It has been over a month since several hundred Reed students, staff, and faculty participated in a day of events organized by students of color. Throughout the day on September 26, members of our community expressed their deep sorrow over black lives that have been lost, as well as their hope that Reed will do more not only to support our students of color, but also to make Reed truly inclusive as our campus becomes increasingly diverse.
As a culmination of the September 26 events, student organizers presented President John Kroger with a list of demands. The list includes more than twenty items ranging from enhanced financial aid and support services to ideas about potential changes to the curriculum.
Since September 27, staff and faculty have been engaged in a collaborative effort with students to address the demands. The following represents a summary of progress to date. This summary is not exhaustive, and it is important to understand that for some, and especially for some students of color, the pace of change remains a source of frustration. I do hope you find the following informative as we continue to do this important work.
Students demanded more transparency regarding retention and graduation rates. The week following the boycott, the Office of Institutional Research updated the college website that contains these statistics, including a more prominent link to statistics that are disaggregated by race and ethnicity.
In addition, President Kroger has convened a standing committee of students, staff, and faculty to focus on student success. This committee will evaluate the college’s efforts to support all Reed students, and in particular those who have been historically underrepresented or marginalized, as well as those whom for any reason may require additional support in order to thrive at Reed. The committee will report on its charge no later than the first week of the spring 2017 semester, and will provide updates thereafter.
Alcohol and Other Drugs—Data, Enforcement and Restorative Practices
In response to concerns related to Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) enforcement practices, Community Safety Director Gary Granger has posted demographic data on the Community Safety website. Gary will update the site in the spring to reflect the most recent data. In the meantime, Gary and Dean of Students Bruce Smith are working with students to better understand and address perceptions of bias in enforcement practices. Finally, Deputy Title IX Coordinator Santi Alston is working with the adjudicating boards to evaluate sanctioning practices, with an eye toward optimizing the educational and restorative aspects thereof.
Faculty Evaluations and Grievance Processes
Student protesters also argued for a greater student role in faculty evaluation. Dean of the Faculty Nigel Nicholson and President Kroger determined that it is not possible, given college policies, labor regulations, and agreements with Reed faculty, for students to sit on faculty grievance panels that review complaints against faculty members.
Several demands pertain to concerns regarding the extent to which the student body as a whole is aware of the mechanisms available to evaluate faculty and to lodge complaints about potential bias. In the week following the boycott, Nigel sent an email to the entire student body providing information about the complaint process and about the ways students can participate in the faculty evaluation process. Student services staff will make sure that incoming first-year students receive this information during fall orientation.
Meanwhile, we continue our significant efforts to hire and retain faculty and staff members who reflect the diverse backgrounds and identities of the Reed student body. In recent years, faculty and staff have adopted new hiring procedures designed to increase hiring of historically underrepresented minorities. Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity, provides annual updates to the faculty and will share this information more broadly this year.
Admission and Financial Aid
Reed has seen the diversity of its student body increase significantly over the last decade. Milyon Trulove, Reed’s Vice President and Dean of Admission & Financial Aid, continues to increase outreach to prospective students from high schools in marginalized communities and those with student bodies comprising predominantly students of color. In addition, the aforementioned Student Success Committee will partner with staff in the financial aid office and with students to evaluate student financial aid. This process will serve two goals: first, to help the college’s staff better understand the ways Reed’s financial aid program could more effectively cover students’ educational and living expenses; and second, to improve students’ and their families’ understanding of Reed’s financial aid program.
Finally, the college has established an emergency fund designed to address one-time, short-term needs for individual students. Milyon and I administer the fund, and we encourage students to contact us if they think such funds might be appropriate and helpful.
Students identified the need for Reed’s staff and faculty to develop competency in working effectively with an increasingly diverse student body. We agree that it is essential for us to do so, and in order to substantially enhance existing training I am working with Mary and other faculty, staff, and students to design and implement a program to accomplish this important goal. I will update the community before the end of the fall semester.
Reed’s Business Relationships and Investments
In response to student concerns about whether Reed might be invested in the prison industrial complex, we have begun our research into this question and to date have not found any such investments. Specifically, going back at least as far as 1993, Reed has held no direct investment in Oregon Prison Industries, Oregon Correction Enterprises, or Oregon State Corrections Industries. Students raised a particular business relationship with Sustainable Furniture Inc. as a potential concern, and we can confirm that the company does not use prison labor.
In 2009, the students, faculty, and board of trustees of the college adopted a Diversity Statement that articulates the college’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Students have demanded that the college make an additional statement that explicitly denounces racism in all its forms. Mary and President Kroger will work with a group of students and staff to develop such a statement, and will update the community by the end of the fall semester.
In the meantime, on September 30, Reed’s Committee on Diversity released the following statement:
“Given recent bias incidents both across the country and on our campus, the Committee on Diversity (CoD) wishes to reach out to the Reed community and affirm our strong commitment to include and support individuals with identities from across the spectrum. A significant part of that support involves actively combating racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, religious intolerance, ableism, and all forms of oppression and marginalization. We applaud those who responded so productively in speaking out against religious intolerance reflected in a recent SB info post and the student-led demonstration on Monday. Both have highlighted racial injustice in our nation and here on campus.
As the organizers of the student action on Monday stated, a single day is insufficient to effect change on these issues. Recent acts of bias on our campus affirm the need for all of us to recognize and address intolerance and to actively combat injustice. The CoD hears the concerns raised by students and wholeheartedly commits to partnering with the student organizers, and all community members, to work toward positive changes at Reed.”
There were two specific demands relating to the curriculum: the demand for a comparative race and ethnic studies (CRES) program and the demand for changes to Hum 110.
The professors who teach Hum 110 have voted to accelerate the timetable for reviewing the syllabus and announced details about the committees that will guide the process forward. Several meetings have already taken place; the professors will begin drafting the review in the spring.
The proposal for a CRES program is part of the larger ongoing consideration of academic priorities. This academic year, CAPP will complete a process to recommend academic program priorities to the college. SCAPP, the student committee that interfaces with CAPP, will be sharing student input with CAPP as part of this process. In addition, CAPP has approved the formation of a committee to consider whether, in the event that a CRES program is one of the priorities chosen, implementation can be accelerated given current resources.
"Life of the Mind"
A more general concern was raised about the frequently used expression “Life of the Mind,” and the extent to which that expression includes the experiences of people of color at Reed. This is a wide-ranging and difficult question for the community to consider, and as a start the Reed Union committee organized a community conversation devoted to this question on November 1. This conversation set the stage for ongoing work that Mary, Nigel, and I will continue to share with the community in future updates.
In the meantime, we continue to work with staff, faculty, and student organizers to address other demands, including
providing scaffolding to support those students who might benefit from additional preparation for the rigors of the Reed program;
enhancing the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC). I have received proposals from Assistant Dean Dayspring Mattole for enhancements to the Peer Mentor Program and for a new professional staff position. The staff position would support the MRC as well as student affinity groups and other initiatives designed to enhance inclusivity on campus. I will have updates by the end of November;
evaluating policies and terminology that may inadvertently marginalize students;
ensuring that the staffing in the Health and Counseling Center reflects the college’s commitment to support all students across all the identities and lived experiences.
As we continue to work together on these and other programs and resources to support our students, I hope that each of us will maintain an open mind and a generous heart, for the love of Reed.
Vice President for Student Services