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 Reeds
Students claimed that Zuckermans article breached issues of confidentiality,
harmed Reeds 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
Reports of harassment and threats of physical
violence against Zuckerman prompted acting president Peter Steinberger
to call on all members of the Reed communityto 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 Steinbergers 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.