nations.

A united voice emerged at Sacred Stone Camp and said that they will stay the duration and possibly become permanent.  Items currently needed include large army tents, sleeping bags, warm clothes, boots and personal tents of all sizes, including tipis and yurts.

The camp hopes to set up solar panels and small wind generators for power, cabins, a schoolhouse for the children, and medical facilities.  They plan on building irrigated organic gardens, a greenhouse, clean kitchens for sharing food, and are working to maintain legal and security assistance throughout the resistance.  Funds contributed will help to assure continuance of the protest.  There is a GoFundMe page to help with these efforts at  For background and updates, see

Karin Kraft is a local farmer and an artist.

Aleta DeBee is a local writer and researcher.

A special thank you to Zoltan Grossman for reviewing this article for historical accuracy.


The post Sacred Stones speak appeared first on Works in Progress.

Vote for Jill Stein

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 11:11pm

Work 9 to 5, catch bull at four

What do I deserve?

I’m just the working poor

Do I deserve to vote for someone

I cannot respect?

Or is there an alternative, a third

box to check?

It’s not a Republican or Democrat

And I hate to slander Bernie

But I really think he should’ve

switched to the Green Party

Otherwise the party’s over

At least four years before another


And if it turn out to be eight

I’m moving to France!


Kenneth is an Evergreener, a poet (duh)/artist, and is currently spending his eleventh year as a resident of Olympia. He is voting his favorite color (green) and his conscience…while he still has one.

The post Vote for Jill Stein appeared first on Works in Progress.

Plight of inmates in the Thurston County Corrections Facility

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 11:01pm

The plight of inmates in the rather newly built Thurston County Corrections facility, which only opened its doors in late 2015, is becoming drastic. The inmate overcrowding is a threatening problem that exceeds the purpose for which the jail was constructed–to accommodate the influx of inmates that the previous jail is alleged to have possessed an inadequacy for doing so.

Due to the Thurston County Corrections facility being underfunded and incompletely constructed, there is an insufficient amount of space to properly house inmates, leading to inmates being forced to shoulder the weight of unjust treatment that equates to inmates’ rights being trampled upon and hammered by a gavel of injustice.

Day after day, night after night, inmates are herded three to a cell that is designed and constructed to only house two. The third inmate is resigned to sleeping on a mat on the concrete floor next to the toilet, while being refused the required bed to elevate himself up off of the floor and is often forced to exist under these circumstances for time periods spanning upwards of a month.

Frequently an inmate is known to be violent, mentally ill, physically ill, or in the throes of withdrawal at the time that the inmate is placed in the cell with you. When forced to coexist three to a cell under twenty-two to twenty-three hour-day periods, it is no stretch of the imagination that physical illnesses will be contracted and violence will be given birth in these confined quarters.

On multiple occasions,  inmates report being assaulted by one or both of their cellmates. Recently a twenty-three-year-old mentally ill man diagnosed with schizophrenia was violently assaulted by one of his cellmates while housed in a cell with two other individuals. After suffering through those terrifying moments of assault when this inmate was unsure of whether he should fight, flight, or freeze, the mentally ill individual was then stripped of his cell and then moved into my cell where he occupied the floor for three weeks.

With three confined to a cell, contracting physical illnesses from one another is a likelihood that is beyond obvious. Once an inmate contracts a physical illness, whether infectious or not, he is left to recuperate in a cell with two other inmates regardless of these inmates’ objections and concerns for their personal health.

In one incident an inmates wa placed in a cell with two other individuals after informing medical staff and deputies that he had bronchitis, where immediately afterwards one of his cellmates, last Hill, contracted bronchitis. When inmate Hill informed deputies of his recently contracted illness he was told to “consider it a lesson.”

When any of these individuals inform jail staff of what they are forced to endure they are responded to with abrasiveness and told to file a grievance. However, when an inmate requests a grievance form he is informed that his issue is non-grievable by deputies that are not qualified to make that judgment or simply seek to protect their co-workers and employer, the Thurston County Jail/Sheriff’s Department.

It is exactly inhumane treatment by those who are sworn to uphold the ethical principles of justice—while remaining accountable to no one—that is the weight of injustice. When those who are sworn to uphold justice pound you with a fist of injustice, then who are you to turn to for justice? The Thurston County Corrections facility, which is responsible for securing and ensuring an inmate’s safety and individual rights, is the exact entity that jeopardizes that safety and holds an inmate’s individual rights at gun point.

Whether African-American (as I am) Hispanic, Native-American, or white, ensuring that an inmate’s safety, personal health, and individual rights are guaranteed rather than a privilege in the Thurston County Corrections facility, remains a work in progress…

Johnathan Stanley was held in the Thurston County Corrections facility until recently.


The post Plight of inmates in the Thurston County Corrections Facility appeared first on Works in Progress.

