I’m skeptical of [assistant dean] Jyl Shaffer and Reed’s sexual assault prevention program [“New Dean Oversees Sexual Assault Prevention,” March 2012] because one word was missing from the article: alcohol. I suggested that the University of Colorado (whose freshman dorms are across the street from my house) develop a combined alcohol abuse and sexual assault prevention program. The woman in charge of the university’s rape education program strongly opposed this suggestion, saying that women have the right to get drunk anywhere, anytime they want, without fear of sexual assault. But the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Substance Abuse (the university’s alcohol policy board) and the university health clinic’s sexual health nurse both loved my idea. They organized students to design a poster, which was so popular that they couldn’t keep it on dorm hallway walls (the students took the posters to put in their rooms). Last year I taught a high school course about dating and relationships, which included two hours about alcohol and sexual consent. I hope that Ms. Shaffer sees the fundamental link between alcohol and sexual misconduct.
Editor's Note: David is right to emphasize the role of alcohol. Indeed, Shaffer’s mission on campus is to help students understand the paramount importance of effective consent in sexual activity—and consent may not be effective if a participant is intoxicated. The purpose of the article was simply to announce Shaffer’s hiring and bring readers up to speed with changes in Reed’s adjudication process, rather than to examine the many factors involved in sexual assault. However, she encourages alumni who have an interest in this issue to send her an email at email@example.com.
Thank you for your profile of Puon Penn ’92 [“From the Lion’s Den,” June 2012]. Puon was a central part of my Reed experience. Puon and I roomed together in our first year, sharing a double in the antipodes of MacNaughton III, a room so far from central heating that our windows grew half-inch-thick interior ice sheets during Portland’s winter storm of February 1989. I was at the time of matriculation (and, arguably, am still) a deeply provincial kid from small-town Oregon. Rooming with Puon was both rewarding and frustrating. He and I had a cordial relationship, but didn’t connect right away, due to my own well-meaning but fundamentally superficial grasp of how difficult it was for Puon—who came most immediately from rough Oakland and Stockton, California—to adjust to the social norms of the white bourgeois intellectual misfits who populate(d) Reed. They were my people; they were not his.
That said, though, we developed an enduring friendship. To this day I hesitate to lie inverted in my bed, remembering a night in a cheap hotel in Turin when, as we watched a dubbed episode of The Simpsons together, he saw my bare feet on top of my pillow and told me, visibly disgusted, that Khmer people are sickened by the sight of putting one’s feet where one’s head should rest. After we discovered the next morning that would-be car thieves had failed to steal (but had succeeded in damaging) our rental, a long drive the next day brought us to distant relations of his in Lyon, France, where we were both bemused by his relatives’ enthusiastic suggestions to hang out at a suburban mall when we asked what cultural attractions Lyon had to offer. On our last day in Europe, Puon handled the aggressive Parisian traffic capably; I wasn’t trusted to drive, as he’d only taught me to drive a standard transmission earlier on that trip.
Puon and I have stayed in touch after graduation and have seen each other from time to time in Chicago, the Bay Area, Pittsburgh, or wherever we have found ourselves. I invited him to my wedding in 2001, but never received an RSVP, and then was nonplussed when he materialized, Benjamin Braddock–like, at the back of the nave at St. Austin’s Church in Austin, Texas, as Alison and I recited our vows. “Isn’t anyone else coming?” he asked. He seemed to pity me because there were no other guests; perhaps he wasn’t aware that he’d arrived for the rehearsal.
On a more earnest note, though, I have always been impressed and not a little intimidated by Puon: his intellect, his bravery, his patient and determined approach to achieving his goals, his devotion to serving his beleaguered Khmer people. Knowing him has been one of the great gifts of my life. Your extended portrait of this accomplished alumnus is an honor that he unquestionably deserves and that I, among many others, deeply appreciate.
