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Pantheon to be robed, say organizers

By Chris Lydgate ’90 on September 27, 2013 03:38 PM

Reed students dress as Greek gods outside humanities lecture in 2012. Nudity at a similar event in 2013 prompted a Title IX investigation. Copyright Reed College.

The students who play the part of Greek gods and greet freshmen on their way to the first humanities lecture—collectively known as the Pantheon—will keep their robes on next fall, organizers declared at a community forum held by the Honor Council last week.

“No one will be naked next year,” said environmental studies major Elaine Andersen ’16, one of the HumPlayers, the student group that puts on the Pantheon.

The event, which has been staged for the last five years, typically involves male and female sophomores and upperclassmen who dress up as Greek divinities on the steps of Vollum Lecture Hall and welcome freshmen to their first Hum 110 lecture. The gods ask for libations, and freshmen respond (if they’ve done their homework) by spilling a few drops of coffee or water on the ground, re-enacting an ancient Homeric tradition. “It’s supposed to be fun and silly,” one student explained.

This year, however, some of the participants in the Pantheon, both men and women, were naked and engaged in rowdy behavior, standing at the main entrance to Vollum and demanding libations in loud and insistent tones. A member of the Reed community subsequently filed a Title IX complaint with the college, attracting attention in the media and leading to a campus debate on the propriety of disrobing in public.

At last week’s forum, several students voiced unhappiness with the way the Pantheon was conducted. “I was disappointed in this year’s event,” said linguistics major Dean Schmeltz ’14, a former HumPlay director. “And I would have disappointed in it with or without clothes.” The spirit of the occasion, he said, was to welcome freshmen into the community and wish them luck on their voyage through the Humanities syllabus, not to confront, impede, or intimidate them.

One of the current HumPlayers agreed that this year’s Pantheon was too confrontational. “We were acting more aggressive than we should have,” he told the forum. Other students suggested that it was the combination of nudity and loud, demonstrative behavior that created an intimidating atmosphere, not the nudity itself.

Some students asked if a more appropriate response would have been for the aggrieved parties to pursue resolution through the Honor Principle rather than file a Title IX complaint. Dean of Students Mike Brody emphasized that the Honor Principle and Title IX both require members of the Reed community to consider the impact of their behavior on others. He also said that the judicial machinery associated with the Honor Principle—the Honor Council, the J-Board, and the Sexual Misconduct Board—could be engaged to resolve a Title IX complaint.

The HumPlayers (who also stage a show known as the HumPlay at the end of the semester) are now working on a handbook to guide future directors on staging friendlier performances. “The Title IX complaint wasn't about nudity at Reed in general,” Schmeltz later wrote in a Facebook post. “It was about a particular HumPlay event that was poorly managed. This was a very bad year for a tradition that has gone very well in the past, and there are things that we can and will do to make sure the Pantheon is truly welcoming in the future.”