News Center

News from the Reed College public affairs office

Reed Activists Stage "Sit-Down"

By Chris Lydgate '90 on June 08, 2011 04:26 PM

By Brandon Hamilton '11

Several generations of activists assembled in the Chapel to trade insights, strategies, and stories as a part of Social Justice 101, one of more than 200 events being held this week to celebrate Centennial Reunions.

Speakers ranged from Peter Bergel '65, executive director of Oregon PeaceWorks, whose self-styled "graduate education" took the form of years of living in a commune, to professor Kristi Hansen '96, an agricultural economist who teaches at the University of Wyoming.

Advancing a progressive agenda is often a matter of presentation, said Kristi, who tries to avoid the phrase "global warming" when talking to rural Wyoming legislators because it is perceived as a liberal issue.

Arithmetic might not be the first thing that leaps to mind when thinking about social justice, but for retired physics professor Herschel Snodgrass '59, activism is at least in part a numbers game.

"I donate to about 60 organizations, and between those and the groups they sell my name to, my phone rings off the hook!" Herschel remarked. Laughter spluttered from every corner of the Chapel, but moderator A'Nova Ettien '01 (a public health researcher on children and armed conflict) posed the implicit question again--can social activist groups overcome their competition for donors and resources to unite on the issues?

"Think about the number of people who are working at some level to create a world that works for everyone," replied Peter. "Hard and fast demonstrators right down to the rotaries--I think it's time to claim the fact that we are in the majority, and not be seeking unity of action, but unity of vision."