Reed College Catalog

The Reed educational program pays particular attention to a balance between broad study in the various areas of human knowledge and close, in-depth study in a recognized academic discipline. All students take a one-year course in humanities. Distribution requirements that include the arts and humanities, social sciences, mathematics, foreign languages, and natural sciences expose the student to many different methods of intellectual inquiry. Typically, students begin to concentrate in one particular field by the close of their sophomore year. In declaring a major, students work with their faculty adviser to plan a program that meets departmental, divisional, and college requirements. They take a qualifying examination in their major field at the end of their junior year. Seniors engage in a one-year research project and prepare and defend a thesis based on that research.

Reed students have the opportunity to major in a wide variety of fields. They may select a major from one of the following departmentally based majors:


French literature

Political science


German literature







Russian literature

Chinese literature





Spanish literature




English literature




In addition, interdisciplinary majors are available in:

American studies


Biochemistry and molecular biology

International and comparative policy studies







General literature


To supplement these established interdisciplinary majors, special programs that link two or more disciplines may be approved. The student's advisers (one from each of the relevant departments) and the departments concerned must review and approve the proposed program.

Introductory courses that have no prerequisites are 100-level courses, 200-level courses are introductory courses that normally have some prerequisite, 300-level courses are intended for students with a background in the discipline, and 400-level courses are advanced courses with more than one prerequisite.

For the most part, courses considered basic to the discipline of a department are given every year. In addition, departments expand their offerings by including work in other areas in a two- or three-year cycle.

Degree Requirements

To be eligible to receive the bachelor of arts degree from Reed College, students must fulfill eight basic requirements: sufficient units of academic work, college distribution requirements including Humanities 110, the physical education requirement, major departmental requirements, divisional requirements (except for the Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Division of Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, and Linguistics), junior qualifying examination, senior thesis, and senior oral examination. Descriptions of these requirements follow. The specific major requirements are found in the department listings, and divisional requirements are found in the division listings. Courses used to fulfill division requirements can also be used to fulfill college distribution requirements.

Credit Requirements

Academic credit at Reed is defined in terms of "units." A full course for one semester carries one Reed unit of credit, which is the equivalent of four semester-hours or six quarter-hours. The normal yearly program for students is from seven to nine academic units (excluding credit for physical education), in order to fulfill the 30 units required for graduation. The minimum program in a semester for full-time enrollment is three units.

The minimum credit required for graduation following a four- or five-year program of study is 30 units of academic work plus six quarters of physical education. Students of exceptional preparation and ability may be recommended by the faculty for graduation at the end of three years and upon completion of 27 units of academic work plus six quarters of physical education.

To be eligible for graduation, students must complete two full years of study at Reed (a minimum of 15 academic units), including the senior or thesis year, in which a student must complete a minimum of six academic units. At least two of these units, one of which must be in a nonthesis course, must be earned in each of the two semesters. These six units, however arranged, constitute a full program for the senior year and require payment of full tuition each semester, even if the number of units being taken in one of the two semesters falls below three. The work of the thesis year is to be done while attending Reed, except in special programs such as the dual degree programs in computer science, engineering, forestry-environmental sciences, and visual arts (see "Dual Degree and Special Programs"). Such programs typically require three years of study at Reed and an additional two at the cooperating institution. Residence in Reed-approved study abroad programs will not count toward the college's two-year residence requirement.

Distribution Requirements

The course distribution required of all Reed undergraduates is carefully designed and frequently reevaluated to ensure the broad understanding of the arts and sciences signified by a liberal education.

The following regulations apply to each and all of the distribution requirements:

1. Each group calls for two units in the same discipline.

2. No course may satisfy more than one group requirement. (For example, Humanities 210, 220, or 230 may be used for either Group A or Group B, but not for both.)

3. No student may fulfill more than one distribution requirement through work in his or her major department. In exception to this, students pursuing interdisciplinary majors may at the discretion of the major committee fulfill two distribution requirements through their major department(s).

4. No distribution requirement may be satisfied by a waiver, by independent study courses, by Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examination credit, or by courses taken for credit/no credit.

