|table of contents>DEPARTMENTS> LETTERS||< Back|next >|
How the Humanities Saved Me
Thank you for your excellent retrospective on how the humanities saved Reed. I think the humanities saved me, too. As a member of the class of 1950, I entered into the humanities program as a freshman in 1946 when it was already well established. Who knew? I could have missed out on the academic approach that has probably shaped my life. Only now do I realize how important those academic struggles were at Reed. I understand how they saved President Scholz’s vision of a curriculum that takes an integrated look at the history of the world’s people.
Over the years (that’s quite a few now), I’ve come to realize how that academic approach helped me develop an ability to look critically at what is going on around us. Objective thinking has defined my professional and personal life and I’m a happier person for being able to understand what is often mystifying to those who get locked into dogma. I’m grateful for the humanities at Reed and I thank those who have made it possible.
—Mickie Smith Churchill Binda ’50
Clashing with Coleman
I would like to add a footnote to your interesting and informative article on how the humanities saved Reed.
A. Anton Friedrich
My father, A. Anton Friedrich, was assistant professor of economics at Reed from 1921 to 1926. It was his first teaching job after finishing his graduate work at the University of Chicago and he was one of president Richard Scholz’s new recruits; certainly, my parents held “Prexy” Scholz in very high regard and affection.
I don’t know what role my father may have played in the faculty rebellion against President Norman Coleman, but I do know that he asked his students to do research into the role of labor unions. Not surprisingly, some of them came to the conclusion that Coleman’s Loyal Legion of Loggers was, as your article states, a company union. When President Coleman got wind of this research project, he was so enraged that he was heard to declare (referring to my father): “Either he goes or I go.” Needless to say, it was my father who left. Despite that, my parents always retained very warm feelings about their time at Reed and the other faculty members they had known, particularly Charles McKinley, and Rex Aragon.
Also, I can’t help wondering if my father might have been one of the Reed professors who spoke at a “communist” gathering in Portland. He was no flaming radical but he did believe that one could have a rational discussion about alternative economic policies even with those with whom one disagreed. And he certainly knew about the social democratic programs of various European parties, so he might well have spoken at meetings that Portland’s archconservatives would have considered communist.
One last note: When Alexander Meiklejohn visited Reed at President Scholz’s invitation, there was an assembly at which my father and Meiklejohn discussed—here I am only making a reasonable guess— educational philosophy and policy.
My mother told me that listeners were so engrossed by the discussion that “you could have heard a pin drop!”
Years later, when I was a student at Reed, my parents drove out from New York, and had a chance to renew some of their old acquaintances. McKinley and Aragon were still teaching. And Mrs. Scholz, who had remarried, was still alive.
—Franz Friedrich ’50
Thank you so much for John Sheehy’s article on the history of the humanities at Reed. As always, his organization is elegant and his analysis fresh. I particularly liked beginning with the crisis Coleman addressed, then backing up to Foster’s vision, the contribution of Scholz, and the transformation of the college from “radical upstart” to “nonconforming traditionalist.”
For me personally, it weaves together many threads from my own early recollections and experience at Reed, along with filling many blank spots in my knowledge of the history of the college. I was particularly amused by Foster’s East Coast reformers fanning out across the city, offending the old guard of Portland. And I never knew the origins of the Board of Regents.
I was particularly interested to learn more about McKinley’s role in the faculty rebellion. My father (Blair Stewart), who graduated from Reed in 1921 and came back to teach in 1926, was a great admirer and friend of McKinley, and they must have plotted together a lot. I remember the row with Keezer, and how much my parents resented his vision for the college, so much at odds with their own.
In short, thanks again for your good work and best wishes for the work yet to come.
—Nancy Stewart Green ’50
Bogeys and Saviors
In his interesting piece on the Humanities, John Sheehy ‘82 describes the rocky course of curricular development over the years at Reed. As he makes evident, the crucial sea of changes were the results of continuing intra-institutional discourse. In view of this, it is disappointing that he positions “science and technology” as bogeys threatening the survival of the humanities at the college. Although I would not choose to do it, a case might be made that science and technology are the true saviors of the humanities. In any case, the pertinent point is that the sciences coexist with the humanities without conflict at Reed. Indeed, each year more students graduate with degrees from the division of mathematics and natural sciences than any other division. These students have come to Reed to take part in its rigorous and nationally recognized science curriculum and because of the humanities! That is why Reed is unique.
I noticed an interesting juxtaposition in the current issue of the Reed magazine. I refer to the cover article, “How the Humanities Saved Reed,” the profile of Professor Minh Tran, and the letter from Professor Stephen Karakashian.
