Op-ed piece brings strong reaction

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This spring, the campus community was exercised over a student-authored opinion piece on the headline-making drug GHB that was published in the March 1 edition of the Portland Oregonian.

Student reaction to the essay was swift and overwhelmingly vengeful towards its author, Peter Zuckerman ’03, a house adviser and editor of Reed’s student newspaper.

Students claimed that Zuckerman’s article breached issues of confidentiality, harmed Reed’s reputation in the Portland community, and exaggerated the extent of drug use on campus. Dean of students Regina Mooney assured members of the campus community that none of the information in the op-ed violated confidentiality.

Reports of harassment and threats of physical violence against Zuckerman prompted acting president Peter Steinberger to call on all members of the Reed community“to condemn such actions and to reaffirm the fundamental idea of academic freedom upon which this institution is based.”

“It is, of course, perfectly acceptable to disagree with the article in question,” wrote Steinberger in a memo to all faculty, students, and staff. “It is perfectly acceptable to criticize that article, and to do so vigorously and even vehemently. Moreover, to treat the author in an unfriendly or even nasty manner, though despicable and infantile, seems to me not actionable.

“But to threaten or harass that individual is to attack the very idea of academic freedom, hence to put oneself firmly and implacably at odds with everything for which Reed College stands.”

Many members of the campus community shared Steinberger’s sentiment that the reaction to the opinion piece was, in many ways, as significant as its content, and this recent episode further animated efforts to promote civil, campus-wide discourse on a variety of issues. End of Article



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