5. At most, only one of Humanities 210, 220, or 230 may be used to satisfy distribution requirements.


Humanities 110 is required of all first-year students and students who transfer with first-year standing but without transferable credit equivalent to 110. Students who transfer with sophomore or junior standing without transferable credit equivalent to 110 will fulfill this requirement by:

. taking Humanities 110, or

. completing Humanities 210, 220, or 230 and one additional unit from Group A or Group B (below).

Courses used to fulfill the humanities requirement may not be used to fulfill any other college distribution requirement.

Group A: Literature, Philosophy, Religion, and the Arts

Minimum of one full-year course or the equivalent in semester courses totaling two units in the same discipline, which may be selected from the following: courses in art history, classics (except 371, 372, 373, 374, 375), dance (excluding applied), English, literature (both foreign and in translation), music (except applied), philosophy, religion, theatre (excluding acting and design), or one of Humanities 210, 220, or 230.

(Notes: History majors may not meet this requirement with a 200-level humanities course. Creative writing courses may not be used to meet the Group A requirement.)

Group B: History, Social Sciences, and Psychology

Minimum of two units in the same department from one of the following: Anthropology 211 and one additional upper-division anthropology course; one 200-level political science course and any other political science course, but no more than one course from Political Science 230 and 386-415; Economics 201 and one other economics course (except 401); Sociology 211 and one other sociology course; any two units in history or psychology; two units from Linguistics (See the linguistics department listing for those courses that fulfill Group B); Classics 371, 373, or 375; or one of Humanities 210, 220, or 230.

Group C: The Natural Sciences

Minimum of two units from the physical sciences (chemistry, physics) or two units from the biological sciences in courses that contain both lecture and laboratory components.

Group D: Mathematics, Logic, or Foreign Language or Linguistics

Minimum of two units either from:

. Mathematics and formal or symbolic logic; or from

. Foreign language (two units in one language–literature courses cannot be used to satisfy Group D) or linguistics. See the linguistics department listing for those courses that fulfill Group D.


Group X: Additional Breadth

In addition to these requirements, a student must complete two more units in any single department outside the student's major department.

Physical Education

Satisfactory completion of three semesters of approved activities is required before graduation. The program is administered as a minimal requirement in order to introduce students to physical education activities and to encourage them to participate. Each semester is divided into two quarters for physical education activities; six quarters of approved activities must be completed to meet the physical education requirement. Students are encouraged to complete this requirement in their first two years. Only one PE credit may be earned during any quarter. Students may receive up to two credits in self-directed classes–off-campus PE or swim fitness. The remaining four credits must be completed in an instructional class.

Foreign Language

Proficiency in a foreign language as a requirement for graduation is a matter left to the discretion of the departments and divisions. Some stipulate a language requirement, and most departments or divisions that do not require foreign language study do recommend that whenever possible such study should be included in the student's program. Check the departmental and divisional listings for specific information.

Admission to a Major

Students must declare a major once they have completed 16 or more units, and should declare no later than the end of the sophomore year. If a student is enrolled in courses the completion of which would bring the student's total number of units to 16 or more, the student will not be allowed to register for subsequent semesters until declaring a major. A student achieves junior standing and comes under the jurisdiction of one of the established divisions of the college or one of the established interdisciplinary committees after the completion of a minimum of 13 units of coursework and the filing of an approved declaration of major form, indicating the completion of the required introductory work and outlining the remainder of the program to be taken in order to graduate.

In addition to the declaration of major, students declaring a double major or an ad hoc interdisciplinary major must also file a statement of the rationale for such a major. The departments involved will then review the statement to determine the validity of the rationale of the proposed program. The appropriate departments, divisions, and committees will review the records of all newly declared juniors and advise them whether the proposed program of study is satisfactory, or whether certain course changes are required. Specific course and credit distribution requirements for majors are detailed in the descriptions of the departmental and interdisciplinary programs.