I am pleased by and grateful for the letter from Roger Andriola ’69 [Letters, June 2012], and I want to thank him for taking the time and trouble to write it. To learn that one has influenced a student intellectually in a way that he experienced as a life landmark is the greatest gift a teacher can be given. Your readers may be interested to know that the story has yet one more Reed connection. When I was interviewed at Reed by the Yale law professor whose interviewing trip I emulated seven years later, I expressed doubts about whether a legal education would be sufficiently intellectually challenging (as opposed to arduous) for a Reed philosophy major with no interest in actually practicing law. He replied that Yale was different from the others. “At Yale, we like to think of ourselves as the Reed College of law schools,” he assured me. So I went there, and, as I compared notes with friends at Harvard and elsewhere, discovered that it was. I suppose one could say that it was a Reed orientation that my Yale-educated colleagues and I offered to the Reed-educated Mr. Andriola, obviously to very good effect.
I was deeply disappointed, but not surprised, to read the arguments of Michael Schein ’76 and David Bloch ’93 against diversity hiring at Reed [Letters, June 2012]. These alumni claim to be “colorblind”—and insist that racism will only end when people and institutions become supposedly indifferent to race altogether. What they are truly blind to, however, is the disproportionate violence and discrimination that American people of color, along with women and queers, will continue to face at the hands of schools, the police, and their peers regardless of the priorities that Reed sets for faculty hires.
Michael Schein asserts that by setting diversity as a goal, “we create a rigged game” that treats white people unfairly. But he fails to realize that the game is already rigged. White people receive treatment in education, the workplace, and public space that is vastly superior to that experienced by people of color. Opposing the consideration of diversity in faculty hires is tantamount to closing one’s eyes and shouting loudly in the hope that racism will disappear if one just waits long enough. But if American history has taught us anything, it’s that racism is not going away.
The bubble is a lie. Reed students come from the rest of the world, and they return to it. They experience the effects of white supremacy and they perpetuate it. To ignore the disadvantages people of color face and to pretend that they don’t exist at Reed is to be complicit in that institutionalized, racist violence. Colorblindness may not be an overt racism, but it is certainly an insidious and real one.
My fellow alumni might prefer that Reed would sweep the ugly and awful truth of American racism under the rug. I, for one, expect better of my school.
Exactly when can we look forward to hearing the end of the “racism is no less poisonous when turned against a white person” lament? [Michael Schein ’76, Letters, June 2012] Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not say this, nor did he imply it when he said, “I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” His children were African American, and if you ask me, and if you ask a lot of African Americans, that time has hardly arrived for black people and other people of color. It’s just way too easy for advantaged white people to complain that they’re not getting a fair shake. Where is it spelled out that life is supposed to be fair for any person? Where is the evidence that it is so?
Mr. Schein states that “affirmative action was necessarily a temporary remedy, because it punishes new generations for the sins of those that came before.” Uh, huh. Germany is still making reparations for the unspeakable crimes against humanity that were committed many decades ago by Germany; is it “time to move on,” then? Not that this is a perfect analogy; but where is it written that we stop making reparations when it suits our purpose?
And who says, outrageously, that “today, racial minorities benefit”? How often, in what ways; precisely what does a privileged white family know about the experience of being black in America? Yes, Mr. Schein, a white family whose daughter attended “one of the finest urban graduate schools” is a privileged family; check this out with anyone trying to survive in your nearest housing project. When you write, “In the 21st century, the adversity we all face is not principally determined by race,” have you checked that one out with those “streetwise kids of all colors”? We didn’t need the example of Trayvon Martin to bring home this point, but . . .
And who ever claimed that affirmative action “is based on the assumption that students cannot learn as well from persons of other races?” No, no, no. Affirmative action is an ongoing effort, however besieged, to level a playing field that may never in fact be level: the goal of a fair game with equal opportunity for all people is nowhere in sight; it’s not even imaginable in our lifetime.
I could go on and on, but I’m afraid this is one of those visceral, unresolvable divides like the debate over abortion. Suffice it to say you should count your many blessings: your daughter sounds like a wonderful person, a high achiever, a striver, a person of widely recognized good character, rich in nurture and nature, possessed of a topnotch education. I hope she appreciates how sweet and lucky her life is.
