President’s Office

President’s speeches, letters, and articles

Subject: President’s Statement on Campus Protests

October 31, 2017

Yesterday, I spent several hours walking around the Reed College campus. It was a beautiful fall day, sunny and crisp. All around me, I saw students attending classes, reading books, writing papers, and working in labs. Commons was filled with a boisterous and happy crowd. Inside Eliot Hall, however, a different mood prevailed. As you may know, a small group of students has occupied the Treasurer’s Office and the President’s Office. They are demanding that Reed terminate its relationship with Wells Fargo bank because of the bank’s alleged ties to the private prison industry, the Keystone natural gas pipeline, and, in the words of the student petition, “Israeli occupation crimes.” Pursuant to our established procedures, this request for divestment has been referred to the Reed College Board of Trustees, who will determine whether divestment is appropriate. The protesting students have been invited to participate in that process.

Protest is a well-established Reed tradition, protected by our dissent policy. I have great respect for peaceful protest and civil disobedience. Protests, however, are not an excuse to treat other human beings poorly. Protesters should conduct themselves with dignity and not resort to harassment. And, in accordance with our dissent policy, they must not prevent Reed’s faculty and staff from doing their important work.

I have no objection to the current, peaceful sit-in outside my office. The meeting area outside my office is a place of symbolic power, and thus a reasonable place to express one’s political views. The occupation of the Treasurer’s Office, however, has prevented finance staff members from working since Thursday evening. Students have been asked repeatedly to leave the Treasurer’s Office, but they have declined.

This morning, the Student Services Office, pursuant to our college’s honor process, has placed temporary sanctions on students involved with the sit-in at the Treasurer’s Office. Those students have been banned from any further contact with Treasurer’s Office staff. To ensure that this no-contact order is effective, the students will be required to clear the hallways around the Treasurer’s Office and bathroom so staff can access their offices and facilities without risk of additional adverse contact. The students have also been banned from entering other offices on campus, absent invitation or necessity. These sanctions will remain in effect until resolution of the pending judicial board case related to the incident at the Treasurer’s office last week.

I am saddened that these steps are necessary. Students are entitled to protest while they wait for the Board of Trustees to consider their divestment request. They may not, however, engage in tactics that prevent the college from operating or subject our faculty, staff, and students to inappropriate or intimidating conduct. Reed is a remarkable place. My hope is that in the coming weeks, we will restore a sense of civility and rational dialogue. Let us all vow to do our part to make that happen.

John R. Kroger
Reed College