Junior Qualifying Examination

After declaring the major, students must pass a qualifying examination administered by the major department and/or interdisciplinary committee before being allowed to begin a thesis in the senior year. These examinations are given near the end of the junior year. The objectives of the qualifying examination are to gauge the student's mastery of his or her discipline or related disciplines, to serve as a diagnostic aid in identifying weaknesses in the student's preparation for advanced study or thesis work in that discipline, to assist the student in unifying his or her knowledge of a major field of study, and to assist the major department or interdivisional committee in assessing the effectiveness of its own program. It is possible that a student who does not demonstrate competence in a field may be required to take further work. The review may also identify those who appear to need more time to develop their capabilities for the sustained independent work of the senior thesis. A second failure of the qualifying examination will debar the student from candidacy for a degree in that department, but the student may be encouraged to transfer to another department or division.

The qualifying examination is not meant to qualify only the best students and in actuality does not operate that way. The student's performance in the examination as well as in all previous coursework is discussed in full departmental or divisional meetings to assess the student's readiness to begin work on a thesis.

Senior Thesis and Oral Examination

The distinctive feature of a student's senior year is the sustained investigation of a carefully defined problem–experimental, critical, or creative–chosen from the major field and considered as one part of an overall senior-year program. The problem is selected, then developed through the year by the student, with the support of the faculty thesis adviser. At the conclusion of the year, the student submits to community scrutiny a thesis describing the problem and its attempted resolution.

The thesis involves substantially more than the writing of a long paper in a course; it requires the development of new knowledge and a wide variety of skills and permits the student to integrate all aspects of his or her academic experience.

The candidate for graduation takes a final comprehensive two-hour oral review under the direction of the major division, department, and/or interdisciplinary committee. The oral examination may cover the work of the student's entire program, but emphasis is on the thesis and major field. The committee of examiners typically includes faculty members from the student's own department and division, a second division, and, on occasion, professionals from outside the college.

Teaching Methods

Instruction at Reed College emphasizes learning as a common adventure of students and teachers in which both cooperate closely in classes, group discussions, laboratories, and individual conferences. The faculty seeks to deal with students as individuals with differences of experience, attitudes, and interests that have important bearing on their development. On their part, students are expected to recognize the responsibility placed upon them to participate actively in the intellectual life of the college, to discover their educational objectives, and to strive to attain them.

The methods of instruction vary with the subject matter of the courses, the number in the class, and the judgment and personality of the instructor. Most courses are characterized by teaching based on conferences, studios, or laboratories, in which students and faculty members work closely together. In conferences ideas, facts, methods of analysis, and interpretations are exchanged, challenged, and defended by both students and faculty members, who jointly share responsibility for the learning process. Laboratory-based teaching allows students to become familiar with science as an active process of continuing inquiry.

Lectures play an important role in some courses but rarely an exclusive or dominating part. They are important in courses of large enrollment, or those of an introductory character, in stimulating thought, suggesting problems, and giving unity and connection to course material. But the lecture as a means of instruction is almost always supplemented by frequent conferences of the instructors with groups of students, by personal attention to students in laboratories, and by comments on written papers. These more individual means of instruction are important, and their use increases as the student advances.

In the junior and senior year, independent work is given greater importance as the student selects a major focus for study. The culmination of this experience is the senior thesis, in which the student researches a topic with the guidance of a faculty adviser.

Many departments hold weekly seminars in which there are presentations by faculty, students, and visiting scholars. Frequent lectures and symposia further expand the opportunities for intellectual exchange available to Reed students.



Reed College encourages students to measure academic achievement by self-assessment of their grasp of course material and intellectual growth. Students' work is closely observed and frequently evaluated by faculty instructors. Students receive frequent written and oral comments on their work. 


The college does not wish to divide students by labels of achievement. While a conventional letter grade for each course is recorded for every student, the registrar's office does not routinely distribute grades to students, providing work continues at satisfactory (C or higher) levels. Students whose records are satisfactory may obtain their grades from their faculty advisers or the course instructor, if they wish to do so. Unsatisfactory grades are reported directly to the student and the student's adviser. Students are encouraged to discuss the evaluation of their work in individual conferences with their faculty instructors and advisers. 


