Mechi Mahakali School student (center) protests the destruction of her school and home. Erica Boulay '11
The students at the Mechi Mahakali School in Nepal had just started a new pen pal program with schoolchildren in China. They had been writing emails to one another about themselves, their hobbies, and dreams. But all that ended suddenly in May, when the government bulldozed huts, houses, and other construction in order to evict landless squatters from illegal shanty towns in Kathmandu. Nearly 1,000 villagers were uprooted from their homes, and more than 250 squatter homes on the banks of the Bagmati River were demolished.
One of the first structures to be decimated by the police was the Mechi Mahakali school (MM). The school was the brainchild of Xeno Acharya '09, who used his McGill Lawrence grant after senior year, as well as the thousands of dollars raised through Reed and the Portland community, to build and fund the institution. The school, which had over 150 children, had been instrumental in forging connections between villagers and consolidating this once scattered area of refugees into a self-assured community. They had even proclaimed themselves as Paurakhi Gaun (or "diligent village" in Nepali). Erica Boulay '11, who volunteered at MM for a summer and still works actively to ensure its operation, was outraged at the brazen destruction.
"The kids and their mothers formed a human shield against the bulldozers," Erica recounted. "Children as young as seven were arrested and sent to jail. Although they were released, what did they do wrong? Is it a crime to be poor?"
Earlier, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said that the government planned to provide Rs. 15,000 (approximately $168) to each landless family to provide for alternative accommodations. However, only 39 families have been identified by the government as genuine landless squatters. Those families who earlier refused to participate in the verification process have now been asked to fill out forms and cooperate with the government's eviction drive. Due to the uproar this eviction has caused, the drive to remove all landless squatters living along the river bank will resume only after the government has reviewed its action and the claims of those living along the banks to the land. Following the school's demolition, Xeno has been trying to keep the supplies that were rescued from the destruction dry, while also providing meals, clothing, and temporary shelter for MM students and their families.
As the sun sets on a wet Friday afternoon, students painstakingly finish sawing the archaic log in half. Photos by Alexi Horowitz '13.
Check out the video by Alexi Horowitz '13
Sawdust flew, chips piled up on the ground, and a sweet piney scent permeated the air as the crosscut gnashed its way through the log. The tree was a Douglas fir that had presided over the Great Lawn, right behind the softball backstop, for 130 years. As the story goes, the 100-foot tree fell during the snowy winter of '09, exposing the decayed roots that caused its downfall.
But the tree's story was not over. Marie Perez '12 got the idea to craft a bench out of a giant section of the trunk. She and other Reedies undertook the mammoth task of using a four-foot crosscut saw (old-timey two-person logging saw) to cut the log in half. Students were invited every evening of finals week to put their studying on hold and come out to the west parking lot to help slice the wood. Over 40 students and staff members turned out to help fashion the trunk into a (very) solid bench for all to sit on. It took about 17 hours of solid sawing to completely halve the log.
Reunions 2012 traveled backward and forward through time at the Fanfayre ceremony celebrating outstanding alumni, staff, and faculty.
John Sheehy '82 presented his the epic oral history of Reed College, Comrades of the Quest, an volume of "almost biblical" dimensions that was, he said, the closest thing Reed has to scripture. Despite its size, he noted that the "director's cut" would be about 30-percent longer: "Reedies appear almost incapable of expressing themselves in a single sentence when a full paragraph—or a full dissertation—will do just as well."
The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery was packed to the rafters last week as alumni from many eras came together in a hush of anticipation to witness a unique occasion--the unveiling of the French double harpsichord created by professor Nicholas Wheeler '55 [physics 1963-2010] over a span of 26 years, and showcased during Reunions '12: Reedfayre.
Nick became fascinated by the harpsichord (the distinguished ancestor of the piano) while playing at a concert his freshman year at Reed and resolved to build his own some day. He finally began work many years later, in August 1985, when he was A.A Knowlton Professor of Physics. While the bulk of the carpentry and metalwork were completed in the two years that followed, the venture languished for two decades when his teaching and other things took greater precedence. Nick was not able to put finishing touches on the instrument until after his retirement in 2010, after 47 years of service.
"This is a Reed instrument and its first public appearance. It's something I've fantasized about for 60 years," Nick remarked. Returning students and friends continued to ask over the years when and if the project would ever be finished. "It is a doubt which I confess, I sometimes shared: it gave me anxiety because I did not want to leave to my heirs the problem of figuring out how to dispose of a stringless box that looked like a harpsichord, but was unplayable." However friends, such as professor Kathleen Worley, [theatre 1985-] helped along the way by picking up some gold-dipped hardware and wood scrapers.
