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40th Reunion Chatter
Battles Old and New
About a dozen members of the Class of ’66 sat in a circle on Eliot Lawn under a gentle Saturday afternoon sun debating war, peace, social activism, cultural relativism, the role of Reed and Reedies in the world—the usual stuff. It was as if their erstwhile preoccupation with political issues and social causes had survived four decades without missing a beat.
The discussion, officially titled “40 Years of Wandering: How I Changed the World and the World Changed Me,” got a jump-start from that morning’s freewheeling Q&A session with President Colin Diver, where several alumni challenged the college’s policy on political neutrality (Reed magazine, Spring 2006, “To Be or Not To Be Political”).
Claire Gorfinkel, who has worked for decades with the American Friends Service Committee in Pasadena, California, and publishes books about peace and human rights (www.intentionalproductions.com), was adamant that the college’s policy is indefensible on moral grounds. She insisted that the college can and should screen its investments to exclude companies from the endowment portfolio that engage in any number of iniquitous activities—from degrading the environment, to producing armaments. When someone in the circle said that starting down that road could lead Reed down a slippery slope—what about companies that violate labor rights, push junk food to kids, or don’t provide health insurance to their employees?—Gorfinkel responded that she’d settle for a simple principle that she said everyone in the Reed community could agree on. “I’d be happy if they just didn’t invest in war,” she said.
Wally Gibson countered (in a tone suggesting this group had covered this ground before) that in the grand economic scheme, Reed is an insignificant player, and altering the college’s investment portfolio on political grounds is a waste of time. “Divestment has absolutely no effect on the target,” said Gibson. “It makes a difference to me whether the action actually makes a difference. Or, is it just for me, to make me feel good?”
But that didn’t satisfy Christine Emerson Salo. She made a heartfelt case for “bringing issues to people’s attention over and over and over again” until institutions take action on moral issues. “When I think of the social changes we’ve seen over the years, since the mid-1960s . . .”
Jay Hubert thought the mechanics of socially responsible investment shouldn’t be a stumbling block. “The college,” he said, “should be able to find an investment adviser who can bid for this job and red line” enterprises or industries that Reed doesn’t want to support. “I don’t buy the argument that we can’t do investment in a moral way, but we can do all these other things, such as minority recruitment, on a moral basis.”
Class members did take time out for the lighter side of life. Arlene Blum showed slides and read from her new book, Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life. Several ’66ers could be heard shouting “Pow!” and “More Boom Boom!” during the fireworks show. At 8:00 the next morning, those same intrepid Reedies were piling into cars to drive out to the Gorge and hike up a mountain, with Reed’s most famous woman mountaineer at the head of the pack.