April 7, 2021
Dear students, faculty, staff, and parents,
I write to you today in the midst of a beautiful week on campus. Seeing the magic of the cherry blossoms blooming in Eliot Circle and students playing frisbee on the Great Lawn and enjoying Gray Fund semester surprises in the Quad has brought me true joy. I am reminded of how important it is to recognize these moments of levity. It gives me space to reflect on all that I value at Reed.
It goes without saying that one of the things I am most thankful for is the power of a Reed education. Last month’s issue of Reed Magazine, appropriately titled Seeds of Hope, reinforces for me the outsize positive impact Reedies have on the world. When I think about the perils our society faces, I am truly grateful that we have been able to continue to provide one of the world’s finest educational programs, even in the midst of a global pandemic. This would not have been possible without the trust and togetherness that binds this community.
As we approach the final weeks of the semester, there are many more reasons to look ahead with optimism. The news this week that our entire campus community will be eligible by April 19 to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is an uplifting way to conclude one of the more challenging years we have all been through. For our seniors, I look forward to personally handing you your well-deserved diploma on May 17 as you walk across the Reed Commencement stage with the hard-earned confidence that you can make it through any obstacle life throws your way. I only wish we could have your friends and family there in person to celebrate you too. For our first-year students, sophomores, and juniors, I am buoyed by the prospect of our return in the fall to a more traditional Reed educational experience fortified by the power of in-person engagement.
Throughout this year, there has been a great deal of talk about returning to normal. As we move forward, however, I am careful not to evoke the language of that yearning. Phrases like “return to normal” fail to acknowledge that we have essential work to do. The trial of the former Minneapolis police officer who has been charged with the murder of George Floyd highlights the anti-racism work we must continue to do. I call upon us all to recommit ourselves to doing what Reedies do best—learning, growing, and making progress toward positive change.
At Reed, we have acknowledged the historical legacy of exclusion and marginalization in higher education. In our anti-racism statement, we affirm the community’s responsibility to continuously learn about and disrupt systems of privilege, inequality, and oppression and to reform our programs, policies, pedagogy, and practices according to this responsibility. With the Staff Committee on Diversity added this past year to our existing faculty, student, and alumni committees, we now have four groups that coordinate across constituencies to help expand resources and identify opportunities for change. While much work at Reed has been taking place in earnest, it is far from finished. We plan to send an update at the end of May about what has been accomplished this year and share some plans for the future. As an institution of higher learning, we have a unique responsibility to lead the way. Looking forward both as an institution and as individuals within this community, we must hold ourselves and each other accountable so that anti-racism and inclusive practices permeate every aspect of Reed culture.
I call upon us all not to return to normal. Together, let us continue to reimagine Reed as a more inclusive and equitable community.
I wish you all a safe spring break and the promise of better days to come.