I was very interested to read your article about a Labanotation app for the iPad. (“Dance of the Pixel,” December 2013.) I’m a Reed graduate, a computer researcher, and I am also the holder of a “Junior Dance Notator” certificate (possibly the very first one). I grew up with Labanotation and with the Dance Notation Bureau which my mother, Maria Nicholson Langston (known as “Nicky”) ran as the only paid employee for my entire grade-school life through the 1950s. As a matter of fact, when the DNB had its office on West 20th Street my mother and I lived in an illegal apartment in the back of the office. Lucy Venable and Ann Hutchinson were childhood friends, as were Bob Joffrey, Jerry Arpino, and many of the serious dancers in the New York City scene of the ’50s, as well as dance visitors like Alicia Markova. Over the many years since then, I have lost touch with the dance world and am now more in touch with the worlds of high-tech entertainment, traditional music (folk music, country music, etc.), and adult music education. So it was a blast from the past, as well as the intersection of three important influences in my life, to see the familiar Labanotation staff on an iPad in the Reed magazine and to read mentions of Rudolf Laban, Ann Hutchinson Guest, and Lucy Venable. I remember how my mother, Ann Hutchinson, and the volunteers at the Dance Notation Bureau had struggled to promote Labanotation, and through the years I’ve wondered how it was faring; I’m pleased to see that there’s still interest . . . video really can’t take its place!
This afternoon I received my latest copy of Reed magazine. I was stunned to read a short article (“Pantheon to be Robed,” December 2013) reporting that the annual fall Pantheon had been found in noncompliance with Title IX because of some combination of nudity and loud, rude calls for libations. I had some naive belief that the opening class Pantheon was supposed to emulate the behavior of the Ancient Greeks as taught by the Reed classics department. Studying under Prof. Wally Englert, I was under the impression that full frontal nudity, and loud, rude calls for libations were not only tolerated behaviors, but almost required behavior at events in Ancient Greece.
This led me to imagine certain future scenarios: The title characters of HUM 110 arriving at the opening day of HUM 110 classes in a time machine and being expelled from the campus by Reed security for non-Title IX behavior. The Reed classics department rewriting Title IX compliant versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey featuring Achilles, Ajax, Odysseus, Hector, and Paris entering 12-step recovery programs; Helen being transported from Troy to a battered women’s shelter; and the massed armies of Greece and Troy confronting each other on the plains of Ilium to demonstrate their latest yoga postures. Alas.
I find it a little pathetic that students dressed as Greek deities, naked or not, aggressive or not, could inspire the sort of hand-wringing exercise described in the last issue of the magazine. I was hoping that Reed, of all places, would remain a place where politically incorrect humor would at least be recognized as such. Of course, I didn’t see exactly who was naked, so perhaps the aesthetics of the individual involved did not meet up sufficiently with the delicate freshman’s idea of a Greek god. Pity.
Editor's Note: In 2011 Vice President Joe Biden sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to all educational institutions receiving federal financial aid that clarified the interpretation of Title IX regarding issues of sexual harassment and assault. As a matter both of law and of duty, however, Reed is committed to maintaining a safe and supportive educational environment for every student—which means that complaints of harassment must be taken seriously, however light-hearted the Pantheon’s performance may have been.
I wish to write to tell you know how much I enjoy the Reed magazine. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to alumni publications, but Reed’s stands out. The in-depth articles on the various careers of graduates are fascinating, like one about the former student who devotes his life to restoring great works of art and the connection he maintained with his former Reed art history professor. Also touching and informative is the current edition’s account of Bruce Livingston’s work with troubled students, using theatre as a vehicle for healing. I’ve given to this group since its inception but I didn’t know Livingston was a Reedie. I’m delighted by the discovery. “The Prison of Memory” brought a lump to my throat and a tinge of shame as well. I was a student of Prof. Seth Ulman in the late 1950s. I thought he was such a strange man, and he stuck in my memory. But I have to agree with Cricket Parmalee’s observation that he was one who “cared more, thought more, about the text,” than almost anyone else I’ve ever met. At times I thought his attention to the smallest detail quirky, but now that I am older, I share his aesthetic.
It would be useful if you would redraw the graph plotting tuition and financial aid (“Financial Aid: 13 Questions,” December 2013) beginning as far back as there are data. In the early ’70s, I managed without parental support to pay my way with small savings, reasonable loans, work in the summer, and a modest financial aid award. My hunch is that the graph would show only a slow increase at best for many years before my attendance. What happened to send tuition up a steep ramp at Reed, as well as at many other institutions?
I'm writing about a recent article published about RKSK (Apocrypha, September 2013). It includes a picture of someone wearing a feathered headdress at Noise Parade in 2008. Wearing Native American garb in this context is a form of racist cultural appropriation, and publishing this picture is no different. Cultural appropriation is dangerous because it allows us to forget that the cultures we have subjugated continue to exist on the margins of our society and beyond our imaginary past. It becomes possible for us to ignore the ways our society continues to infringe upon the human rights of the indigenous. So where are the Clackamas, the Multnomah, and the other tribes displaced to make way for our society and our college? The Yakama, the Umatilla, and other tribes across the U.S. and Canada are fighting the expansion of fossil fuel extraction that threatens their health and their land. This is an industry that Reed College has tens of millions of dollars invested in. There is something deeply wrong when our community is comfortable mocking the indigenous while helping to finance their genocide. Racism is ubiquitous in our society. The Native Americans objecting to this kind of representation tend to be invisible. This is not an excuse for our community to perpetuate racist representations. I think it is totally unacceptable for us to profess ignorance about how this image plays into societal systems of oppression. This problem is symptomatic of a culture at Reed that has not found it useful to implement gender or ethnic studies programs, which would help us mitigate oppression by offering us a critical lens by which to examine the politics of our everyday lives. I hope RKSK, the Reed magazine staff, and our community will take this as an opportunity to critically examine our cultural position and be mindful of how easy it is to perpetuate racism, sexism, and classism. Websites about these topics are easy to find, and the college's Multicultural Resource Center has a lot to offer. I hope this conversation doesn't end here.