Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

Convoking the Muse


Students, parents, and professors descended in their multitudes upon the Great Lawn on Wednesday for Convocation 2012. Under the billowing big top, 358 newly-minted Reedies were formally inducted into the tribe by an equally fresh president: John Kroger kicked off the ceremony with his first public address as head of the college. Kroger remarked that what he has been struck most by in his first eight weeks cannot be conveyed in a brochure: "Reed is one of the warmest kindest, most welcoming institutions I have ever experienced," he said. "It feels like home."

Home may now be Anna Mann or Foster-Scholz for new students, but they came from all over the globe to get here. Keith Todd, dean of admission, laid out the impressive pilgrimage; students hailed from China, Kenya, New Mexico, and Jakarta, among others. They include more Texans than Minnesotans, several Nicholases and Katherines, not to mention a Thor and a Zeus.

Professor Ellen Millender [classics 2002–] delivered the convocation humanities lecture, "Siren's Song." She pointed out that Odysseus was delayed, sometimes for years, by a variety of deceptive temptresses on his return from Troy. She noted that a surface reading of the epic leads to the conclusion that the Odyssey is a straightforwardly misogynist text, a view most modern scholars agree with, "but," she said, "this is Reed, and here we don't often accept the common view." She went on to argue that the Odyssey's portrayal of women reflected the fear of social change felt by Greece's aristocracy in the eighth century BCE. When aristocrats put Homer's epics into writing, women were written to be a "prescriptive guide to social behavior."

Millender pointed out that this conservative backlash to social change is not just an ancient phenomenon: recently, countries that experienced the Arab Spring have seen women's rights come under fire. "It is this sort of connection that you will take with you long after you have forgotten the details of Hum 110," she declared.

The Vollum Award was bestowed upon computer scientist Ed Lazowska, who holds the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington.

Tags: computing, convocation, Homer, Hum 110, Kroger, traditions