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Prof. Mason Drukman [political science 1964–70]

January 6, 2021, in Oakland, California.

In addition to teaching, Prof. Drukman enjoyed a varied career as a factory worker, short-order cook, broadcaster, political scientist, author, publication founder, editor, administrator, and freelance writer whose pieces appeared in numerous publications.

He grew up in Canton, Massachusetts, and after receiving a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University got his graduate degree from UC Berkeley. In 1964, Drukman and three other new professors, Kirk Thompson [political science 1964–71], Howard Waskow [English 1964–72], and Jon Roush [English 1964–70], arrived on Reed’s campus from UC Berkeley, where the Free Speech Movement was about to be born. Roush recalled that when he and Drukman were standing in the Reed quad that first fall, Drukman looked around and said, “You know, I could get used to spending the rest of my life here.” But they soon grew disillusioned. Reed had a high dropout rate, and it seemed to Drukman that many students were leaving because “they felt somewhat constricted here, or unsatisfied here, or at sea here.”

“It’s not that they were looking for some kind of paternalistic institution,” Roush explained, “but they were certainly looking for a richer life than they were finding at Reed.”

Advocating for change on campus, these and other professors new to Reed earned the name “the Young Turks.” They felt that the focus of a Reed education had become too predicated upon preparing students for graduate school and wanted to prepare students not only for academia, but also for the world. In the spring of 1965, several of them began meeting informally as CRAP, the Committee to Reform Academic Practice. “We gave ourselves that name as a kind of self-deprecating notion of what we were doing,” Drukman said. “We didn’t realize that junior faculty are expected to keep their mouths shut for the first year or so.” Hip, brash, and fresh out of graduate school, they didn’t think twice about suggesting changes to the college’s most significant curricular elements. Pressing the Reed faculty to pass an unprecedented resolution protesting police presence during protests at UC Berkeley, they soon came to believe that the “Old Guard” was threatened by their efforts.

“I think [the Old Guard] identified with the college, and what happened here was what happened in their lives—was their life,” Drukman said. “It felt as though there hadn’t been new ideas for a long time. It felt kind of stuck where it was. Some of where they were stuck was a very nice place. But some of it felt kind of stultifying.”

Thompson and several students put forth a kind of manifesto complaining about the difficulties of student life and the disappointments students had with the curriculum. The reaction was explosive.

In addition to his involvement on campus with things like the Friends of FSM, Drukman became active off campus with peace activists. In the late ’60s, he ran an umbrella committee made up of other antiwar movement associations in and around Portland. The Young Turks also supported the idea of a Black studies program, which finally passed with a vote of 57 to 55.

“There was a year when we got some changes made,” Drukman said. Two powerhouses on the Faculty Advisory Committee and on the faculty in general, Marvin Levich [philosophy 1953–94] and Richard Jones [history 1941–86], were both on leave that year. “When they came back, they reversed everything that we had done.”

Drukman had reached the end. “The faculty meetings felt like death to me,” he said. “It was so tense, and so boring. I mean the combination of tense and boring is deadly.” When it was decided that Kirk Thompson would not be awarded tenure, Roush, Drukman, and Waskow resigned from their posts, though Drukman and Waskow had already received tenure. Roush, Drukman, and Waskow eventually departed academia altogether.

“The one thing we got through that stayed was the period between semesters where students were given credit for creative ventures of their own,” Drukman said. “Paideia. That was our invention.” However, credit is no longer given for Paideia classes. 

Drukman is survived by his wife, Anne Barrows; his son, Max Drukman; his daughter, Sasha Crehan; and his brothers, Melvin and Robert.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2021

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