Eliot Circular

Pantheon to Be Robed, Say Organizers

“Pantheon” welcomes freshmen in 2009. Nudity at this year’s event prompted a Title IX investigation. 
Photo by Lillian Karabaic ’13

The students who play the part of Greek gods and greet freshmen on their way to their first humanities lecture will keep their robes on next fall, organizers declared at a forum held by the Honor Council in September.

“No one will be naked next year,” said environmental studies major Elaine Andersen ’16, one of the HumPlayers, the student group that puts on the performance.

Known as the Pantheon, the event has been staged for the last five years, and typically involves students dressing up as Greek divinities on the steps of Vollum College Center and welcoming freshmen to their first Hum 110 lecture. The gods ask for libations, and freshmen respond (if they’ve done their homework) by spilling a few drops of coffee or water on the ground, reenacting an ancient Homeric tradition. “It’s supposed to be fun and silly,” one student explained.

This year, however, some members of the Pantheon were naked and engaged in rowdy behavior, demanding libations in loud and insistent tones. A member of the Reed community then filed a Title IX complaint, leading to a campus debate on the propriety of disrobing in public.

Several students at the forum voiced unhappiness with the way the Pantheon was conducted. “I was disappointed in this year’s event,” said linguistics major Dean Schmeltz ’14, a former HumPlay director. “And I would have been disappointed in it with or without clothes.” The spirit of the occasion, he said, was to welcome freshmen and wish them luck on their voyage through the humanities syllabus, not to embarrass or intimidate them.

One of the current HumPlayers agreed that this year’s Pantheon was too confrontational. “We were acting more aggressive than we should have,” he told the forum. Other students suggested that it was the combination of nudity and loud, demonstrative behavior that created an intimidating atmosphere, not the nudity itself.

Mike Brody, dean of students, emphasized that the Honor Principle and Title IX both require students to consider the impact of their behavior on others. He also said that the judicial machinery associated with the Honor Principle—the Honor Council, the J-Board, and the Sexual Misconduct Board—could help resolve a Title IX complaint.

The HumPlayers are now working on a handbook to guide future directors on staging friendlier performances. “The Title IX complaint wasn’t about nudity at Reed in general,” Schmeltz later wrote in a Facebook post. “It was about a particular HumPlay event that was poorly managed. This was a very bad year for a tradition that has gone very well in the past, and there are things that we can and will do to make sure the Pantheon is truly welcoming in the future.”