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In the five years since I graduated from Reed, I have watched warily as the average SAT scores and grade-point averages of the entering class have edged higher and higher. I feel pride that my alma mater is getting “better,” mixed with a tinge of sadness and worry that Reed may lose personality through playing the numbers game. I applied to Reed in part because the college did not submit numbers to the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings. I saw that rebellion as a signal that Reed recognized students who had low grade-point averages and low SAT scores could become spectacular Reed students because Reed had a distinct personality, a personality that only worked well with some learning styles and some people. Comments by Dean of Admission Paul Marthers in the recent Reed magazine [“Many Apply. Few are Chosen,” Spring 2008] suggest that the baseline expectations for grades and SATs have risen significantly.
This year’s average entering GPA of 3.9 looks great on paper and makes me feel a certain small pleasure at the increased prestige for the school. It also must be nice for the numerous deans interviewed in the article, though it makes me wonder how Reed’s personality has changed. I would have enjoyed the article more had the author been able to get a better grip on how Reed has changed. Interviewing even a single current student on perceptions of the school and the admission process might have helped.
No doubt, some of my feelings are affected by the classic Olde Reed Syndrome, in which most Reedies older than current juniors feel something has changed for the worse from the way it was in the good old days. However, I hope Reed is still “taking chances” on the kids who didn’t do as well in high school, because in my experience, good grades and great SAT scores in high school are not necessarily the best indicators for success at Reed or in life.
—Joel Stonington ’03
Fired Up by Religion
If the article “Getting Religion” [Spring 2008] doesn’t draw a record number of letters, I will be surprised. Devout Episcopalian President Diver looks forward to a Reed chaplaincy and subsidizing the transport of students to local churches. He attributes the historic lack of interest in religion at Reed to the admission of so many Jews and children of godless “professors or artists or members of the creative class.” With applications on the rise, perhaps Diver can take care of that. Otherwise how to explain his conviction that “the overwhelming reality is that more of our students are going to be interested in religion” in an article that reports a steady decrease in students identifying a religious preference since 1973—not a particularly observant era to start with. President Diver should consider taking Humanities 110. He might learn something.
—Jonathan Grudin ’72
Writer L.D. Kirshenbaum ’84 made a comment about President Diver that I believe demonstrates the prejudice that the faculty and students have towards Christianity. Kirshenbaum stated, “Reed President Colin Diver, a devout Episcopalian . . .” instead of saying, “President Diver is a devout Christian, who attends an Episcopal Church.” This struck me as an indication that the word “Christian” is a word that most of the Reed community doesn’t like to use.
I am in full agreement with President Diver’s interpretation of Amanda Reed’s will, as well as his opinion as to what the will doesn’t mean. This is akin to what we have seen over the last several decades regarding our Constitution and what it says and doesn’t say. The liberal establishment, of which the Reed faculty are examples, seems to interpret the Constitution as meaning “freedom from religion” rather than “freedom of religion.”Does the fact that chapel services were once a part of the Reed “experience” mean that the administration was misinterpreting Amanda Reed’s will, and then at some point there was a period of “enlightenment” in which it was realized that the will didn’t allow these services? The article suggests that the faculty became much more liberal and pressured the administration to abolish the chapel services.
The author notes that the 1953 Griffin showed a photo of Reed’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter and that all of the members were men. I was probably one of them. Judging from this article, I was not a “classic Reedie.” My father was a cabinetmaker and my mother was a nurse. I was also a day dodger, because it was cheaper to live at home and commute to Reed than to live in the dorms. Another reason I didn’t live in the dorms was because of the very strong anti-religious reputation that Reed had at the time, and may I add, still does. I saw no advantage in becoming a true Reedie and I have not had any regrets about that decision.
I admire President Diver for the stand he has taken in this matter. I am sure that he has faced considerable faculty opposition because of his faith.
