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RAR Demands—December Progress Report

By Mike Brody, VP for Student Services on December 06, 2016 02:01 PM

Dear Reed Community,

Just over a month ago I sent an email summarizing progress on the concerns students raised with President Kroger as part of the September 26 campus Black Lives Matter demonstration. Since that time a great deal has happened at Reed and beyond. Most notably, as a divisive election season came to a close, many people across the country as well as members of the Reed community have expressed their deep sense of anxiety about the prospect of a Trump presidency. Some students, staff, and faculty from historically marginalized groups have made it very clear that they fear for their safety. Incidents like the hateful graffiti found in the Reed library and anonymous threats made against students in social media amplify these fears.

At times, such incidents provide the impetus to bring the community together, as was the case when students, staff, and faculty gathered in the library lobby and in the student union on November 14 to express support for and solidarity with those who had been targeted. Seeking additional assurances that the college would do everything in its power to support students of color, members of the group Reedies Against Racism (the name recently chosen by the students who organized the September 26 demonstrations) and others occupied the admission office that day (November 14), expanding their demands and staying in the office around the clock for a week.

One thing has become clear over the past month: despite the emails sent and articles written, some members of the Reed community seek more information about these issues and incidents. To address this concern, along with the fact that updates like this one end up being both incomplete as well as extremely long, we are considering building a website where we can archive documents and communications over time, and offer additional detail that would exceed the scope of email text. We welcome your input regarding this idea.

Finally, and most importantly, we encourage members of the staff, student body, and faculty who have been directly involved to discuss these issues with their colleagues on a regular basis. Because you care about Reed, many of you will want not only information but also the opportunity to talk about the events, to understand your roles, and to ask questions. I encourage you to create and make the most of opportunities to do just that, so that we may all move forward together.

Summary of Progress on Student Demands

Health and Counseling Center (HCC)

The HCC has explored opportunities for training staff with the local Center for Equity and Inclusion (CEI). In November, most of the HCC leadership team participated in CEI's 2.5 day workshop, with opportunities for the remainder of the HCC staff to engage in the training in the coming months. The HCC is discussing ways that CEI may provide further consultation and guidance around hiring practices and clinic culture. In collaboration with and the support of the Dean for Institutional Diversity, the HCC has developed a plan for hiring that will improve the ability to attract and retain staff of color. The HCC has invited students to participate in the upcoming hiring process for the psychologist residents. Reed’s president and vice presidents have provided significant support to the residency position, which will allow the HCC to be nationally competitive as a residency site, further advancing the goal of building a more diverse staff capable of meeting the needs of all students.

Financial Aid

In response to requests from students and families for more transparency regarding financial aid, the college now provides information regarding how Reed determines financial eligibility on the Financing Reed webpage. Students also have a variety of resources available for understanding financial aid and addressing changing circumstances, including financial aid counseling appointments, requests for reconsideration of financial aid, requests for emergency funds, and requests for emergency loans. A more detailed description of these and many other services can be found on the Key Support Resources page, or by contacting the financial aid office at 503/777-7223 or financial.aid@reed.edu.

The financial aid team is hosting two listening sessions in the very near future, one December 15 and the other early in the spring, to better understand student concerns. These discussions will help inform the work of a newly formed group that will address individual students’ financial issues as they arise. This group includes staff from financial aid, student services, and the multicultural resource center.

Safety

In response to recent concerns about student safety, Community Safety Director Gary Granger sent the following on November 22:

“To All Students:

The safety and security of our community is our highest priority. Safety is a prerequisite for the accomplishment of Reed's mission; teaching, learning, and working at the highest levels can only happen in an environment where we all feel safe. At the most fundamental level, our care and concern for every member of our community, and in particular for those who have been historically marginalized, compel us to act when people feel unsafe. In response to recent events targeting members of our community, we believe it is important to expand the safety services provided by the college.

In addition to existing safety services, including community safety officer (CSO) escorts, campus emergency phones, the Night Bus, and more, we will immediately take the following step.

Free Off-campus Safety Transportation for Students

Beginning immediately, and at least until the end of the fall semester, the college will provide free transportation from the Reed campus for students who live off campus. When a student's residence is in close proximity to campus, transportation may be provided by CSOs as a routine safety escort. When the distance is greater, however, or when CSOs are not readily available, Community Safety will contact a taxi, Uber, or other reputable service to transport the student from 28 West to their home. Students may come to 28 West, or request a CSO transport to 28 West in order to access this service.

Additionally, Community Safety is collaborating with the Dean of Student's office, the Community Wellness program, and students to develop a plan for expanding the Night Owl program and to offer other enhancements to the safety services provided by Reed, including self-defense courses as requested by multiple students.

Please contact Community Safety Director Gary Granger with questions and suggestions.”