In the June 2012 issue of Reed, David Widelock ’69 replied to my “Burning Question,” saying I should have kept doubting the fireman’s statement that with higher pressure the rate of water flow decreased. David cites his experience as a landscape architect and the Golf Engineering Associates Technical Help Series, which says, “Higher pressure will cause greater flow through any given pipe size, but as the flow increases, the pressure will decrease downstream due to friction loss because water velocities increase as well.”
David and golf engineers are certainly correct that higher pressure at the source will increase rate of flow through a pipe. But what happens downstream can be surprising. A thought experiment will illustrate. Imagine you are watering your lawn with a garden hose. The valve to which the hose is connected is fully open, but you close the nozzle so water doesn’t flow at all. Now imagine you poke a small hole into the hose anywhere along its length. What happens? Water shoots out the hole and into the air. The higher the pressure in the hose, the higher the water will shoot up, but the rate of flow through the hose is close to zero. Now imagine you open the nozzle fully (or take it off completely). The rate of flow through the hose shoots up, but what happens at the hole you poked into the hose? The water stops shooting up; pressure has dropped to just about zero. If the local water supply increases power to its pumps, then the rate of flow will increase, but pressure in the hose will remain near zero because there’s nothing to impede the flow.
If you don’t want to ruin a perfectly good garden hose, you can try the same experiment by pretending to blow a stopped-up trumpet. Try to force air past your closed lips: high pressure, but zero rate of flow. Now open your lips and allow the air to flow. What happens to the pressure?
To temper the image of the late Reed anthropology professor Gail Kelly ’55 [“The Iron Maiden,” June 2012], she wasn’t so steely in my experience, though certainly she wore an iron mask.
Three years following my Reed graduation, I settled in Vancouver. Not long after, I turned around when someone tapped my back at a bookstore, and there was Gail. (I always called her Gail without any repercussion or warning to say “Miss Kelly.”) I’d only known her from my sophomore stint on the Reed senate, several of Jim Webb’s [English, 1965–71] notorious Sunday teas, and when I tried to sell her my portable stereo (“You expect to get that much?”), trying to raise funds to run off after graduation to live in Europe forever with my new lover. (She never once alluded to my being gay, yet it was an open fact, and she had close gay friends.)
So, after she appeared out of the blue, we went for tea at the nearby Hotel Vancouver, and remained good friends until her death 33 years later. A week before her passing, I raced down to Portland on her call and took her on her last outing: indulging two of her favorite pursuits— dining at an upscale trendy restaurant and browsing in a shop. She did love everything to do with consumption; we once hatched an elaborate scheme to produce a documentary television series on shopping. My favourite scheme, though, derived from when she helped organize the first Alumni College, for Reed’s 75th anniversary. It focused on the humanities of the year the college was founded. Ever afterwards, we immediately called one another to share our latest discovery of any 1911 event, trivial or pivotal.
Over the years she often tried to get me to be as passionate about shopping as she was, and usually for some oddball item she’d taken a fancy to—Welsh furniture comes to mind. Once, when I arrived to pick her up at her jungle-like garden house in Eastmoreland, she got into my shiny new black Volvo sedan, disparaging the fact that I hadn’t bought a Jaguar. I didn’t have the heart to disappoint her on that last visit with the news that I was soon to be ordained a Zen monk.
Ever since I attended the storytelling group at our 50th reunion in 2004, I’ve been waiting to find out what Cricket Parmalee ’67 would do with our motley recollections. We all learned things we had not known in our Reed days from the stories others told: about lesbians, McCarthy, our attitudes toward our Korean War, etc.
After reading the first half of Comrades of the Quest, covering Reed’s first 50 years, I found insights on this great school, its conflicts, resolutions, and changes that I never knew. I saw photos of our infamous losingest football team in the nation, the Old Commons, my profs, old friends, and recalled an impressive calligraphy note written to me. Well worth its weight in memories and understanding.