—John W. Thompson ’55
The two articles about religion at Reed are almost apologetic in tone, as though the lack of sanctioned religious activities was somehow discriminatory toward people of faith. This approach is dangerously similar to the bogus claims of many fundamentalists and evangelicals who convince themselves that public schools discriminate against prayer. There is no law prohibiting the private practice of prayer in school, nor is there any policy at Reed that could possibly infringe on an individual’s right to curry favor with the deities of his or her choosing.
Reed is the only private college in Oregon not affiliated with a religion, and it should be proud of that fact. If there is room for institutions rooted in Catholic, Quaker, Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Adventist, Methodist, and other Christian faiths, certainly there is a place for the kind of institutional rationalism that attracted me to Reed in the first place.
—Jefferson Ranck ’76
During my time at Reed, I was the “village atheist” of the Canterbury Society (the Episcopalian student group, which met Thursday evenings at All Saints Church up the hill). There, I put my beliefs to a test among people who very respectfully would disagree with me. I left more confident of my convictions than when I arrived, but also aware that there were wide ranges of viewpoints, even among my closest friends. Two of the best professors I had at Reed were Dan Deegan and Hugo Adam Bedau, who taught religion.
Anent the football halftime cross-dragging, it was fall 1959, and the leading role was played by a non-student (aided and abetted by more than a full minvan of student apostles). Reed continued to compete in football against religious schools—one urban legend is that the Columbus Day storm of 1962 was retribution for one of our rare victories.
—Jim Kahan ’64
Regarding religion: When I was considering colleges in 1949, I decided to attend one of the (six, I think) liberal arts colleges that had a relationship with MIT. If a student successfully completed the junior year at the college he was automatically accepted at MIT. Among these, I chose Reed because it was the only one that didn’t have compulsory chapel.
—Joe Hearst ’53
I noted mention in L.D. Kirshenbaum’s article of a six-member InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group from spring 1953. When I arrived as a freshman in fall 1953, I had been a Christian for a bit more than a year, having grown up in a totally secular Jewish family. InterVarsity that fall had just two members, Mansell Pattison and me. Next year, Mansell went on to pre-med studies. As the new leader of the group (three of us, as I recall) in fall 1954, I sought to have the group recognized as a college organization. The dean (Ann Shepherd) told me that the signatures of 10 bona fide current students were required for a group to receive official college recognition. She also gave me a form for the required signatures. But there was no hope of completing it; there were only three of us! Brooding on this situation, I sat depressed at a table in the coffee shop. There were half a dozen other students at the table, and someone asked me what was the matter. When I explained, an upper-classman whom I didn’t know (and whose name I also don’t remember) suddenly jumped up and said, “I’m the leader of the Trotskyite cadre here. The administration is oppressing these Christians!” With that he grabbed the signature form, signed it, and quickly recruited eight members of his cadre who were in the coffee shop. So, next day, with the signatures of nine Trotskyites and three Christians, I took the form back to the dean. She looked the list over, knowing full well who the signatories were. With no comment at all, she approved the petition for our InterVarsity group.
—W. Mack Goldsmith ’57
Academics are notoriously insecure and suspicious people, as well they should be. They live in the shark-infested world of criticism. God bless and protect them, I say.
But no wonder, then, that they should feel so threatened by conversations involving trust and faith, soul and spirituality—the sadly delicate flowers of human experience that are treated as so many weeds in the hothouse of academic discourse.
That Victorian-era Amanda Reed’s wish for a “non-sectarian” school could be seriously interpreted as a position that all forms of spirituality be routed—not only from the academic side but from the dean of students’ side of the school—is a blatant example of eisegesis, a useful term I learned from my religion classes at Reed. The academics are so afraid of the non-rational that they would violate the original meaning of Ms. Reed’s will in order to kill any potential eruptions of ecstasy, devotion, epiphany, or mystical union—other than those, of course, celebrated at Renn Fayre.
Too often, these uncritical forms of bigotry, masquerading as intellectual neutrality, conspire to turn communities like Reed into unhealthy brain farms with no regard for the full dimensions of the human experience. Pretty soon, new students will be locked into Matrix-like pods and fed knowledge through electrodes.