Student progress in all courses is reviewed six times each year: at the fourth and eighth weeks and at the end of each semester. In addition to the course grade, faculty members submit comments giving their assessment of the student's difficulties when a student's work is incomplete or below the expected standard. At the end of each semester, the progress of first-year students and sophomores is reviewed by the faculty's Administration Committee, upper-division students by the divisions in which they are majoring. Faculty comments are considered along with the grade record in deciding whether an academic action should be taken. 


Academic Advising


Each student has a faculty adviser who offers guidance and counseling on program, performance, and career goals. An adviser is assigned initially according to the student's interests and may be changed at the request of the student through the registrar's office. 


All students should confer with their advisers at least three times during the year: at the beginning of the year to review their planned course of study, at the beginning of the second semester for an overall review of progress, and in the spring at the time of registration for course selection and program planning for the following year. Additionally, every new student should confer with the adviser following the first progress review in the fall. Every student in academic difficulty should confer with his or her adviser and with the instructor in each course where performance has been unsatisfactory. 


All faculty members hold regular office hours to discuss students' progress and performance in their courses. The dean of student services, the associate and assistant deans, and other members of the dean's staff are also available to discuss educational and personal concerns. 


Instructional Resources


Academic Resource Center: Writing Center, Quantitative Skills Center, Math Center, Language Center and Tutoring Services

In the academic resource center, housed in the Dorothy Johansen House, drop-in tutoring is available for several subjects, including biology, chemistry, economics, physics, quantitative skills, statistics, and writing.  The writing center provides peer tutors to work with students at any stage in the writing process, and students can find assistance to develop or improve their math skills for courses with quantitative content. In the library, the math center provides similar help to students in Reed math courses, and the language center tutors provide assistance in writing, speaking, reading, and understanding the languages taught at Reed.  In addition, up to one hour a week of individual tutoring is provided by qualified Reed students and is available for most classes.

Art Gallery

The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery is Reed College's professional visual arts exhibition venue, exhibiting exceptional historical and contemporary art in conjunction with the academic program of the college. Exhibitions are curated by the director of the gallery, guest curators, and in close collaboration with Reed College faculty. The Cooley Gallery's exhibitions relate to courses in the visual arts and humanities and are accompanied by lectures and discussions open to the Portland community. Reed students intern at the Cooley Gallery, participate in all aspects of gallery operations, and act as docents in the Open Gallery Program, the Cooley's K-12 educational outreach initiative serving the Portland Public Schools. Exhibitions in 2008-09 included: "Suddenly: Where we Live Now," an exhibition investigating urban space and subjectivity that traveled to the Pomona College Museum of Art; "David Reed: Lives of Paintings," an exhibition spanning 40 years of work by distinguished Reed alumnus David Reed '68; "Liza Ryan: SPILL," an exhibition of feminist film and photography; and "China Urban," an exhibition exploring the nature of contemporary Chinese urbanity, curated with the students of the art history course "Art in Contemporary China."

Computing Facilities

Reed's educational technology center and other campus computing facilities are designed to provide students and other members of the college community with a rich and diverse set of tools for learning, research, and communication. All students have unlimited access to computing labs, known as information resource centers (IRCs), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Instructional technology is used in every academic department at Reed, and there are specialized student computing labs in art, biology, chemistry, music, physics, psychology, public policy, and other areas.

More than 90 percent of Reed's students have their own computers. Students and faculty members who purchase computer equipment through the college receive discounts on hardware and software. Low-interest loans are available from Reed to help students finance computers; in addition, students on financial aid can enter a lottery to receive a computer on loan for the duration of the academic year.

Reed’s wired and wireless computer networks reach all residence halls, classrooms, labs, offices, study areas, and many open spaces. Students must register their personal computers and handheld devices in order to access networked resources. All computers connected to the campus network must have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware protective software.

Training in the use of Macintosh, Windows, and Linux computers; software troubleshooting; hardware repair; prepurchase consulting; and other technology services are available to all students.