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Students have raised concerns about Community Safety patrol and Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) engagement practices. In addition to the annual August review that Community Safety normally undergoes, there will be an additional review over the winter break, using recent student concerns and AOD data from this past year as part of the process. We will provide information derived from the review in the spring, along with updated demographic data on AOD violations. We are also collaborating with the Office for Inclusive Community and the Dean for Institutional Diversity to provide contracted training to all Community Safety staff focusing on issues of unconscious bias in enforcement practices.

Priority Housing

This year, students who feel that living off campus would represent a hardship were invited to apply for priority housing prior to the room registration process (formerly referred to as the housing lottery). Priority applications were reviewed earlier this month and every student with demonstrated financial hardship was approved for on-campus housing for 2017–18. In addition, many of the priority-housing applicants identified as international, as first generation to attend college, or as having a history of housing instability. Several students with disabilities were referred to the Disability Support Services (DSS) office to pursue on-campus housing as a disability accommodation; DSS has separately approved the vast majority of these students to live on campus through a process that is new this year.

Peer Mentor Program and Multicultural Resource Center Staffing

In response to student interest in strengthening support systems in the Peer Mentor Program (PMP) and Multicultural Resource Center (MRC), the Office for Inclusive Community recently hired two additional MRC interns to focus on racial justice and support for first generation to college students. The MRC has posted a new position for a black student outreach and support intern, and will complete the hiring process early in the spring semester. Dayspring Mattole, assistant dean for inclusive community, is working with Bruce Smith, dean of students, the MRC staff, and other students on a proposal for a new full-time professional staff position in the Office for Inclusive Community. This position would work directly with the Black and African Student Union and other marginalized student groups on campus. The proposal has been submitted to President Kroger and others on the senior staff for budget review. We are working to expand the capacity of the Peer Mentor Program (PMP) by hiring additional mentors for the 2017–18 academic year to accommodate a greater number of incoming first year and transfer students. We are also strengthening partnerships with alumni who were involved in PMP and the MRC, with the goal of facilitating mentoring and networking relationships between current students of color and first generation to college students and alumni with shared experiences.

Academic Probation

The faculty has approved a revision to the policy on academic probation; henceforth, students on academic probation are no longer prohibited from holding elective or appointed office in student government. In addition, the committee on administration has been considering alternatives to the term “academic probation,” as some students see the term as pejorative. The registrar's office reviewed comparator schools and found the use of the term to be almost universal. The administration committee reviewed alternative terms such as “academic notice” and “concern,” but did not find these to fully capture the meaning intended. The committee invited additional suggestions from the faculty during their discussion of this and related issues at the December faculty meeting and will consider proposals.

HUM 110 and Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies

A committee of six Humanities 110 faculty and six members of RAR has met several times over the past few weeks to discuss concerns about the course and potential changes. This spring, working with various college offices and committees, the Humanities 110 faculty will begin a major review of HUM 110. As part of that process the Hum 110 staff will seek input about the course from current and former students, alumni, and non-Hum 110 Reed faculty, among others. In the meantime, the faculty committee on academic policy and planning (known as CAPP) and the student version of that committee (SCAPP) are in the process of considering a Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies proposal. CAPP has reconstituted a prior ad hoc committee to examine the possibility of an accelerated or immediate start for the program if it is approved.

Tutors

In response to concerns about the number of students of color who work as peer tutors, staff in the DoJo reviewed relevant data and have begun to explore ways to increase diversity among peer tutors. Academic Support Services sends a request three times a year to all faculty members to nominate students to serve as tutors: in January, May, and August. As a first step toward building a more diverse peer tutoring staff, future requests will encourage faculty to nominate students from populations underrepresented in the current tutoring pool. With support from faculty, staff will also encourage students who are interested in becoming tutors to speak with faculty about recommendations, rather than waiting to be nominated.

Food Security

A working group comprising staff, students, and faculty has been meeting throughout fall semester to better understand student needs regarding food security, and to research successful programs at comparable institutions. The group is working closely with Bon Appetit, the Office of Financial Aid, the Office for Inclusive Community, Student Senate, and others to ensure that all students have access to reliable and healthy food sources.

Hiring a More Diverse Faculty and Staff

The faculty committee on advancement and tenure (CAT, which oversees faculty searches and hiring processes), the dean of the faculty’s office, Human Resources (which coordinates staff hiring processes), and the Office for Institutional Diversity have been engaged in a multi-year, multi-pronged, program to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of our faculty and staff. The effort includes building networks and partnerships locally and across academia to actively build robust and diverse candidate pools, writing job ads and position descriptions in such a way as to attract qualified candidates from myriad backgrounds, and continually examining and refining our search procedures to minimize the deleterious effects of unconscious bias in candidate evaluations. Members of the community can help in the effort to create more diverse candidate pools by regularly checking the open faculty and staff positions and passing opportunities on to your personal networks.

Presidential Anti-racism Statement

President John Kroger has worked with Dean of Institutional Diversity Mary James and others in drafting a statement that will be sent to the community by December 15 and posted thereafter on the college’s website. 

Sanctuary College

President Kroger declared Reed a sanctuary college on November 18.


—Mike Brody, Vice President for Student Services