Campus Announcements

Update from Public Affairs & Communications on Hum 110

You may have questions regarding events related to Hum 110 and Reedies Against Racism protests that have taken place over the past week. The Office of Public Affairs and Communications has worked with Professor Drumm, Chair of Hum 110; Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity; and Mike Brody, Vice President for Student Services, to address the most frequently asked questions, below.

Q. Can you provide background on the campus protest related to Hum 110?

Last year, on September 26, 2016, student protesters, organized by Reedies Against Racism (RAR), challenged Reed administrators and faculty to work together to minimize the deleterious effects of racism in all its forms, not only the isolated actions of individuals, but also the policies and practices of the institution. Student protesters submitted a list of demands to the college that ranged from enhanced financial aid and support services to changes to the Hum 110 curriculum. The Reed community is working collaboratively and diligently to continue to reform and strengthen our programs, policies, pedagogy, and practices to create and sustain an inclusive campus environment that meets the needs of all members. You can read about the progress the college has made in the Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism at Reed Progress Report.

Q. Will the Hum 110 curriculum be modified to address the Reedies Against Racism concerns?  

The decennial review of Hum 110 is underway. In spring 2017, surveys were administered by the Office of Institutional Research to faculty, all enrolled students, and recent alumni. Two Hum 110 faculty committees have been working over the 2017 summer, one to draft an internal evaluation of the course and one to draft a proposal for a revised course syllabus. Both documents will be considered for adoption by the entire Hum 110 faculty during fall 2017.

As part of the review, invitations were extended to prominent faculty in the humanities at other institutions to serve as external reviewers for the course.

Finally, various members of the Hum 110 faculty have attended and will continue to attend college-sponsored workshops on unconscious bias, race dynamics in and outside of the classroom, and mediating conflict in conference discussion.

You may read more about the current Hum 110 course here.

Q. What is the difference between the lecture and the conference?

Fifty-minute Hum 110 lectures are held in the 400-seat Vollum lecture hall three days a week. The lectures are intended for students enrolled in the class but are open to anyone in the Reed community. Conferences meet three times a week for 50 minutes or twice a week for 80 minutes, have a low student-to-faculty ratio, and are limited to the students enrolled in the conference. Conference leaders are professors from various academic disciplines who guide discussions based on the lectures and readings and work with students collectively and individually to enhance their critical reading, writing, and oral communication skills. Conference leaders develop close relationships with their students and are responsible for critiquing all written work and assigning grades.

Q. Why was the Hum 110 lecture cancelled on Monday, August 28, 2017?

The following statement was issued to the community on Monday.

Dear Reed community,

It is the intention of the Hum staff and of the college as a whole to continue to work hard on the issues that have come to a head in the last year and, at the same time, to make sure all students have an opportunity to participate fully in Reed's educational program.

We have sought to create a space where students can express their views, even in the lecture hall, in a way that allows for the class to proceed. Last year this took the form of students protesting by sitting on the floor in the front of the lecture hall with signs, or by addressing students before or after lecture. Unfortunately, this morning some students decided to verbally disrupt the presentation, so the Hum staff made the decision to cancel the lecture.

Needless to say, we are disappointed that it has come to this and that we had to cancel the presentation. We will see the first-year students at lecture on Wednesday, and Hum conferences are meeting as scheduled today and every day.


Elizabeth Drumm, Chair, Hum 110
Nigel Nicholson, Dean of the Faculty

It is also important to note that Professor Drumm had explained to protest organizers the day before the lecture that the lecture hall is a teaching space and that they did not have her permission to interrupt the proceedings.

Q. Were the first-year students informed of the RAR concerns prior to the lecture?

Yes. An email communication went out to the community on the Friday before the lecture from Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity, and Mike Brody, Vice President for Student Services and Title IX Coordinator.

Professor Drumm also provided the following introduction in the lecture hall prior to the planned lecture on Monday.

"Finally, I’d like to say a few words about the student protest of Hum that began last year and, clearly, will continue this year. I would encourage you to take the time to find out about the issues and would like to stress that there is a wide range of opinions among the students—in favor, against, in favor of the students’ position but against the protest [you get the idea]—and also among the faculty: some are in favor of changing the course, some opposed; some in favor of the protests, some opposed. There is no one opinion of the first-year class and there is no one opinion of the Hum faculty. I assure you that the faculty is taking the students' concerns raised last year seriously; a committee worked last summer to develop an alternate syllabus and the full faculty—approximately 40 Reed faculty members—will consider it and two other alternatives this fall. We expect to continue to engage in conversation about the course and welcome that engagement."

Q. Will the lecture on Friday, September 1, 2017, be cancelled? If yes, why?  

Yes, the professor scheduled to lecture has canceled his lecture on Friday, September 1 due to anticipated protests. Conferences will proceed as scheduled.

In relation to the protests, some professors may choose to pause for a brief interruption or build the content of the interruption into their presentation. Others may have scholarly or epistemological concerns that make the presence of signs and protesters—even if they are silent—too disruptive to their lecture to continue.  

Q. Will future lectures or conferences be cancelled?

Professor Drumm communicated to all students on August 31, 2017, that lectures for the following weeks are confirmed. There is no lecture Monday (Labor Day holiday), but there will be lectures on Wednesday and Friday of next week and, as scheduled, the following week. There may be protesters sitting on the floor in the front of the lecture hall, but the lecture will continue. If protests become vocal or otherwise more disruptive, the lecture may be cancelled. In this case the professor may make other arrangements for the students to get lecture notes.

All students will continue to meet in conferences for 150 minutes per week as described above.

Q. Why do we allow students who are not enrolled in Hum 110 into the classroom or lecture hall?

As an institution dedicated to knowledge and learning, Reed has traditionally allowed anyone to attend Humanities lectures, including alumni, parents, prospective students, neighbors, and so on. This is a privilege, not a right, however, and may be revoked by decision of the faculty. It’s worth pointing out that a lecture hall is a different environment than a Humanities conference, where the professor will know individual students and can easily identify a visitor. A lecture hall is a bustling environment with hundreds of faces, and a professor cannot be expected to recognize all of them, especially in the first few weeks of class.

Q: Are the students who are disrupting lectures being held accountable?

Reed College has an established honor process by which members of the community (students, staff, and faculty) may raise concerns regarding the conduct of other community members. The college engages the honor process in response to perceived violations of college policy (including the dissent policy) and/or the Honor Principle on the part of students. The goal of the honor process in this—as in all matters—is to hold students accountable while seeking to restore and maintain an inclusive living and learning environment that sets the stage for all students to be successful at Reed.

Q. Who can I talk to if I have further questions or concerns.

We encourage students, faculty, and staff to join us for our Inclusive Reed: Community Discussions. Students may also reach out to student services or members of the Hum 110 faculty.

Parents may contact student services or email their questions to

August 31, 2017

Submitted by Robin Tovey.
Posted on Aug 31, 2017


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