The right thing to do for the community

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:59pm

Ready to vote? General election ballots will start arriving in a few weeks. Be sure to complete your whole ballot and vote YES on Proposition 1, Opportunity for Olympia, by November 8.

Higher education has become increasingly out of reach for too many of Olympia’s college-bound kids as public college tuition has doubled, and in some cases even tripled, since 1990. That’s likely why a quarter of Olympia’s high school graduates don’t continue on to community or technical college.

Starting in March 2016, campaign volunteers worked tirelessly to collect over 8.000 signatures in support of this ballot measure. “I spoke with many citizens who were in favor of this important initiative. Some were college graduates saddled with huge student loan debt; others were parents struggling to help pay their child’s tuition. In most cases, voters saw what a benefit this college fund grant program would be to Olympia,” said Ray Guerra, volunteer coordinator for Opportunity for Olympia.

Prop 1 will ensure that every future public high school graduate in Olympia has access to at least 1 year of free community college or job training courses at a technical college. Teachers, parents and students strongly support Yes on Prop 1, including the Olympia Education Association, Washington Education Association, United Faculty of Evergreen and many more.

We believe a college education provides opportunity. It doesn’t just prepare young people for careers – it also creates a better-educated workforce that can attract businesses and better-paying jobs.

That’s why more than a dozen small businesses in Olympia support Yes on Prop 1 –  because it will grow our economy. Trade unions, like the Teamsters and Machinists, also support Yes on Prop 1, because it will provide skills and job training critical to attracting good paying jobs to Olympia.

Prop 1 raises millions of dollars for Olympia’s college grant fund from a small (1.5%) tax that only applies to the wealthiest 3% of households in Olympia.

Right now, the bottom 97% of households pay more than 11% of their income in taxes. Those at the top pay less than 3.5%. Prop 1 will ensure the wealthiest pay their fair share to support our community’s success. This initiative gives ordinary voters the chance to show that we can grow the economy and create a legacy of opportunity for our kids when the wealthiest 3% start paying their fair share – just like the rest of us.

Proposition 1 also has safeguards – only 5% can go for administrative costs, and the city auditor is required to conduct annual audits to make sure the fund is being used properly.

Proposition 1 is strongly supported by progressive elected leaders, education organizations, and small businesses including: State Representative Sam Hunt, social justice attorney Leslie Owen, Reeves Middle School PTA, Traditions, Olympia Education Association, United Faculty of Evergreen, Deschutes River Cyclery, South Puget Sound Community College Student Council, Washington Federation of State Employees Council 28, Washington Education Association, and many more.

This campaign is opposed by the Koch Brothers’ funded Freedom Foundation and is being watched closely by Tim Eyman.

Opportunity for Olympia is currently seeking volunteers to help win this election for the citizens of Olympia. For more information, visit


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Vote Jill, not Hill[ary]!

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:55pm

Make your vote count in Washington State

I was inspired by Ralph Nader’s Green Party bid in 2000.  He talked openly about the two-party “duopoly” and how corporations controlled the policies of both major parties from the top down and, not infrequently, from the bottom up.  When I read the Green Party’s website for the first time in December 1999, I realized that my values had evolved to the point that I felt in alignment with the Green Party.  So I joined and became a local organizer, focusing on the Nader campaign.  He was generating excitement with tens of thousands attending his rallies.  In the end he got 2.7% of the popular vote (around 3 million) and we (the Green Party) were blamed for Gore’s presumed loss  in Florida (actually, when all the votes were finally counted, Gore had won).  People should not have a choice, they said, in who they vote for.  We were labeled ‘spoilers’ for getting in the way of their sham democracy.

When I was in the Green Party from 2000-2008 I learned firsthand why Ralph Nader called our political system a “duopoly”.   It’s basically a closed system where the two parties share the power and don’t let anyone in to disturb that power.  Our political system is completely rigged against any competitive ‘bidders’.  We live in a two party dictatorship.  No outsiders will be allowed to threaten their mutual hold on power.  Political power can become intoxicating!  Most politicians are addicted to this system and feed off of it throughout their careers in politics.

It would be quite possible to switch to a voting system like Instant Runoff Voting that allows three or more viable parties, but the Ds and the Rs will not hear of it.  They would rather lose elections through “spoiling” than allow a third party to live.

Bernie Sanders learned the power structure early on in his career and determined not to challenge it. That is the main reason he decided to run in the Democratic primary.  That’s also the main reason he endorsed Hilary Clinton against Donald Trump after he was defeated by the DNC’s ‘dirty tricks’ (Wikileaks!) and the mainstream media (Super Delegates count!).  And why he refused to even consider Jill Stein’s offer to become the Green Party presidential candidate once he ‘lost’ the DP primary.

