Reed Magazine August
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2004

Earn big money Promote social justice!

Andrew PeckAndy Peck came to Reed from Utah to study biology. Fate intervened: “The first week of classes, Nato convinced me to drop a class in logic and take Sociology 101 instead. From that point, the days of a major in biology were numbered.” From his first major research paper “on the etiology (a much-too-fancy word for ‘causes’) of rape,” to a history thesis on the emergence of a female “clerical proletariat” in twentieth-century U.S., Andy grappled with the structural causes of inequality.

Off campus, Peck worked to put theory into practice. He volunteered with anti-poverty student and youth group, Empty the Shelters (ETS), in Atlanta, Georgia. (One summer stint was funded by Reed’s McGill-Lawrence grant.) As a young man in a diverse, consensus-based organization, Andy found that Reed-style argumentation could be detrimental. He credits ETS organizers with nurturing the leadership abilities of relatively privileged young people while insisting that they genuinely listen to the voices and support the leadership of people living in poverty.

Peck is thoughtful about his decision to work to stop male violence against women. He says that choice was made “both out of a commitment to address sexism and abuse and violence in the community and, more directly, to develop personal accountability for my own behavior.” A crucial step in this direction was an internship that combined personal and political work at activist backpackMen Stopping Violence (MSV), a social change organization dedicated to ending men’s violence against women. He then worked as an educator at an Atlanta rape crisis center and later as Youth Coordinator at MSV.

At Georgia Tech, Peck challenges students to recognize that violence is integral to campus life, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. He also tries to counter cynical and short-sighted views of gender roles and violence against women, especially the idea that male violence is unavoidable. Peck’s assumption that violence can be prevented in turn requires work for social justice. Unlike those who cite mental illness or other personality disorders as the chief causes of violent behavior, Peck has learned to view men’s abusive behavior as a means of seeking power and control, rooted in larger systems of inequality and oppression. “In U.S. culture, men’s use of violent or abusive behavior to maintain power and control is not ‘sick’ or aberrant but, in context, ‘normal’ and functional.” Further, he states, “Notions of the polite society and ‘ivory tower’ aside, dynamics of power and control at academic institutions are a part of the context that contributes to violence. And so cultural and institutional change at Reed can help to prevent that same violence.”

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Reed Magazine August

2004