Insecure Reed professors view chaplains as threats to the community. Too bad the rationalists are unable to see beyond their prejudice. Personally, I give thanks to all that is sacred (gasp!) for President Diver’s efforts at shedding some light into this dark closet of academic fear and loathing. Keep up the good work!
—Matthew Lawrence ’80
While I agree with the faculty’s recent motions to maintain a nonsectarian environment by restricting any “activity that might reasonably be interpreted as valorizing any particular religion, religious practice, or form of spirituality,” I hope all community members will also keep in mind the motion’s next sentence about an individual’s freedom to practice religion. As a Christian, I was sometimes chastised by fellow students for being stupid, naive, or cowardly in language that, had it been used to question Judaism, would have been rightfully condemned as anti-semitic.
—Jacob Juntunen ’99
Ranching to Save the Planet?
In the article “Forging the New West” [Spring 2008], Courtney White ’82 is described as “executive director of the Quivira Coalition, a 10-year-old conservation group that promotes environmentally sustainable ranching.” Their website is impressive, in particular their Land and Water Program, but consider the following:
At the present time, a billion people are without access to potable water, and in the U.S., half of all water used is used by the meat industry, of which ranching is a non-trivial part. It takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef—thus you save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you do by not showering for an entire year. (Growing one pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons of water.) A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships in the world combined. Et cetera, et cetera. (Most of these facts are documented in John Robbins’s book The Food Revolution. Those that aren’t are documented at the PETA website.)
If the phrase “environmentally sustainable ranching” is not an oxymoron (assuming it has any meaning at all), then neither is “environmentally sustainable automobile industry.” This is my gripe number two.
Now, my gripe number one. “We’re trying to work at the nexus of ecology and agriculture,” White says. “And personally, I think that’s where the action’s going to be in the future—not just for environmentalists, but for ranchers, landowners, and everyone else.” That phrase “everyone else” ought to include the animals involved, but it obviously doesn’t. This is the real tragedy of ranching, and of the meat industry in general. The suffering of animals just doesn’t count, unless it affects profits.
—Tom Brown ’60
Haikus for Reed
We asked for haikus for Reed, and one reader submitted these:
Powell’s and Burnside
Rain—forty days, nights
For the hell of it
—Karen Greenbaum-Maya ’73
Remembering Alex Lluch
Some comments on the recent death of freshman Alejandro Lluch:
(Note: this writer, being Old, has smoked pot twice, and nicotine never. His addictions are alcohol, more or less under control, and cheese and sweets, against which he struggles with limited success.)
—Alan McConnell ’54
Reedies Need Better Social Skills
As a ’78 alumna, I was struck by the irony in the recent issue of ReediEnews, which mentioned both the heroin overdose death of a student and the video sent to accepted prospective students, to which I include a link.
While there are a few students in the video who would have passed the first two seconds of a job interview, most wouldn’t. They looked like people to party with after midnight, not people to depend on.
I have known far too many people who arrived at Reed with a normal number of social skills but left with far fewer. Reed needs to do a better job of marketing to prospective and current students who are interested in being part of a constructive community, and quit selling social anarchy. Developmentally, college age students should be increasing their connections to society at large, not decreasing them.
Over the years, I have done a lot of work with Reed students, and some with Lewis & Clark students. I have been repeatedly impressed by the social skills and presentation of Lewis & Clark students, even during their final exam week. Reed students, on the other hand, do not present well. As a Reed alumna, this makes me both sad and angry.
The college has made notable progress in facilitating student mental health since I was a student there—as only one example, the health center no longer hands out speed to students to write their papers—but clearly much remains to be done. I encourage you to take advantage of alumni experience during reunions week and at other opportune times. I would also like to offer my sympathy with regard to this undoubtedly difficult time.