Reed's presidential history, like that of the college itself, is a history of paradoxes.
This was the argument of trustee and historian John Sheehy '82 in his lecture "The Presidents of Reed" at Reunions 2012. The central paradox of Reed, he said, is the combination of academic conservatism with cultural progressivism. This has given birth over the years to such quandaries as Reed's historically high attrition rate (as students struggled to impose the self-discipline required for intellectual freedom) to ongoing debates like faculty pay equity or marijuana use on campus.
These conflicts, though, have by no means held Reed back. Instead, Sheehy said, "the only way to move forward was to work within the paradoxes." The Honor Principle was one example of this, occupying the "middle ground" between rules and anarchy. In the end, it has been how well each president has embraced the Reed paradox that has determined his success.
Dimly lit pathways, dusty pipes, graffiti, and intense humidity. At Reed, that could mean one place on campus—the steam tunnels.
One of the attractions during Reunions: Reedfayre '12 was a tour of Reed's mysterious steam tunnels by the Physical Plant's own Steve Yeadon. The labyrinthine route, which made one feel like Indiana Jones on a dangerous mission, started from the basement of Physical Plant, where two gigantic boilers (usually fired by gas, but sometimes by oil, if gas is too expensive) generate the steam that gives the tunnels their purpose.
The tour then wound its way through the depths of Reed, as visitors took care not to bump into the cobwebbed walls or pipes. The abundant graffiti on the pipes, preserved through the years (because as one alum mentioned, the pipes were the only things not whitewashed over for commencement every year), proved highly entertaining.
As an alumnus of both Reed and Willamette Week (where I worked as a reporter for many years), I was fascinated by WW's recent cover story about John Kroger, our next president.
The story, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Nigel Jaquiss, got a lot of stuff right. Kroger's colorful past as marine, professor, and mafia prosecutor comes through strong and clear, as does Reed's reputation as an intellectual powerhouse. Moreover, WW gives us an insider's view into several fascinating political scuffles.
The final Hum 110 lecture of the year is one of Reed's longstanding rites of passage. After eight long months of Homer, Plato, and Sophocles, freshlings often feel a little rowdy—and the fact that the lecture typically takes place on the Friday of Renn Fayre only amplifies the sense of mischief. (One year several students actually removed their clothes during the lecture.)
In 2003, professor Jan Mieszkowski [German 1997–] volunteered to give the last lecture on St. Augustine's Confessions, a duty he reprised until 2011 when the syllabus was revised. (St. Augustine may belong to the ages, but he no longer belongs to Hum 110.)
Professor Mieszkowski delivered the lecture, by turns provocative, funny, and profound, at Reunions 2012 to an audience of appreciative alumni.
By Angie Jabine '79
Vegetarian banh mi, ice-brewed coffee, salted watermelon, and a luscious Imperial Black Saison beer were just a few of the delicacies that drew throngs of alumni to Gastronomy Northwest at Reedfayre '12. For two hours, the student union was packed solid with Reedies vying for sips and samples, while taking care not to tread on various toddlers underfoot.
After more than 75 years' absence, a Reed College float will once again join the Portland Rose Festival's Grand Floral Parade, taking place this Saturday, June 9.
Reed first entered a float into the Rose Parade in 1936; although Reedies have played many important roles in the festival since, our beloved institution has never again been represented by its own float.
When people come to Gary Rogowski '72 with questions about making a living as a woodworker, he sets them straight.
"It's a terrible way to make a living," he says. "You want to drive a Porsche? Forget it. But it's a great way to live."
Throughout Reunions week, Gary led visiting alumni on tours of his studio in an elegant, old industrial building in Southeast Portland. Amidst the smells of wood, the scratch of sandpaper, and walls lined with hand drills, Japanese pull saws, and clamps, guests posed question about such things as wood pegs versus nails.
The bright May morning was filled with enthusiasm and laughter, as family and friends descended on campus to celebrate Reed's 98th Commencement with the 288 members of the class of 2012 under the majestic white tent on the Great Lawn.
The ceremony began to the rousing (or as one senior commented: "awful") sound of bagpipes. Graduating seniors applauded faculty members who guided them during their time at Reed. In an act of symmetry and acclaim, the graduates were then applauded by their professors after they had collected their shiny new diplomas.
In his last commencement speech, President Colin Diver poked fun at graduating with Reed on the "10-year plan." He was surprised nonetheless, when Don Berg '12 shouted from the audience that he had gone to Reed on the 25-year plan. (Don first arrived on campus in 1986!)