Being a lifelong independent leftist/socialist

Since my early 20s (I’m 65 now) I had never even considered joining the Democratic Party (DP) until Bernie decided to run against Hilary.  I joined the local Bernie campaign, became a Precinct Committee Officer in the Democratic Party and made it thru the state party convention as a Bernie delegate. The whole process, from organizing the precinct caucuses, to the Legislative and Congressional caucuses, county convention and state convention were, for me, maddening, demoralizing and highly frustrating experiences.  They felt like exercises in futility, disorganized, dysfunctional and with very little time left at the end for any meaningful discussion, debate or genuine dialogue on the issues that confront us all.

In spite of all that, Bernie’s call for a “political revolution” galvanized the support of millions during the primary process, especially millennials and Gen X’ers, but also a lot of older folks, especially Boomers like myself, who had long been aware of our corrupt corporate dominated two party system.

And make no mistake about it the Democratic primary was heavily rigged in Clinton’s favor—from use of ‘unpledged’ Super Delegates by the mainstream media to bolster Clinton’s “lead”, to the closed primaries, wasted provisional ballots, exclusion of independent voters and younger voters,  burdensome state party registration rules (different in each state), drastic reduction of polling sites, as well as documented evidence of voting machines that were rigged to ‘flip’ votes to the other candidate and outcomes that were in wide variance from the exit polls which are touted as the standard used to verify clean elections.

And in spite of it all, Bernie still won the primaries in 22 states with around 13 million voters casting their ballots for him.  He garnered 46% of the pledged delegates.

As shown in a recent report by a group called Election Justice USA, there was clear and direct election fraud in up to 11 states, which were crucial for Hillary’s victory. Their report indicates that had the elections been conducted fairly and democratically Bernie would have won an additional 184 pledged delegates—putting him in the lead going into the Democratic National Convention:   2070 for Sanders to 2021 for Clinton.  That would have been a game-changer, forcing the Super Delegates to vote for the winner of the popular vote or be seen as the establishment backers that they (mostly) were.

Deplorable M #KGB @MalyndaNyc  Tweet to Bernie Sanders July 13th 8:05am

We didnt donate $230M
to vote for a warmonger
with 4 superPACs
Scam charity
$150M speeches
who sabotaged your campaign

But it was not to be.  On July 12, two weeks before the start of the contested Democratic National Convention, and true to his word, Bernie officially threw in the towel and endorsed Hillary as the party’s nominee, which caused immediate consternation and demoralization amongst his supporters.  This led to a major split in his movement with the majority of his supporters either leaving the movement or going over to the Green Party to help with the Jill Stein campaign with the remainder following Bernie’s lead in supporting Clinton against Trump.

Jill had invited Bernie to consider joining her at the TOP of the Green Party ticket but he never so much as returned her calls.   So Berners began in mass to ‘DemExit’ (leave the Democratic Party) and join Jill’s side.  She was seen as the continuity of the ‘political revolution’ that Bernie had advocated.  Many millions felt betrayed by Bernie from that moment on.

Jill’s popularity on social media went through the roof in the weeks that led up to the Philly convention—with social media hits up over 1000% and with ‘Bernie or Bust’ers contributing $500,000 ($1 million including federal matching funds) to Jill’s campaign that same week.  Thousands switched over and helped Jill get on the ballot in pending states.  She went from being on the ballot in 23 states in mid-July to 47 states by early September with another three—Kentucky, Nevada and North Carolina—having disqualified her with burdensome legalistic maneuvers by Democratic operatives.

Meanwhile, the nationwide effort to build support for the Jill Stein/Amaju Baraka campaign bodes well for the short-term growth of the Green Party.  Whether this growth spurt will carry over into the next period, lead to greater diversity in the party rank and file or lead to more GP candidates running for office in the near term is uncertain but likely.

In any case, chances are better than at any time in the GP’s history to influence millions of voters in the direction of forging an alternative politics to the two-party system.  And Jill is firmly rooted in the party whereas Nader was not beyond the election of 2000.  She will provide leadership to the national party for years to come and a new, more diverse, leadership will emerge.

The Green Party passed a resolution for the first time at this year’s convention declaring itself “eco-socialist” which should help with an effort to work more closely with groups like Socialist Alternative.

Kashama Sawant of Socialist Alternative, and the first elected Socialist to the Seattle City Council in over 100 years, is endorsing Jill Stein’s campaign and is pushing to build the movements that could lead to a mass based independent anti-capitalist “party of the 99%” to challenge the two-party dictatorship and to challenge the coming reign of Hillary Clinton.

When the Green Party’s percentage at the ballot box reaches 35% or 40%, the Ds and Rs will be forced to get on board with a better voting system, one that does not cancel out all the votes for the party that comes in third.  But that’s not likely to happen until one of THEM will be the one coming in third.

To get involved with the local Green Party of South Puget Sound’s Jill Stein campaign, go to and join us!  Also, please join our local (public) Facebook page at  We have monthly meetings and our members are involved in and supportive of a number of issues based campaigns.  Our focus thru November 7, 2016, will be on getting out the vote for Jill Stein.  We are the party that is dedicated to political, social, environmental and racial justice. Join us!