—Peggy Naumann ’78
Redeeming the Beats
I am sure Tad Brennen ’87 is a wonderful human being, and I bet that Sydney Shoemaker and Allen and Rega Clark are swell, too. But to call Gary Snyder ’51 and Allen Ginsberg part of “a handful of minor poets and major screwups” [Letters, Spring 2008] is ridiculous. Gary Snyder is a Reedie and his work is relevant to the magazine. Allen Ginsberg, rather than being a “minor, unrelated celebrity,” is an important figure in American literature. The reading of these poems on campus may have been a minor event in comparison to the subsequent readings. But, I have to disagree with the assertion that the reading has “vanishing literary, historical, or cultural significance.” The discovery of these tapes, recorded on campus and stored in the Reed archives, provides insight on how these poems evolved. That is what makes this story interesting and relevant to the magazine.
—Stuart Margolis ’93
As a loyal friend and former classmate/housemate of Phil Whalen ’51, Gary Snyder ’51, and Lew Welch ’50, I take strong umbrage at the letter of Tad Brennan dismissing Snyder, Ginsberg, et. al., as “a handful of minor poets and major screw-ups.” He bewails the lack of attention given to other Reed grads who turned out to be fine philosophers, metaphysicians, Kant scholars, and “the world’s authority on medieval philosopher Richard Rufus.” Hurrah for them! The world desperately needs creative minds of all varieties. Why not be magnanimous, Mr. Brennan? There’s room at Reed for us all, and all are deserving of praise. For God’s sake, chill out.
—Rosemary Lapham Berleman ’48
Bob Donlin, Neal Cassidy, Allen Ginsberg, Robert LaVigne, and Lawrence
I, too, attended the 1956 reading at Reed by Ginsberg and Snyder [“When the Beats Came Back,” Winter 2008], and I recall looking over Ginsberg’s working manuscript of “Howl” a few hours later at an impromptu party at a student apartment somewhere near campus, was it “Fishmarket,” perhaps? The manuscript was neatly typed and collected within a black binder that held the pages together with some sort of spring. There were a lot of emendations on the typed text, suggesting that the poem was still very much in process. I noticed that the word “pubic,” in the phrase “pubic beards,” was written in pencil above a caret. Later on, whether as a response to that particular reading or the ensuing fame (notoriety?) of the San Francisco poets, I don’t remember, several poems commenting on Ginsberg and Snyder appeared in Janus, the student literary magazine at Reed. I particularly remember an amusing poem by Jerry Kirk ’60 and a rather poor effort by myself.
A few months after the reading, I was in San Francisco during spring vacation. Passing by the Greyhound bus station around noon one day, I spied Ginsberg and a friend (another poet perhaps? I don’t recall) sitting on the grass in a nearby park. They were working as baggage handlers at the terminal, and this was their lunch break. I went up to them and asked, “Are you Allen Ginsberg, the poet?” This encounter must have been one of Ginsberg’s first experiences of celebrity, and he was friendly and gracious—as he continued to be over the next 40 years when we occasionally met at poetry readings here and there across the country.
—Bill Bernhardt ’60
Tad Brennan betrays his ignorance when he refers to Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder as “minor poets.” He certainly has no sense of the importance of “Howl” in the American literary canon, nor of the profound impact of the beat movement on succeeding generations. To refer to Gary Snyder, in particular, as “a major screw-up” is not only absurd but an unbelievable insult to one of Reed’s most accomplished and revered alumni. Did Brennan actually read the article?
I went to Reed specifically to get away from ignorant, pompous, bourgeois fops like Tad Brennan. An article on Reed-trained philosophers would certainly be of interest, but not if it somehow implied that this self-serving cretin was a credit to the school. You need to apologize, bro.
—Stephen Levien ’80
Army Days at Reed
A wee bit more about the Army Air Corps Meteorology Program . . . The fall of 1943 was full of new and interesting events for me. After I graduated from Tigard High School at age 16, Reed gifted me with a scholarship. I was allowed to study pre-med, biology, science, math, and humanities.
Although the principal of my high school had recommended Pacific University at Forest Grove, our family was in no position to pay for the room and board. So, I became a day dodger at Reed, and every weekday marched from my sister’s home in Ardenwald across the Eastmoreland Golf Course to Reed. On weekends, various buses carried me home to Garden Home, parents, and twin sisters. To earn pocket change, I filled dishwashing machines for the handsome wage of 55 cents per hour.
