Letters February 2004
Reed welcomes letters from readers about the contents of the magazine or the college. Letters must be signed and may be edited for clarity and space. Our email address is reed.magazine@reed.edu.

guru or scholar?
From Willard McCarty ’70

Todd Schwartz, in his fine article “The Dance of the Pen,” has told the story of Lloyd Reynolds so well that I can offer little but gratitude and appreciation. Lloyd was my teacher, mentor, benefactor, and friend from the late 1960s until his death. For some of those years in the early 1970s, like several other strays before us, my then wife and I lived with him. Earlier, when I was his student, the life-changing experience was as several classmates, friends, and acquaintances have written. Exactly. Simply put, I would not have finished my degree at Reed otherwise. The late 1960s were for the likes of me a difficult time to stay focused, literally and figuratively, on the books. But Lloyd reached through all the nonsense, lovingly, gruffly, frighteningly, and somehow I had then the motivation to finish. I have no difficulty understanding the enemies and the political resistance, culminating in the demise of calligraphy at Reed, despite Bob Palladino’s able efforts. Lloyd was far more of the guru than the scholar. He used the writings to illuminate an ideal way of life as if it had been historically real; we were inspired but at the same time misled, and yes, that could have been serious. Or perhaps it was for some. Given the choice I would always opt for the inspirational education of undergraduates, but—this is my point—I think the lesson for Reed is that there should not have to be that choice and the fatal division of thought by which it is forced. Lloyd will not come again, but deo volente when a Lloyd does, Reed will have another chance.

sat scores and diversity

From Joshua Shulman ’89
I was saddened to see Colin Diver’s unquestioning acceptance of SAT scores as indicative of raw talent (“Affirmative action, the Constitution, and Reed College,” November 2003). A coach watches a high school 100-yard dash. There is a tie for first between two very different runners. Both finish with exactly the same time, but one has impeccable form, while the other has awful form. Which runner should the coach recruit? Take the one with bad form. Once he learns good form, his time will become better than the time the runner with excellent form will ever achieve. Race correlates highly with poverty in this country. Poverty with—metaphor alert!—poor form. Take two students with equal SAT scores. One comes from a supportive family, went to good schools, took two SAT prep classes and a dozen practice tests. The other has a family that doesn’t know he is taking the test, can’t afford a prep class, and didn’t have time for practice tests because of his after-school work. Which one do you take?

From Paul Alan Levy ’73

Colin Diver’s article [November 2003] gives a misleading impression of the Supreme Court’s decisions last summer concerning affirmative action in admission to institutions of higher education. The title of his article is “Affirmative action, the Constitution, and Reed College,” and he asserts that the parallels between Reed’s current admission practices and the practices sanctioned in the Michigan cases form the “reasons [why] the Supreme Court’s decisions will have no immediate or direct effect on Reed.” The reasonable reader would conclude that Reed’s policies are subject to the same constitutional strictures as the University of Michigan. But the Equal Protection Clause applies to Michigan, as it applied to the University of California in the Bakke case, only because those are state universities. Private colleges have more leeway, however. Reed could adopt affirmative action policies designed to redress the historic impact of discrimination and institutional racism, without invoking what President Diver characterizes as the muddled justification of “diversity.” Over the years Reed has given various reasons for eschewing forceful affirmative action practices in admission decisions. However, it should not blame the Constitution or imply that Supreme Court doctrine is related to its choices. The essay should have acknowledged this difference. President Diver also stated that Reed does not provide financial aid specifically directed to minority candidates. However, recalling the days when finances allowed Reed to recruit black students in substantial numbers, some “directed scholarships” provided assistance specifically to black students at Reed. A Rockefeller Foundation grant enabled Reed to recruit black students in sufficient numbers to foster the creation of the Black Student Union and the fight for a black studies program that is recounted elsewhere in the Reed magazine. Regardless of whether such scholarships are permissible at state universities, they are allowed at private colleges. I challenge other Reed alumni to increase their giving, but earmark their donations to provide scholarship support for minority students.

From Albert Himoe ’59

What an issue! Let me congratulate the editors. According to President Colin Diver, “diversity” is “an almost hopelessly vague and elastic concept.” It therefore follows that Reed College should strive to diversify. Sure. Also from President Diver: “Our educational program should instill in students a concern for distributive justice,” and in addition habits of “critical thinking” and “questioning of conventional wisdom.” But what happens if a student questions the conventional wisdom of distributive justice, say by using arguments from the City Journal? Is this now grounds for expulsion? And what about procedural justice? Turning to “A Great Divide,” I do remember reading a contemporary Reed magazine account of the incident discussed, which semi-soured me on the college. (Full souring would come later.) The 1975 Levich memo that “black studies not be considered as an essential part of a liberal arts curriculum at Reed” nicely expresses what I felt in 1968.
remembering vincenz panny
From Paul Zipkin ’69
I was grieved to hear via ReediEnews of the death of Vincenz Panny (see obituary). He engaged the task of teaching with remarkable wit, kindness, and dedication.

From Roger Fenton ’71

I was sad to hear of Vincenz Panny’s death. He taught me German in 1965–66 and was instrumental in getting me to major in German; while on my exchange year in Berlin in 1969–70 I met my future wife. His classes were fun, and I’ll always remember his cop-out phrase “kein Logik!” to “explain” all the irregularities. His classes opened up the world of languages and Europe to me. He was one of the three most influential teachers I ever had in all my years of schooling, and one of two who significantly changed the direction of my life.
turning a blind eye
From Martha Richards ’92
As a Reed alumna and Portland resident, I was initially dismayed at Reed’s decision to demolish the historic Sellwood car barns. After all, I had written a master’s thesis on preserving transportation history. I had devoted years of professional and volunteer time to preserving local history—the kind of history that strengthens communities and creates a sense of place. Worst of all, I had given money to a school that seemed bent on undoing my hard work. Then I started to think like Reed—how can I turn this situation to my own personal advantage? When a current Reedie called for the annual fund, I cut my donation in half and pocketed the rest. Who cares about students when I can use the money for a dinner date with my husband? Last weekend, I went down to the demolition site and salvaged a whole truckload of free bricks. If it hadn’t been for Reed, I would have had to pay good money for my future garden paths. Thanks, Reed, for teaching me how to be blind to my community and to think only about my own needs.

[Read more on the trolley barns. Ed.]

End of Article
Reed Magazine February 2004 2004