Chris Stegman is a long-time member of the local Green Party.


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Presidential politics meets the poetics of mercy

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:49pm

That vintage illusion called Vari-Vue where you tilt the printed object slightly one way to reveal an image and tilt again to reveal another, that’s how this election season feels to me. The dominant media’s portrayal of a black-and-white binary is far more nuanced; from my vantage point Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton are two sides of the same coin, occupying a more compressed space on the political spectrum. Remember Bernie Sanders? Jill Stein? Ralph Nader? Shirley Chisholm? Eugene Debs? Victoria Woodhull?

Donald Trump is a person so ill-equipped to be president that those not equipped to make a decision about which candidate among many to elect hear a kindred voice speaking to them, as if Trump, a confirmed narcissist, could relate to anyone other then himself. The world according to Trump is self-reflexive, a convex mirror-mirror-on-the-wall kind of existence, where Trump needs to keep building walls to construct a surface to see all seventy years of his own distorted reflection.

Hillary Clinton’s narrative is differently complex. An ambitious, smart, policy wonk who grew up in a modest Chicago suburban household and attended Wellesley College and Yale Law School, Clinton chose to trade-in the progressive agenda from her early college and career days to enter the White House as First Lady and embark on a life of hardball, centrist politics. Gender seemed to necessitate this choice as our country’s long patriarchal history of icing out aspiring female presidential candidates from any party demonstrates, well after numerous countries around the world have broken the tyranny of sexist exclusion. Clinton’s numerous trade-offs may find her inaugurated in January as the first woman president in United States’ history, but at what cost to her younger self’s integrity?  At sixty-eight years, whom does she see when she looks in the mirror now?

So what do the two-party system’s annointed 2016 presidential candidates, who the mainstream media deem as polarizing the electorate, have to do with poetry?

In his May, 2008 talk “Poetry, Love, and Mercy” as The Judith Lee Stronach Memorial Lecturer on the Teaching of Poetry at the University of California-Berkeley, Carl Phillips opened the evening with a reading of an untitled Stronach poem that he believed spoke to “the incongruities of human vision, where compassion, anger, and grief co-exist . . .  [and where] the lyric poem is always at some level a testimony at once to a love for the world we must lose, and to the fact of loss itself.  And how, in the tension between love and loss that the poem both enacts and makes a space for, there’s a particular resonance that I’ll call mercy, wherein we experience incongruously a bittersweet form of joy in what remains disturbing.” Phillips, a celebrated, award-winning poet whose 2009 collection Speak Low was a finalist for the National Book Award knows something about the confluence of love and loss, both personal and historical, as an African-American, gay poet born before Stonewall.


I, too, know something about this confluence as a member of the LGBTQ community. I began this summer writing about the Pulse nightclub massacre in my poem “Requiem for Orlando,” an early version of which appeared in July’s issue as “Requiem for a Pulse” and at the end of the summer was published in a special memorial issue in Glass: A Poetry Journal. The process of writing and rewriting, then posting recordings of each successive draft on my Facebook page from such diverse locations as outside of Jake’s in Olympia, my front yard, the Rainbow Center in Tacoma, and the Lusitania Peace Memorial in Cobh, Ireland, helped me process publicly the complexities of love and loss that I was feeling at the time. And continue to.

The U.S. Government now exists to manufacture crises, whether a perpetual state of war in parts of the world where too many Americans have no frame of reference and therefore little capacity to hold empathy for its people, or the war on terror in our own country that Trump and Clinton are campaigning on to save the country from the other candidate.

I return to my first article in May where I shared Muriel Rukeyser’s wisdom that “[i]n times of crises, we summon up our strength.” Rukeyser further suggested that poetry helps us steady ourselves against Robert Frost’s “momentary stay against confusion.”  In my world, poetry now must take on the added burden of helping me steady myself again the perpetual State of the Union’s manufactured distractions to keep my mind off the things in my world that matter.  In this election cyclone of hateful rhetoric that I anticipate will continue its hideous crescendo, cresting like a record-breaking rise of flood water when too few of us will elect to vote for the lesser of two manufactured choices, I am choosing to write.  +


Mercy, Nebraska


The distractions manufactured

to keep my mind off

the things in my world that matter


like the precise historical moment

I find myself in when returning

from a prairie road trip and learn


that I love her. And it happens like this:

she maneuvers my car down

the slope of her driveway, pulls up


the parking brake, exits

to unload her luggage.

I dislodge from passenger


to driver’s seat. And for the first time

in many luxurious days, she doesn’t want me

to exit the car with her and stay.


In the awkward rear-view mirror,

I try not to bear witness to her

disappearing inside her house.


I back out onto the main road,

watching for traffic alone, without

the safety net of shared navigation.