Professor Karakashian cites the uneasy relationship between the sciences and the humanities at Reed in his time there. From my time there, I am not sure if the situation is entirely resolved. Reed has a core curriculum in the humanities, but in no other area.
As a history major, I remember observing that all Reed students had a grounding in my field, but that we were not required to have a grounding in the sciences or the creative arts. Though there is a distributional requirement for the sciences, there was no core course that taught the scientific principles that everyone should know. The introductory courses in physics and chemistry were geared toward students in the major, and Nat Sci could be summed up as cookbook chemistry and fun physics. As I had no interest in biology, I took Nat Sci, and learned more about the scientific method in Intro Soc.
I was never quite sure how the creative arts fit into the Reed curriculum. I never quite understood how the creation of new arts fit into a curriculum focused much more on analysis than creation.
I hope that Reed is finding better ways to incorporate the sciences and creative arts into the general curriculum.
—Ray Wells ’94
Defending the Citadel
I believe I am one of only two current faculty members who were present during the late 1960s and the events described in Laura Ross’s “Defending the Citadel.” Her account is quite accurate, but of course there is much, much more to say.
Those were the days when five new instructors in Hum 110 permitted their students to select among multiple paper topics on the Iliad and were severely punished for it. Though there had been a tradition of a single paper topic for all students, many of us tried to challenge that notion, but the staff voted narrowly, 11–10, to retain the convention. When Richard Jones, professor of history and chair of the course at the time, discovered what the five renegade faculty members had done, he perhaps understandably accused them of violating the unity of the course, but that was not sufficiently punitive; he had them summoned to acting president Ross Thompson’s office for further reprimand, and at the end of the year none of the five had his contract renewed. We would soon get used to that kind of excessive response.
Those were the days when, following one of the watershed events of the Vietnam War (either the bombing of Cambodia or the killings at Kent State), the left-liberal faculty sought to have a one-day moratorium from classes and a teach-in on the war. Many conservative faculty members opposed it, one arguing that even if he could definitively stop the war by calling off his classes for even one day, he would not do so because “too many ideals of Western culture would go down the drain.” In response, a group of faculty put out a broadside stating that the Reed faculty would prefer the death of 50,000 North Vietnamese to the loss of a single book in the library, causing numerous faculty to stay up all night in their offices to protect the library from what they feared would be a firebombing of the building. Positions had become extreme, and the power dynamic was such that the faculty signers of the broadside did not have their contracts renewed.
Those were the days when there was a dismayingly pervasive guilt-by-association applied to anyone linked or even sympathetic with the young, liberal faculty. Perhaps the most notable victim was George Fasel, of the history department, who was par excellence Reed’s ideal of a committed humanities teacher and a published scholar of the revolutions of 1848. He had recently been appointed to the acting vice presidency but was fired on the verge of tenure.
Those were the days when one of my most distinguished colleagues called me “a student lover” on the floor of the faculty—words shockingly meant to be derogatory at an institution where they ought to have been an honorific—and when the phrase “stude-symp” was applied as a term of derision aimed at the “Young Turks,” a term which, given Reed’s troubled history with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the user ought to have been embarrassed to utter. That term, incidentally, arose in response to a student letter of grievance regarding the dismissal of Kirk Thompson, which Ross described in her piece.
I could go on. The point is that between 1967 and 1972 there was a veritable massacre of young faculty who attempted the most modest reforms regarding curricular issues, the requirement structure, and the democratization of faculty governance. The evident purge included almost every nontenured member of the faculty who was known to support the proposed Black Studies Center. Lost, as a result, was all sense of community among young faculty and between them and the students.
Marvin Levich, in his 1969 “The Ideology of Relevance,” quoted at length in Ross’ article, exemplifies the problem by his misreading of what “relevance” meant to us in those days. Levich assumes that relevance was an ideology, and implies that supporters of the concept used the classroom to put forth a specific political or social agenda (relevance “requires that what is done in a college is to be judged in respect of its effect upon the social order”). On the contrary, we tried to suggest that literary, historical, political, and philosophical texts could function across cultures—horizontally—and that ideas from one historical period, though products of a particular culture, could be seen to have “relevance” or applicability to those of another period. (I tried unsuccessfully in the face of Jones’ scorn to incorporate Erikson’s Young Man Luther into the Hum 110 course; it is a text that would have fit easily into the Reformation materials, but was deemed inadmissible.) To argue as Levich did that such a pursuit is per se “anti-intellectual” or cannot “preserve the intellectual integrity of the material” is preposterous.