More fun, however, was working at the steam tables with food set for the fellows of the Army Air Corps Meteorology Program. Thursday was “complaint day,” when liver and onions were on the menu. Desserts helped ease discontent, and it was the first time I saw chocolate sauce poured onto strawberry ice cream.
In 1949, I married an Army Air Corps veteran who had served three years in the World War II South Pacific theatre. And, yes, both of us noticed the interesting left-handed salute [“Reed at War,” Autumn 2007].
—Vlasta Becvar Barber ’47
Claude Vaucher (1928–2008)
Losses for Anthropology
It was with great sadness that I read of emeritus professor Claude Vaucher’s passing [In Memoriam, Spring 2008]. His death, coming on the heels of the deaths of Gail Kelley last year and David French nearly 10 years earlier, brings an end to an era. As an anthropology student in the early 1970s, I had the great privilege of studying with Claude, Gail, and David. So different and yet so complementary, the three created a department of anthropology that was truly remarkable. It is only now with the perspective of a professional anthropologist of more than three decades that I appreciate how remarkable it was.
Much has been said of Gail’s style and personality. She knew her stuff and did not suffer fools easily. I enjoyed her classes, particularly her senior seminars. She required us to think and stretch; when I think of the essence of a Reed class, my mind flashes on hers. Although not a great teacher, David French was arguably the best Reed anthropologist. Still widely cited, his work has stood the test of time. But I remember David best as a kind and gentle person: passing out his mail in class; checking myself to remember to call him before 8 p.m. or after 2 a.m.; and above all, sitting in his basement listening to stories about the Warm Springs Reservation, Japanese internment camps, and being a student at Columbia with Franz Boas and the greats of American anthropology. David loved anthropology and being an anthropologist. I will always be grateful that he gave me the courage to go on in a field against the advice of so many naysayers.
While the others taught me, Claude was my mentor. To some extent, I became an archaeologist because of Claude Vaucher’s laugh; he just made it seem like so much fun. Because there were so few archaeology students, many of my courses with Claude were independent studies. We traveled the world at his desk: studying the rock art of the Sahara, examining the remains of Lewis and Clark along the Columbia River, and marveling at the wonders of Chaco Canyon.
After Reed, I lost touch with David, Gail, and Claude. The last time I saw them was at the 1985 festschrift for David at the American Anthropological Association in Chicago. I always meant to drop them a note telling them what they meant to me, but I never quite got around to it. I regret it. Now 35 years have gone by and I read in a magazine that they are all dead. Still, I want to publicly acknowledge my debt and offer my thanks to these three teachers. I hope that today’s anthropology students find in their teachers the inspiration, knowledge, and sheer joy of learning that I did in mine.
—Jeffrey H. Altschul ’75
Angela Lane ’65 Remembered
I was shocked and saddened to see the notice of Angela Lane’s death reported in the spring Reed magazine. I want to add a few memories, which came back to me very vividly on reading it. It mentioned Reed students giving blood when Angela had her heart surgery in 1964, and I was one of them. Angela was the resident adviser in the dorm where I lived as a freshman; she must have been a junior. She was indeed beautiful. I grew up in the University of Chicago neighborhood, and when Angela went to graduate school there, she got to know my mother. I vaguely remember visiting Angela when she was house-sitting an apartment belonging to my mother’s friends, and somehow the Doyle Owl, or a replica of it—golden—was there. It was some kind of Reed mystery I never really understood, as I dropped out after my second year. Much later, when I was finishing graduate school in Chicago in the early 1980s, Angela reappeared. She had dinner at my apartment. Later she called me and said something like, “I see that you display your grains.” I suppose I had them in old mayonnaise jars. She had a beautiful collection of glass food storage bottles that she had bought at auctions in rural Indiana. She was preparing to move again, and didn’t want to ship them. She gave them all to me. Even though I have moved many times myself since the ’80s, I still have almost all these bottles intact, in my kitchen, full of rice and beans and nuts. I was able to tell Angela that when we exchanged cards in recent years.
—Ann Grodzins Gold ’67
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