The tug of gravel on the wheels

confirms what I am leaving behind.

And just yards from her house,


my foot continues to press against

the accelerator, moving myself away

in the exact moment I hear the new


silence of smooth pavement

and detect a pebble in my shoe,

the irritation telling its truth


under my foot as I hear

someone under my breath

say I miss her, even though


I know I will see her tomorrow.

And that day now cannot come

fast enough. So I press down


harder, plowing my car filled

with absence toward the city, trying

to keep my eyes distracted,


grant some mercy

to the bewildered

rear-view mirror.

If your inclination in these times of distracted election confusion is not to write your own poetry, then read, even a little. Walk, run, bike, or drive your car to one of our local bookstores or libraries and find a momentary stay in a book of poems.  Pick up Carl Phillips’ Speak Low, Elizabeth Bishop’s Questions of Travel, Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language, or one of Olympia’s exceptional poets, Lucia Perillo, Linda Strever, Tim Kelly, Gail Tremblay, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Don Freas, or Jeanne Lohmann.  In between the lines of the poets that traverse the roads of love and loss, remind yourself that mercy is the best antidote to the ravenous rhetoric these times continue to produce, and poetry always offers a welcome home.

Sandra Yannone is a poet, educator, and antique dealer in Olympia.  She is a Member of the Faculty and Director of the Writing Center at The Evergreen State College.


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Making Evergreen work for you

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:45pm

Olympia is home to an amazing alternative scene, as Teresa Eckstein pointed out in a February 2016 article for this paper, including over 20 alternative public and private schools, preschool through college. Alternative schools provide students with approaches to learning—project-based, arts-based, individualized, and/or community-oriented—that differ from traditional classroom approaches. Offering these alternative approaches to learning is intended to help students learn. The Lincoln Options program, for instance, has these overall goals for all Lincoln students:

  • Children will discover that what happens at school, at home, and in the community is a part of the learning process.
  • Children will see themselves as participants in their education.
  • Children will learn in an atmosphere of mutual respect and support.
  • Children will be guided to achieve their full potential.

Embedded in these program goals is the assumption that while learning is something students do, the school as a whole and the teachers in particular have a responsibility for creating conditions in which this can happen.

The Evergreen State College has a set of program goals too, in the form of its “Six Expectations for Evergreen Graduates.” The problem with the Expectations is that they put the responsibility for learning on the students, but no companion document exists outlining related responsibilities for faculty. For example, Evergreen students are expected to “communicate creatively and effectively” by the time they graduate. But faculty have no formal responsibility for making sure that students have opportunities to practice creative and effective communication in the programs and courses they design. Since their inception in the early 2000’s, Evergreen’s educational program goals have been framed as something students need to do rather than as a mutual responsibility shared between faculty and students.

While the college needs to sort this out, the purpose of this article is to suggest a couple of ways to make the current version of Evergreen work for you. The responsibilities that students have for learning are clear—my aim is to suggest some rights.

The right to clear and well-organized instruction

On a recent survey (the 2014 National Survey of Student Engagement), first year students and seniors were asked to assess their experiences at Evergreen across a number of dimensions tied to learning. On two measures, Evergreen students’ assessments of their faculty were lower than students’ assessments of their faculty at other colleges. One was a question about the extent to which faculty clearly explained course goals and requirements. Another was a question about the extent to which faculty taught class sessions in an organized way.

Sixty-seven percent of first year students at Evergreen reported that faculty “very much” or “quite a bit” taught course sessions in an organized way. 80% of first year students at other public liberal arts colleges, and 80% of first year students at all the colleges and universities that use NSSE, reported that their faculty “very much” or “quite a bit” taught course sessions in an organized way.  Seventy-three percent of Evergreen seniors reported the same, compared with 82% of seniors at other pubic liberal arts colleges and 82% of seniors at all the colleges and universities using NSSE.

Results on a related question were very similar. Seventy-one percent of first year Evergreen students reported that faculty “very much” or “quite a bit” clearly explained course goals and requirements, compared with 82% of first year students at other public liberal arts colleges and 82% of first year students at all colleges and universities using NSSE. Seventy-eight percent of Evergreen seniors said the same thing about their faculty, compared with 84% of seniors at other public liberal arts colleges and 83% of seniors at all the colleges and universities using NSSE.

What if you find yourself in a program or a course and discover that the course goals aren’t clear, or that class time is being used in ways that don’t seem useful to you? Ask your teachers to be clearer and more transparent about what they expect you to do, and how they intend to evaluate your work.

The Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project

Some faculty at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas have developed a tool to help make the connections between student learning and faculty teaching more transparent.

Led by Dr. Mary-Ann Winkelmes, the TILT project “encourages conversations among teachers and students about academic assignments (the relevant knowledge, skills to be practiced, required tasks, expected criteria and examples) before the students begin working” (personal email, 9-14-16).