For more information about computing at Reed, visit the computing and information services website at




Hauser Library is a central part of the intellectual and cultural life at Reed. Its primary mission is to provide collections and services that support the educational goals of the college. Book stacks are open to encourage browsing of the collections. Desks and carrels wired for internet access are distributed throughout the building, which also supports wireless network access. A computer-equipped reading room is a popular place for doing research, writing papers, or checking email. Library staff members endeavor to maintain an atmosphere that is informal and conducive to study.

Reed’s library houses a collection of over 600,000 volumes. It is a depository for U.S. government publications and maintains special collections of rare books, manuscripts, and archival materials.

Reed’s carefully built collection provides strong support for student coursework and for individual research interests. Students can consult a wide variety of databases and online resources to retrieve citations for books and journal articles on a particular subject, and they have access to a wealth of full-text electronic resources. Reed students have borrowing privileges at most Oregon and Washington academic libraries and can search their holdings using the Summit union catalog. Students can place direct online requests for books in these other library collections and have the titles delivered to Reed within 48 hours.

The library is open over 120 hours each week. Librarians staff the reference desk to aid students in their research and also answer reference questions over campus email. They offer class-related instruction in the use of library resources and methods for exploring worldwide resources available over the internet.

Students are encouraged to consult a reference librarian for more information on library resources and services. The library's website can be found at

Media Center

The instructional media center (IMC), on lower level one in the library building, is a multimedia resource facility that includes the music listening room, a renovated language lab, and a large collection of audio recordings, music scores, and videos. Individual student listening and viewing stations are available in the center, which also offers rooms where classes can meet for group viewing, listening, or language practice.

Academic Policies


A code of academic policies describing registration procedures, grades and evaluation, course load, and other practices and requirements underlies the academic program at Reed. The policies are known as the Faculty Code, a copy of which is available to students in the library and in several offices on campus. All students have access to the Guidebook to Reed, which sets these forth comprehensively in a readily accessible format at A brief summary of key policies is given here. Students who wish to request exemption from or waiver of an academic policy must submit a petition to the Administration Committee or their division. The petition should include the rationale for the exemption or waiver and the support of the student's adviser and relevant instructors. Petitions and instructions for filing them are available in the registrar's office.


Registration and Course Load 


Students normally register for a course load of three to four and a half units per semester. A full course for one semester carries one Reed unit of credit, which is the equivalent of four semester-hours or six quarter-hours. Enrollment in an overload (five units or more) or an underload (fewer than three units) is by special permission only. Registration for the full year takes place in spring of the preceding year for continuing students and during orientation for new students. Students who fail to complete registration within the designated period but who are allowed to register will be charged a late registration fee. Registration for a semester is not possible after the first week of classes. A second registration period is scheduled during fall for the spring semester; at that time all students must confirm the spring program for which they are registered and also confirm financial arrangements. Any change in program that seems advisable in light of the fall semester academic experience may be made at this time or during late registration at the beginning of the spring semester. 


Students are responsible for the work in all of the courses for which they are enrolled once registration has been completed. To make a change of program the student must submit to the registrar's office a completed drop/add form, approved by the faculty adviser and the course instructor. Enrollment in PE courses must be complete by the end of the first week of classes. No course may be added to the student's program after the end of the second week of the semester. A student may drop a semester course by Monday of the sixth week of the semester, and no notation of that course will be made on the student's permanent record. Withdrawing from a semester course after Monday of the sixth week, and on or before Monday of the 10th week of the term, will result in the grade of W being recorded. Students may drop a year course through Monday of the 10th week in fall. Students who withdraw from a year course after Monday of the 10th week in fall through Monday of the sixth week in spring will have a W recorded for the course. Students may not withdraw from courses after the deadlines outlined above. 


A student electing to enroll in a course for credit/no credit (see "Grades," below) must do so by filing a form in the registrar's office by Monday of the 10th week of class. A student who wishes to engage in an independent study must secure the approval of the department and division, and must register for the course in the registrar's office by the end of the second week. Independent study is ordinarily available only to juniors and seniors, and no more than four units of independent study may be applied toward the degree. 


