Office for Institutional Diversity

September 16, 2020

Dear Reed students, staff, and faculty,

Earlier today, a communication was sent to you summarizing a bias incident that took place in June involving Reed’s Office of Community Safety. We regret that we now write to inform you of additional racially motivated bias incidents that have occurred in the Reed community.

Early Sunday morning, a student awoke to find grafitti in the form of racial epithets and homophobic slurs written on their door and on several surfaces in the common spaces of their floor in a Reed residence hall. The graffiti targeted both the student as an individual and the marginalized racial and sexuality groups to which the student belongs. The student contacted student life immediately. Student life staff members responded quickly, offered the student immediate and ongoing support, and reported the incident to college administrators. Because the residence halls can only be accessed by swipe cards carried by residents, it is highly likely that this attack was carried out by a member of the Reed community. If anyone has additional information regarding this incident, please send an email to

Recently, a photograph on a Reed staff member’s personal Facebook page included an image that many students found disrespectful and threatening. The staff member was informed of the harmful impact of this image and promptly removed the image. Karnell McConnell-Black personally connected with every student who expressed concerns about the post. A recent alumnus responded to the incident by posting a racially derogatory and misogynous attack on the staff member, which was then reposted by a current student with a significant social media following. The staff member was then the target of multiple aggressive and harmful calls and texts to their personal phone.

By speaking out about these incidents, we do not imply that they are “equal” or “comparable” in every way. Instead, we want to make clear that such expressions of intolerance and hate, whatever the motivation, cause harm to individuals and to our community.

Attacks on individuals based on their race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, education level, age, disability, or any other social identity are antithetical to all that Reed stands for. We condemn such acts in no uncertain terms as attacks on the very fabric of our community.

We are all painfully aware of the intolerance, fear, and hatred that are so prominent in our national discourse. Those who champion hate and divisiveness as the only appropriate currency in any and all social interactions cut deeply at the social fabric of communities and the nation. If we follow their lead, we simply cannot create an environment where every member of our campus community feels welcome, feels a strong sense of belonging, and has the support and encouragement they need to thrive in their roles.

These are difficult times: our world is experiencing a global pandemic from which no nation or community is spared; we are in the midst of a rancorous national reckoning of deeply embedded racial injustice throughout our public and private institutions; our campus and homes are blanketed by smoke-filled air. Though we are weary, we have been so impressed with the ways in which the vast majority of Reed community members have acted to support and protect one another: students wearing masks and respecting physical distancing guidelines while endeavoring to make new friends and learning partners; faculty showing creativity, resiliency, and care for students in responding to our ever-evolving situation; staff working beyond any reasonable limit to meet the myriad demands of this moment.

We invite you all to a brief community gathering this Friday, September 18, at 4 p.m. via zoom to renew our commitment to one another, both in renouncing bias-related acts of cruelty and to affirm our commitment to support one another during these demanding times. Please RSVP to the community gathering. A zoom link will be sent to those who RSVP.


Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity

Karnell McConnell-Black, Vice President for Student Life