It turns out that when faculty use the TILT framework for explaining the purpose of an assignment and the criteria by which that work will be judged, students are more likely to be successful. Summarizing the results of a project involving faculty from seven different colleges who experimented with using what’s called the transparency framework, Winkelmes argues that “students are more likely to experience greater academic success with that assignment, developing the knowledge, disposition, and skills necessary to succeed both at school and in life” (Peer Review, Spring 2016).

In addition to inviting growing numbers of faculty to take up the work of become more transparent about learning and teaching, Winkelmes and her team are also urging students to assert their right to understand what they are being asked to do, why they are being asked to do it, and how they will be evaluated. Here’s what they’ve created for students:


Before you begin working an assignment or class activity, ask your instructor to help you understand the following.


  • Skills you’ll practice by doing the assignment
  • Content knowledge you’ll gain from doing this assignment
  • How you can use these in your life beyond the course, in and beyond college


  • What to do
  • How to do it (Are there recommended steps? What roadblocks/mistakes should you avoid?)


  • Checklist (Are you on the right track? How to know you’re doing what’s expected?)
  • Annotated examples of successful work (What’s good about these examples? Use the checklist to identify the successful parts.)

Use this framework to ask your faculty to be clearer with you about their expectations before you invest lots of energy in trying to figure out what they mean. Some may push back, making a case that figuring out how to do an assignment is part of the assignment. In some contexts, that’s a reasonable dimension of an assignment, but it’s equally reasonable for faculty to explain why that’s the case.

The right to interdisciplinary learning

Evergreen describes itself as an innovative public liberal arts college that emphasizes collaborative and interdisciplinary learning. The chance to do interdisciplinary studies is a draw for many students but you need to be careful. Currently, Evergreen defines interdisciplinary learning as the inevitable outcome of programs that include at least three “divisions” – art, humanities, natural/physical science, math/quantitative reasoning, and social science. That raises two issues.

First, just because a program includes several different disciplines, it doesn’t mean that students will be given opportunities to practice interdisciplinary thinking. About ten years ago, the Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education organized a research project in which faculty from twenty plus colleges and universities looked at the actual student work coming out of what appeared to be interdisciplinary programs, like the ones at Evergreen. Faculty discovered that all too often, the actual assignments they gave students didn’t ask them to make connections across different disciplines. These interdisciplinary learning communities were like bundles of separate courses packaged into a single unit. In a program that combined art and science, for instance, students might get a two sets of assignments—one for art, and one for science.  In a better version of this program, an interdisciplinary version, students would get not only the art and science assignments, but a different kind of assignment that invited them to put the two disciplines together to come up with something new.  Look for programs where you have both disciplinary and interdisciplinary assignments.

Second, not everyone can teach everything. Look for programs where the formal training of the faculty matches the fields of study listed for the program. If the fields of study listed for the program cross divisions, combining social sciences and natural sciences for instance, or social sciences and humanities, then the faculty teaching those programs should have advanced degrees in those divisions as well.

If you choose a program where the fields of study that are offered are different from what the faculty members have degrees in, you may learn a lot—but you may also spend your time watching your faculty figure things out, which is not necessarily a good use of your time. This form of teaching, where the teacher learns along with the students, has been called the “master learner” model at other colleges. The argument was this: when two or three faculty from different disciplines taught together, their students would have the opportunity to watch “master learners” learn new material. Students could watch me learn biology, for example, and by watching me ask questions and take notes and participate in study sessions, they would develop similar approaches to learning new material. When the model has been assessed on other campuses, it doesn’t appear to work. Learning is an active process, and the best learning situations are ones where learners are invited to engage in structured tasks that combine the right mix of providing new material and time to process it.

If you have credits to spare, or are really excited about a topic, you might take the chance of enrolling in a program where the degrees that faculty have earned are different from what the fields of study they have listed in the catalogue. Otherwise, choose programs and courses where you can clearly see that the faculty members’ expertise matches the fields of study listed for the program.

The pessimism of intelligence and the optimism of will

Lots of people have made wonderful use of their Evergreen educations. You can too, but you have to be careful. In theory, students and faculty are mutually responsible for the learning that goes on, and in that spirit, students are invited to write evaluations of their faculty just as faculty write evaluations of students’ learning. Students’ evaluations of faculty aren’t necessarily read, however, by anyone other than the faculty member. Once faculty have tenure, their professional work is reviewed once every five years via a portfolio that is supposed to include student evaluations. No record is kept of those meetings, and not all faculty ask for or collect evaluations from all students. For faculty without tenure, both those new to the college and those teaching as adjunct or visiting faculty, reviews happen more often. The expectation is that student evaluations will be part of that review, but the practice is uneven.