Why was it that so many other colleges and universities in the ’60s—Amherst, Stanford, Brown—were more flexible than Reed? Why was it not possible to have had reasoned dialogue and debate about the curriculum, to have permitted some new ideas, without such massive institutional defensiveness? Why did so many heads have to roll here? It seems to me that the “conservative” faculty saw themselves as custodians and guardians of the institution, and that they perceived any attempt to make changes, however small and gradual, as a threat to the very existence of the place, and doubtless, by extension, to their own identity. What many of the old guard failed to acknowledge is that an institution is composed of individuals and that, at least in part, it is the individuals who form and shape the institution; for the old guard, the institution was here to mold and indoctrinate the individuals.
Though many of the old guard were liberal as far as national politics was concerned, in the context of the college they were like constitutional strict constructionists, who could not see that Reed was a living, breathing, changing entity. It could be said that in terms of 1960s educational politics, many of them looked forward to Antonin Scalia.
Cultural Shift and the Old Guard
At this year’s reunion, after a debate in which Marvin Levich and Jon Roush continued talking past each other 40 years later, I was listening to Wendy Frank ’69 talk to Mr. Roush. She was saying that to discuss the argument in terms of curriculum and relevance is to miss a whole dimension. Up until around 1965, Reedies shared a common sense of having been oddballs, nerds, and misfits in school. They had a sort of understanding and empathy with each other, having had a tough time in American high school culture. Then all at once, white suburban high school kids started taking drugs and growing their hair long. Quite suddenly there was a new identity we could adopt, the “counterculture,” not just empathy for fellow oddballs.
Wendy’s words started me reflecting. To understand why the conflict at Reed was so intense and brutal, there is something you have to understand about the well-known cultural shift in the U.S. around 1965 and ’66, and how rapid it was. The country was torn by the Vietnam War. Popular music, in particular, was transformed. At the time, I observed that the next class coming into college after mine (that is, fall of 1966) was different from everything up to then. Whether or not the counter culture was ultimately phony, a lot of us latched onto it as an identity.
On the other hand, Marvin Levich was a political and intellectual hero. He fought the red-baiters and survived the trauma of an earlier purge of Reed faculty. He was intellectually revered. He exemplified the best of what Reed College represented. And then all of a sudden there was this cultural shift that left people like Levich and Jones cast in the role of the old guard. There was no way they could adapt to the counterculture, and besides they could clearly see its cultlike and anti-intellectual aspects. I’m completely on the side of the younger faculty who were purged or resigned in 1968–69, and I’m still angry about it, but I can empathize with the trauma of going so quickly from being political and intellectual heroes to cultural dinosaurs. Even if they did not take it seriously that we saw them as dinosaurs, they were threatened with no longer being the venerated masters of the Reed community.
The old guard were threatened to the core by their younger colleagues. The values on which they had built their careers and their lives were questioned. Their courage in the ’50s was forgotten. That’s why the issues could not be resolved. It can be understood more in cultural terms than in intellectual terms.
—Gerson Robboy ’69
Where Credit is Due
The letter from José Palafox ’09 and Emma Fredieu ’09 referred to the article, “Defending the Citadel,” and expressed their pique at not being acknowledged for first introducing the photo you ran of President Rosenblum during the occupation of Eliot Hall in 1968. There was, however, no citation or attribution for the picture itself. For the record, I am the photographer of this and several other photos from that era that have run in Reed publications without attribution.
In 1969, Sallyport ran a piece titled “Diary of a Confrontation—Black Studies at Reed,” written by Thomas Worcester, then editor of the magazine. He wrote:
To the black students recruited for the Minority Group Program, the college was not so different, certainly not unique. When they came to Reed in the mid-60s, how many blacks had graduated from the college? Two. How many blacks were on the faculty of the college? None. How many had been on the faculty? One. How many blacks were on the Board of Trustees? None. How many blacks worked in the administrative offices in Eliot Hall? None. And what sort of program did the college have in that emerging discipline of black studies? None.
I’m sure you can anticipate my question. Now, today, over 40 years later, how would those questions be answered?
—Stephen Robinson ’72
Jack Dudman ’42 (mathematics 1953–85, dean of students 1963–83) was one of the most memorable and admirable men I ever knew. I met him in the first days of my freshman year at some kind of public event in that awful World War II building behind the library. I got there a little late, and a group of students were walking in ahead of me and making too much noise. A short, stout man—I had no idea who he was— slipped out of the back door of the meeting hall and firmly but casually asked the noisy students something to the effect of, “Can’t you see it’s already started?” The dean was inviting them not to be less bad, but more thoughtful.