Fractals, the bizarre geometrical shapes that undergird natural phenomena from snowflakes to lightning bolts, have been discovered in a new and striking location: the synapses of the brain.
In a recent paper, professor Richard Crandall '69 [physics 1978–] and colleagues at the Reed Center for Advanced Computation found intricate fractal patterns in synapses in the somatosensory neocortex of a mouse brain.
The agonizing video of Zach's bonus round gaffe—in which he reached the right answer a second after the buzzer—has gone viral in the last few days:
For more than 100 years, Reed students have written papers, conducted physics experiments, and even occasionally danced to the sound of jazz. Now a new generation is clamoring for its turn in the spotlight at a storied music club next week.
The Reed College Jazz Ensemble will perform at Jimmy Mak's on Tuesday, May 8, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The legendary Mel Brown Septet, with Gordon Lee (Reed's jazz coach) on piano, follows the Reed bands. There will be a $3 cover for the Reed bands and a $6 cover for Mel Brown Septet.
Lee had this to say about how the Reed jazz ensembles have grown exponentially (from two to four) over the last three years: "There is a hunger for these young people to express themselves musically through the American discipline of jazz. There is hope for the future!"
Fashion isn't the only 1980s cultural iconography recently spotted on the Reed campus: on Wednesday, Richard Simmons made a Gray Fund-sponsored appearance to motivate and inspire the Reed community during reading week.
Simmons spent the first part of the day roaming around campus in his short-shorts and sequined top, dishing out hugs, kisses, and compliments to students, faculty, and staff. (Sadly, I hear that President Diver was out of the office when Richard dropped by.) By shortly before 3 p.m., Simmons was outside the sports center greeting people who were dresseed in their workout best and and ready to hit the gym for a straight-out-of-the-late-twentieth century aerobics routine.
Witty and self-effacing, Simmons worked the crowd a bit before heading up on stage to get the aerobicizing started. Simmons's love of people, life, and exercise shone through everything he said and did; he was euphoric in the presence of hundreds of participants and buoyed by the tunes blaring out of the sound system. He ribbed the folks who chose to watch rather than dance, worked in a centennial joke, and scoffed at those who couldn't touch their toes during the stretching exercises. Participants waved their arms, grapevined, kicked, and strutted. Simmons invited a wide-ranging selection of people up on stage to dance with him, encouraging men to doff their shirts and everyone to be proud of their participation. So strong was the positive vibe in the room that I don't think it was possible to walk through the door without cracking a smile and breaking out the jazz hands.
Deafening drums, sky-towering stilt-walkers and heart-rending Broadway numbers exhilarated the Reed community on April 20 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on the 20th anniversary of the Gray Fund.
Since its establishment in 1992, the Gray Fund has brought together students, faculty, and staff in a range of activities—from hot air balloon rides, to sailing down the Columbia River, to attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Events are free of charge and substance-free, allowing all members of the Reed community to participate. It has been 20 years since Betty Gray gave $2,000,000 to Reed so that the students, in her husband's words, "could have some fun." Her generosity was celebrated in style at the Schnitz as part of Reed's ongoing Centennial.
The revelries started off with a bang—literally—when MarchFourth, the boisterous Portland marching band, started playing in the commons quad. They led students in a parade across campus to Eliot Circle, where students boarded yellow school buses to go downtown to the Schnitz and to get first pick of the seats in the auditorium.
Eliot Circle erupted in a flurry of snowballs this morning as upperclassmen enacted a relatively new tradition, the Pelting of the Freshmen, after the final Hum 110 lecture of the academic year.
Unidentified upperclassmen (rumored to include Seth Douglas '13 and Jeremy Lawrence '12) drove a pickup truck to Mount Hood, loaded the bed with snow, and lay in wait for the unwary freshlings to emerge from Vollum. Cheers rent the air as the youngsters streamed down the steps and the icy fusillade commenced.
Reed has just announced that Oregon Attorney General John Kroger will be the college's 15th president.
"John impressed us with his brilliance and clarity, advocacy for the primacy of the liberal arts education, and his commitment to the mission and vision of Reed College," said board chair Roger Perlmutter '73. "We are very excited about his arrival on campus this summer."
For five hours on Friday, April 13, Reed's strongest soccer players battled for the championship and its rewards: plastic medals bestowed by soccer coach and event organizer Larry Beutler.
The soccer tournament follows on the heels of the March Madness basketball tournament, and takes a similar form; eight teams of six players each square off with round-robin-style elimination.