Evergreen students are making concerns about the quality of their undergraduate experiences known—but as an organization, the college doesn’t have much experience implementing strategies or practices that support student learning. Too often, cries for preserving tradition get in the way of looking clearly at students’ experiences and their concerns and then responding. Perhaps that will change. As Antonio Gramsci put it so succinctly, “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”

Emily Lardner directs the Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education and teaches in the evening/weekend program at Evergreen.-


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The terrible, horrible, very bad, no good third-party vote

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:41pm

Freedom of choice. The supermarket shelves are lined with twenty-five different flavors of cereal, some for the health conscious and some for the sweet-lovers, for the gluten obsessed and for the GMO aware, even for the annoyingly picky kid who will eat only the lucky charms and leave the rest. It matters little that the shelf space is bought by a few giant producers and store brand imitators. Same with clothes, whether conservative cut or gossamer lace, brands are abundant and customer’s choice rules except where it comes to production, which is mostly channeled to slave-like third-world labor. No, the consumer has no voice in that. It would be prosaic to say that when it comes to political choice, the options are similarly scarce.

In November, around 55% of eligible voters will go to the polls to cast their ballots. Their presidential choice will be restricted to two flavor variations of the same product the corporations have put on the market. Because for decades the American voter has not seen a major party candidate reflecting their needs or values, they will cast vote against the candidate they like less, a negative vote. The conventional, manufactured wisdom doesn’t allow a vote for someone outside this duality as it is assumed to be a wasted vote at best and a spoiler vote at worst. So what is a wasted vote?

Colloquially, a wasted vote is a vote that does not help elect a candidate. This can be translated as a vote cast for a non-winning candidate, but, what we frequently miss, it is also a vote cast for a winning candidate in excess.

Let’s break it down closer to home

Within the US electoral system, most states allocate their votes by simple majority rule, or first past the post, meaning whoever gets the most votes wins the entire state’s electoral votes (e.g. Washington state has 12, California has 55) Washington state is already predetermined to go for Clinton. This is due to the fact that she has been leading in all the polls–in the most recent poll by 16%. Washington is a solidly blue state that hasn’t voted Republican since 1984. Given that only a simple majority is needed to guarantee Clinton all 12 electoral votes of Washington, it implies that most of the extra 16% of the vote she is currently beating Trump by will go to waste. These 16% of the votes will not be adding to her victory and will not matter on a national scale. It’s like punching the doorbell instead of ringing it—the sound of it will still be the same.

Now consider that this surplus of votes, say 15%, goes to Jill Stein, which is safe to assume since Stein is to the left of Clinton and her platform resonates in a comparatively progressive state of Washington. This is the scenario where the superfluous 15% of the votes will not go to waste because they will support building up a third party candidate.

But, you will say, but what about the Aesop’s fable of Ralph Nader spoiler effect of 2000?

Well, let’s take a closer look

In 2000 Al Gore lost to Bush but won the popular vote by 540, 520 votes. That means that more votes were cast for him than for Bush in total, yet strategically he lacked the winning number of votes in Florida. There he lost by 537 votes.

In Florida, the total voter turnout was 57.5%, so 42.5% did not vote for anyone whereas Nader got less than 0.3% of the vote. Blaming him for the Democrats’ loss is like standing next to an apple tree leaning under the weight of the fruit on it but trying to wrestle an apple from the hands of a kid who picked one.

To put it concisely, only in hindsight do we know that Gore would have lacked votes in Florida, so by the mainstream logic, without this post-factum knowledge, the entirety of almost 3,000,000 voters who expressed their preference for Nader’s stance should have cast their votes for Gore to salvage the measly 537 votes he didn’t pull off in Florida. This strikes me as a total waste of a large number of votes. This also is a perfect way to eliminate any opposition to the establishment candidates.

Finally, why is it important? Why should one cast a vote for a third party if even at a theoretical 15% the presidency would be out of reach? Because otherwise the “lesser evil” politics will continue to prevail. Without an external, demonstrable pressure from the left, the Democratic Party has no incentive to implement progressive issues and will instead appeal to the right to in order to snatch the more centrist supporters from the other side. And regardless of all the lip-service that does and will take place during this election season, the policies eventually implemented in the White House will be a direct reflection of the influence of corporate powers. Judging from the exploding inequality trends, corporate political domination is staggering and a vote within the established dichotomy is a silent and obedient consent to their rule.

Vote outside the boundaries and make your voice count.

Yulia Issa, a local progressive organizer and activist, was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for Bernie Sanders



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The port is full of sand

Works in Progress - Wed, 10/05/2016 - 10:36pm

On August 31st, 2016 Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) released the following statement.  “As long as the US military is engaged in racist wars, including so-called targeted strikes, we will actively resist military use of the Port of Olympia. We refuse to profit from, or be complicit in, illegal, immoral wars through the use of the public port. We seek to realize a vision of a more just and sustainable world, free of militarism.”

Mobilizing for port militarization resistance came quickly amidst rumors of a potential resumption of military shipments through the Port of Olympia.

