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The Debate over Hum 110

By Kevin Myers on September 14, 2017 03:32 PM

Intellectual discovery, academic rigor, robust debate, and the pursuit of knowledge—these qualities have defined Reed since its first classes in 1911 and are the tenets that inform the interdisciplinary course known as Humanities 110.

The goals of Hum 110 are to introduce students to college-level work, illustrate Reed’s distinctive approach to teaching, and provide rigorous writing instruction. Through critical engagement with significant works of literature, art, and architecture, students learn to transform experience into meaning.

The course is evaluated by faculty every 10 years and is under review now, during fall 2017. The decadal evaluation was moved up one year in response to the urging of the student group Reedies Against Racism (RAR). The results of the review will be presented in late fall 2017.

RAR has been protesting the course since September 2016 by silently sitting near the podium of the lecture hall. When the first lecture of 2017 was interrupted, it marked a change in tactics by RAR and a change in response by some members of the community. The second lecture went on as planned, but there was heated debate in the lecture hall during the minutes leading up to the start of class.

Videos posted to YouTube of the interruption of the first lecture and of the moments leading up to the second lecture have drawn a lot of attention. There are varying opinions, both on campus and off, of these events, but the fact remains these were two isolated instances in a protest that began a year ago, on September 26, 2016. Since the second week of the 2017 fall semester, the lectures have gone on uninterrupted.

To provide background and context for these events, the office of public affairs has collected below a list of pertinent community-wide communications, including articles on Hum 110. A selection of these speak to the current issues while others are older communications that represent voices both on and off campus.

Reporters interested in writing about Hum 110 should contact Kevin Myers, director of communications.

President’s statements and important links

President Kroger’s update on HUM 110
President’s Office, September 1, 2017

FAQ about the Hum 110 protest
Public Affairs, August 31, 2017

Progress Report on Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism at Reed 
Office for Institutional Diversity, August 23, 2017

Anti-racism statement
Statement passed by the Student Senate, Spring 2017 and Faculty, Fall 2017

Dissent Policy
This policy, adopted in 1969, sets boundaries on the right to dissent on campus.


Media perspectives

Occupation of Hum 110
Inside Higher Ed looks at the tensions over Hum 110, September 11, 2017.

Arguments over free speech on campus are not left v right
The Economist examines the debate between protesters, professors, and other students. This article was written by a Reed College alumnus who is associated with the libertarian club he references in his article. Reed College requested that both these associations be revealed, which is a longstanding journalistic practice for the sake of transparency and objectivity, September 7, 2017.

Why I Teach About Race and Ethnicity in the Classical World
Eidolon mentions Reed in a piece that examines modern constructions of race and ethnicity and how they might be handled when discussing the ancient world, September 11, 2017. 

White-Centric Class?
The Al Jazeera Media Network, A+J English, posted a short video on their Facebook page about the Hum 110 protest, September 13, 2017.


Related Reed magazine posts

Hum 110: the Lost Lecture
The first Hum 110 lecture was called off due to interruptions from protesters. Prof. Lucía Martinez Valdivia shared her written remarks with Reed Magazine, August 31, 2017.

Is Gilgamesh Relevant?
Prof. Nathalia King on the Epic of Gilgamesh, the ancient Mesopotamian text that was lost for almost 2,000 years before being rediscovered in 1853, Reed Magazine, August 31, 2017.

RAR Demands—December Progress Report
Mike Brody, VP for Student Services, provided his second update to the community on the RAR demands, December 06, 2016. 

President Kroger Responds to Reedies Against Racism
President Kroger responded formally to the demands of the student group, Reedies Against Racism, November 16, 2016.

The Philosophy of Pain
Prof. Troy Cross explains why pain has deep philosophical implications for education, Reed Magazine, November 16, 2016.

Profs Vote to Accelerate Hum 110 Review
An early report on the Hum 110 course review, which was moved up one year in response to the urging of the RAR protests.

Protest Amplifies Discussion of Race on Campus
Reporting on the protest that was inspired by Isaiah Washington’s call for a nationwide boycott to support the Black Lives Matter movement, Reed Magazine, October 03, 2016.

On the Humanities at Reed College
A look at the way the Hum 110 syllabus has evolved over time, with an infographic illustrating the changes, Essays, Letters, and Complaints, July 1, 2016.

What Hum 110 Is All About
Prof. Peter Steinberger provides historical background in this introduction to classic Hum 110 lectures. Reed Magazine, March 2011.

Farewell to the Iliad
Prof. Robert Knapp explains why the Iliad was removed from the Hum 110 syllabus in 2010 (it was reinstated a few years later), Reed Magazine, March 2010.

How the Humanities Saved Reed
A historic look at the circular battles, dating back to 1924, that helped shape Reed, Reed Magazine, March 2009.

Defending the Citadel
A look at the curriculum battles of the late ’60s, Reed Magazine, December 2008.


Videos of lecture protests

Video: Pre-lecture Argument.
This YouTube video shows the heated debate that occurred before the second Hum lecture on August 30, 2017. The lecture took place uninterrupted.

Video: Interruption of the First Hum Lecture of 2017.
This is an edited version of a video that begins roughly 10 minutes into the presentation of the first Hum 110 lecture of 2017 .


About Hum 110

Introduction To Humanities: Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean
This is the home page for the Hum 110 site, with links to syllabus, lectures, images, etc.

About Humanities at Reed
This provides the historical and philosophical background on the way humanities are taught at Reed, including links to Reed’s other humanities courses.