Quest Centennial

Your article celebrating the Quest’s 100th year (“Shock! Horror! Quest turns 100,” September 2013) was most welcome, but deeply flawed.

A fine weekly is defined by how it informs in hard times, times of conflict and change within the college. In this crucial sense, your writer overlooked the transition from student government to community government in 1963–64.

Under the excellent and rigorously objective editorships of Myra Minkoff (Lader) ’65, Mark Loeb ’65, and, later, David Heifetz ’66, the Quest played a crucial role in making sure that students and faculty were informed of developments in the laborious process of producing an acceptable—if imperfect—constitution of community government.

I inherited a draft constitution of community government from the previous student administration. I felt strongly that it gave away too much of our traditional sovereignty. After intense discussion in council, I was invited to revise the existing draft (which had been negotiated and written in secret). Certain changes were made, notably the maintenance of a student majority on disciplinary matters—previously our monopoly—and the inclusion of student minority membership for curriculum, faculty recruitment, and teaching evaluation.

After council’s unanimous approval of the new text, the Quest printed it in toto on its first page. Included was a little box in bold type, by me, advising the students not to approve it because, I argued, it would have to be negotiated—this time with Quest coverage—with then-President Richard Sullivan [1956–67] and the faculty before taking effect and that, even if approved by all parties, it was unwise to disarm while the transition was not complete.

The students agreed and community government remained a dead letter until a later crisis, one in which the Quest played a leading role: the “Reed U” upheaval. Then, advised by the faculty members I trusted and admired, I asked the Quest again to call all the students together in the gym. With the argument that the college’s only shield against President Sullivan’s plans (again, secret) to turn it into a satellite university would have to be an alliance via community government with the faculty, it was unanimously adopted. Many students posed one condition, which I was anxious to avoid: if I would lead the student delegation in the community and serve one term as student body president, they would feel that their interests were safe.

And with the Quest’s support and gritty resistance to President Sullivan, it was to be. We met with trustees around the country and sent a carefully worded letter to all alumni opposing the Sullivan plan. And we won!

The Quest, also reaching trustees and many alumni, fought the good fight week after week. 

As a historian, I feel strongly that on its centennial an institution needs full praise.

—Tom Forstenzer ’65

Vanves, France