Where port militarization resistance is action-based, organizational work is focused on supporting activists. The history of Oly PMR began in May of 2006 following decisions of local activists to orchestrate human blockades to resist the movement of combat Stryker Brigade equipment moving out through the Port of Olympia. Eleven days of sustained actions also occurred in November, 2007. The strategy of mass civil resistance to the US military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan grew into a regional movement. Tacoma PMR and Grays Harbor PMR were formed following the 2006 actions.

The movement that took hold in Olympia connected with militarization resistance  happening nationally. Mid-Atlantic PMR was formed. Indigenous rights activists resisted base expansion in Hawaii.  Oakland saw resistance  that focused on port transport of war machinery. On May 1, 2008 the ILWU held an 8 hour walk out, shutting down work at 29 ports along the west coast in protest of US military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The port militarization resistance that occurred in the NW region sustained activists through experiences that showed movement building was possible where value was given to include a greater spectrum of approaches in mass action. Respect was given to autonomy, support work was done collectively and focused on the needs of activists.

Since the  November 2007 protests we have not seen military movement through the public port of Olympia.

The current formation of PMR includes activists formerly involved in the 2007 protests as well as newer activists.  Sandy Allen, active in both the former and current PMR movements, explains the multiple and intersecting reasons underlying sustained interest in opposing war: “ Increasingly, people understand the connections between concentrated wealth and power and never ending wars – which largely serve the interests of weapons manufacturers, military contractors, and other war profiteers.”

It was learned through a public disclosure request, made by PMR activist Robert Gorrill,  that much of the effort to renew military contracts has been initiated by Port of Olympia Marine Terminal Manager Len Faucher, and Port of Olympia Executive Director Ed Galligan. Findings also show that Bob Jones, an Olympia area self-defined management consultant, who in 2015 ran a losing campaign for the District 3 Port Commission seat,  influenced the port’s direction with the contract.  Though decisions on contracts are left to management to deal with with little if no oversight, the emails showed that Port Commissioners were informed as early as March 2016 of the timing of the sought after shipments.

We released our public disclosure findings to expose the lies and  lack of transparency of unelected port employees,  as well as the Commissioners themselves.

Where Commissioners McGreggor and Downing are known to be aligned with corporatists, Commissioner  Zita, who filled Sue Gunn’s seat, is considered an ally by  liberal types and so was naturally asked several times (throughout summer months) when the port was talking about moving military equipment. Consistently the reply from Zita was ‘I don’t know’ (as was the case when questioned at a July 7th OMJP/PMR meeting she walked into)

I find it hard – after reading the emails in the public disclosure, to not believe Zita, too, was  complicit in following orders. This email to EJ Zita (and other port commissioners) from Ed Galligan, directs Zita on what to reveal in order to ensure the military contract is not put in jeopardy:

From: Ed Galligan/ Poly

To: EJ Zita/ Poly@Poly

Cc: Bill McGregor/ Poly@Poly, Joe Downing/ Poly@Poly

Date: 05/ 16/ 2016 01: 39 PM

Subject: Fw: advance conversations on military shipments


Thank you for including me on your e- mail to President Bridges. I look forward to meeting him in the coming months.

While I also look forward to having the group conversations about military shipments at the Port of Olympia, it is highly desirable for us to refrain from indicating any time from, such as “ September” or even “ this year”. Doing so seriously jeopardizes the probability of a shipment being designated by the military to our Port…”

What I am reminded of is that politicians can never represent the will or the voice of activists; at best they undermine our efforts and appropriate our work. There is transparency, and then there is creating an illusion of transparency. As expressed by  Olympia PMR activist Luna Rae,  “She talks of transparency yet fails to live up to her own demands. Who can you trust when even the liberal is just another politician?”


Despite all the grandstanding, it still remains the elected port commissioners exercise no power at the port, but function as props of democracy while the non elected employees run amok, wheeling and dealing in taxpayer dollars as they see fit. For those in the greater community whose mission it is to reform the institution – have at it and good luck.

Where efforts to hold the port accountable through reform type efforts will continue through coalition groups, PMR can again focus on direct action to resist shipments that serve to destroy and not protect.

Through observations and research PMR confirmed the MV Ocean Glory, that ship contracted to move equipment to and from Fort Lewis, did not enter the Port of Olympia, and as of September 21st was moored at a BC Port, and at Port Angeles Sept. 19th. Online sources report the Port of Tacoma handled its cargo.

On September 22nd the Port of Olympia began unloading and staging fracking proppants that will be transported to the Bakken shale formation, the Dakota Access Pipeline is intended to move that very crude oil from the Bakken. The pipeline is sometimes referred to as the black snake. It seems our port is feeding the snake.



Tri Lliam is an Olympia area activist and writer.



The post The port is full of sand appeared first on Works in Progress.

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