Thanks, Cricket and John Sheehy ’82, for this herculean effort.
[1963: Both Dr. No and "Puff the Magic Dragon" are hits this year. Free Reed T-shirt to anyone who can explain why.]
Dr. No was the first film version of the James Bond series. As to why it was a hit, well, it had sex and violence, always a plus for U.S. audiences, and the plot revolved around a planned attack on the manned space flight program, which loomed large in the popular mind at the time, especially since the U.S. was lagging in the space race. The spy-counter-spy motif hit a chord because of its cold war overtones, although SPECTER consisted of more or less independent terrorists. The hero was handsome and the women were beautiful. The handsome hero got beat up a lot, which no doubt had an unconscious sadomasochistic appeal. On the other hand, he also got laid a lot, which the audience probably figured was adequate compensation. “Puff the Magic Dragon” was a celebration of childhood innocence and the mourning of its loss, though not in any sinister way, just as part of the growing-up process. It came at a time when the war in Vietnam had begun to take on the nature of a sinister loss of national innocence, or, should I say, the dispelling of the myth of such innocence, which of course never existed except on TV programs of the 1950s. Many people imagined that the song contained veiled references to smoking marijuana (paper, puff, dragon=draggin'), though the singers and the song writers consistently denied any such allusion. Nevertheless, the perception that it was about the use of an illegal drug must have helped make it popular with certain audiences. For a full discussion, visit this site.
I suppose Reed doesn’t get much fan mail from those of us who attended one or two or three years; we are, after all, a species of traitor. But I would like to state that although I attended Reed for a mere two years, split asunder by a two-year leave of absence, and probably had a more scalding, wrenching, desperate, and humiliating time there than any other Reed student has had before or since (90% my fault and that of familial and environmental forces), I have always looked back on my time at Reed with fondness and appreciation for all it did for me.
For if it hadn’t been for Reed, I might well never have a) developed a social conscience and resisted the draft (very destructive and isolating for me, but I have never regretted a bit of it), b) developed an intense, ongoing love of history, c) understood that there were some really intelligent women out there, d) taken up the fine arts as a career (I failed professionally, but that seems to have been a good thing ultimately, oddly enough), e) become a Buddhist, f) begun to learn the value of a friend (by not making one for quite an extended period), g) learned something of the machinations of elite bureaucracies, and h) lived in a city with a population greater than 100,000. So, um—thanks.
At our house, we read the Reed magazine with interest each time it arrives in the mail. While this latest issue (June 2012) was excellent as always, I do have one quick correction to offer.
On page 39, in discussions about the Reed Oral History Project, Cricket Parmalee ’67 shares several memorable and entertaining stories that came out of the project. Since my husband participated in this project, we both read this piece with particular interest. In referencing the interview of Alan Dean ’41, credit for the interview was mistakenly given to "Tchad Wallace." I believe that the interviewer was actually Tchad Moore, since he is now my husband of 13 years and we have been involved together in many things Reed, since we first met each other there in the Doyle dorms in 1988. (His class attribution ofc ’92 was correct.)
I'm pretty confident that I have my facts right on this one: there aren't that many "Tchads" in the world, let alone in the Reed College annals, and from the Reed class of 1992, I'm quite convinced that there was only one "Tchad." (Truth be told, to me, there there will always be only one "Tchad.") Further, I also recall this particular tale from the days when Tchad was oh-so carefully trying to most accurately transcribe the interview tapes from his time with Alan Dean. Tchad also remembers this incident fondly, and it would be nice if credit for the interview was correctly attributed to him.
Thanks so much! We really enjoy so much about the magazine, from the beautifully written articles, the stunning photographs and drawings and the handsome layout designs, to the small but important details like the striking font selection and even the exceptional card-stock paper. Our four year old also really enjoyed the note about, photos of and even on-line movies of the river otters in the canyon. Too cool! It took us right back to the days when we first met, and we used bird-watching in the canyon as a healthy and happy diversion from the stress of writing papers, studying for finals, and even thesis research.