Transfer Credit and Cross-Registration 


Matriculated students may transfer credit from regionally accredited colleges and universities, with certain restrictions. One such restriction is that students typically may not transfer in credit in excess of the credit allowed for the equivalent Reed course. Students should secure approval of courses before registering at another school, and it is the student's responsibility to ensure that an official transcript of the work is sent directly to the registrar at Reed. Transfer credit may be used to meet certain degree requirements if faculty approval is secured in advance. Courses must be taken for a letter or numeric grade, and students must earn a grade no lower than a C-. Students may obtain a transfer credit approval form and additional information about the process from the registrar's office. 


Reed College is a member of the Oregon Independent Colleges Association. With prior approval of the registrar's office to cross-register, Reed students who are enrolled full time at Reed are eligible to register at a number of other independent colleges in Oregon for one course each semester in fall and spring, at no additional fee. These courses and grades appear on the Reed transcript, but the grades are not included in calculating the Reed grade point average. 




Reed has a conventional four-point grading system, although traditional grade reports are not given to students unless they request them. Passing grades for undergraduates are A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, and D. The failing grade is F. A grade of S (satisfactory) may be recorded at the first progress review of the year; an IN (incomplete) may be recorded as a temporary final grade if the level of the work done up to the point of the IN is passing, and the work could not be completed for reasons of health or extreme emergency. U (unfinished) is recorded as a temporary grade for a thesis not completed on time. Work in courses graded as unfinished or incomplete must be completed by the first day of instruction in the semester following their issuance, whether or not the student is enrolled in that semester. The instructor may set an earlier deadline for completion of this work. Students who fail to complete the required work for courses graded as incomplete or unfinished will be assigned a final grade based on the work completed. 


During the junior or senior years students have the option of taking, as part of their regular academic load, a maximum of two units of work on a credit/no credit basis. Such a course may not be used to meet the college distribution requirements, the requirements for the major, or the requirements for the division, and may not be taken in the student's major department. If the work for the course is judged to be of C level or higher, the grade is reported as Cr (Credit); if the work is below C level (including C-), it is to be reported as NCr (No Credit). In neither case is the grade or unit value used in the grade point computation. An enrolled student who chooses to audit a course may do so with the instructor's permission, but no record is made of the audited course in the permanent student record.


Academic Action 


The academic record of each student is reviewed six times a year. The following are official academic actions that the faculty may take at the end of a semester, in order of increasing concern: official warning, probation, denial of registration, and dismissal from college. Students are notified of any academic action following the grade review. A student who is placed on probation is expected to submit a progress plan, developed with the adviser and one of the deans in student services. Students who meet the terms of their progress plan in the next semester usually will be cleared from probation; students who fail to meet the terms of their progress plan will likely be denied registration and may be dismissed. A student who has been denied registration and wishes to return must apply for readmission; the application may be granted if the student successfully demonstrates that the difficulties that resulted in denial of registration have been successfully addressed. Dismissal from the college is final.




At the end of the academic year, the divisions and the Administration Committee review the records of students who have been enrolled full time for the year and who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship. If awarded, such commendations will appear on the student's permanent record.


Graduation Rate 


Approximately 77 percent of first-year students matriculating in the fall of 2002 graduated by spring 2008.


Leave of Absence and Withdrawal from the College 


Students who are eligible to register may apply for a leave of absence upon the recommendation of their adviser and in consultation with the dean of students. Students should request leaves of absence through the student services office before the start of the semester. The final deadline for such a request during the semester is the deadline to withdraw from a semester course. A student desiring to withdraw from the college should file a statement with the student services office before withdrawing. Students who have withdrawn and wish to be readmitted must apply for readmission through the registrar's office. Applications should be filed by July 1 for the following fall semester or by January 3 for spring semester. Deadlines for students applying for financial aid are earlier. Information on financial aid and forms for application are available from the financial aid office. 




Students may obtain a copy of their transcript or have one sent to a third party by submitting a signed request to the registrar's office. Normally transcripts will be mailed within three working days of receipt of the order. Additional information about student access to grades is found under "Evaluation," earlier in this section.