When I was a sophomore, Nixon invaded Cambodia and Eliot Hall was occupied for five minutes. I wandered over from the library to see what was going on and there was a large group of students in Eliot 314. Someone had had the good sense to call Dean Dudman, and he was there as an observer. Some people, cleaning personnel I think, were in the inner hallway of Eliot. They had locked themselves in when the ramparts were stormed. While that kept them safe from the hordes, it also trapped them. Dean Dudman wanted to free the janitors but didn’t want the protesters to take over the rest of Eliot. Jack asked the self-styled leader of the movement to guarantee safe passage for the janitors; the leader made a half-assed response about how he couldn’t necessarily control all these people. Jack told him to cut the bullshit. In the end, Jack used his keys to open the door and the fellow who wasn’t sure he could control others apparently couldn’t control himself either. He threw himself into the opened doorway as the janitors came out. Jack actually tussled with him physically. He didn’t like being double-crossed.
My first junior year, I was a dorm daddy and one of the people under my charge was upset big-time. I probably didn’t take her seriously enough, though I am happy to report she survived Reed’s gentle ministrations to her psyche. Dean Pat Hanawalt called me into her office. Now, I’m a Reedie and Reedies tend to be smart and aware and I am used to understanding what’s going on around me. The 20 minutes I spent in the office with Dean Hanawalt and Dean Dudman were an eye-opener. They quickly went through the girl’s file, expertly analyzed the seriousness of the case and efficiently decided the best course of action. I just sat there watching them whiz back and forth like Elrond, Gandalf, and Galadriel, after the fall of the Dark Lord, communicating at a level beyond me. Being dean at Reed College was serious business and called for more than being reasonable and thoughtful. It took a lot of skill to do that hard job and make it look easy.
Once I was seriously down, a circumstance involving a girl, another guy, and a dorm, where everyone knew everyone else’s business. I went to see Dean Dudman. First and most important, he sympathized. Basically he said that if the ubiquitous “they” were taking me to task, well, that said more about them than me. If anything, there must be something wrong with them. Then he asked me if I was current in my classes, he supposed I was, and recommended that I get off campus for a while. He pulled out his billfold and gave me 20 dollars, which in those days was enough to go to the coast for a few days, which was exactly what I needed. Thanks, Jack.
The most horrible thing that took place while I was at Reed was that a student committed suicide; he hanged himself from one of the trees that lined Woodstock Boulevard across from the Old Dorm Block. A dawntime jogger found him. It fell to Jack to cut down the body. Jack convened meetings for students to talk it out and I remember him being more shaken up than anyone else. He probably blamed himself. Thinking Dean Dudman could use a vote of confidence, I wrote an anonymous piece for the Quest. Mike Gittelsohn ’77, the editor, published it on the front page, under the title “Our Main Man.” Here’s what I wrote then, and reaffirm now:
When a problem arises or tragedy strikes at Reed College, one man more than any other bears the burden. From the most trivial of complaints to the most soulshattering crisis, students can turn to Jack Dudman and find a true friend and a competent problem-solver. In an administration characterized by antagonism or indifference to the student as person, the Deans’ Office stands as a beacon of light. He puts far more of himself into it than the job description could possibly call for. If it were not for the efforts of this one man, Reed would be a far less livable place to be. Sir: We salute you!
—Mark Freehill ’75
A Salutary Reversal
I have been interested (and amused) by the letters you have received regarding the photo in the autumn 2007 issue, “Reed at War.” I had no idea this photograph had been preserved in the library’s special collections. The true story of the photo is as follows:
In 1941, the college decided to offer a course in photography, and I was offered the opportunity of teaching it. To acquire professional qualifications (I had not at that point had any academic training in photography), I spent a summer at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, studying under such masters as Ansel Adams, before returning to Reed in the fall. Operating on the typical limited budget, we rounded up enough material to build two darkrooms in the basement of the old student union, and Reed’s first course in photography was on its way! And, of course, the students included members of the military.
I had taken many photos of these students, and to demonstrate how photos can be manipulated in the darkroom, I took a photo of a squad saluting, printed an enlargement, masking one half of the print, then reversing the negative and printing the other half of the print. Careful attention to lining up the images preserved the integrity of the print.
A photocopy of the completed print was then made. It must have been this copy negative that was found in archives and reproduced in Reed magazine.
I understand the outrage your readers felt at seeing these rising military men saluting with their left hands, but did they notice that only the men on the left of the photo are saluting thus wise? And did they notice that the left side of the dormitory is a mirror image of the right side—and what dormitory has TWO Sallyports? Well, so much for observation and indignation—it was fun while it lasted: no harm intended and no harm done.
—C. Herald Campbell ’33
|table of contents>DEPARTMENTS > LETTERS||< Back|next >|