Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed

President Kroger Responds to Reedies Against Racism

On Wednesday, November 16, President Kroger responded formally to the demands of the student group, Reedies Against Racism. While discussion of the demands are fluid, we want to share with you his formal response and his follow up email to the community yesterday.

Dear Reed students, faculty, and staff,

I write to you with an update regarding recent events on campus. Over the last week, I have received a wide range of responses to my communications. I appreciate hearing from all of you. I am learning at each stage how better to meet our responsibilities to every person in our campus community and, in particular, to historically marginalized populations.

Many of you know that students began occupying the admission office on Monday, November 14. These students have made several demands that focus on their safety, the college’s support for them, and their strong desire for Reed to establish itself as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. I met with the students in the admission office last night and provided a written response (attached here for your information) to the demands articulated on November 14. Last night, the students told me that they intend to continue occupying until we concede to these demands. The conversations related to the students’ demands are fluid and I will continue to update the community as these discussions evolve.

In recent communications to parents and family members, I inadvertently conflated our students’ peaceful protests with descriptions of sinister actions, including hateful graffiti and web posts. I apologize for the linkage and the offense this caused. Additionally, I indicated that I did not see evidence that physical violence is in any way imminent. However, in an important way this misses the point; when our students feel unsafe they need to know that we are listening and that we are serious about doing everything we can to create an educational and social environment that is comprehensively and expansively safe, welcoming, supportive, and inclusive. I will make sure parents and family members receive this message.

The burdens of fear and uncertainty in our society fall disproportionately on vulnerable and marginalized populations. I want to acknowledge that many of our community members who are people of color, LGBTQ, Muslim, immigrants, and women experience fear and uncertainty about their safety and inclusion in our broader community due to both on-campus hate speech and recent national events.
I am committed to working with Reed staff and faculty to ensure that all students feel safe and respected at Reed.

John R. Kroger

The letter enclosed, addressed to Reedies Against Racism:

November 16, 2016

Dear Reedies Against Racism,

I want you to know that I respect your passion and urgency for change. While we have disagreements over tactics and while I cannot promise quick outcomes for your ideas for change, I am committed to hearing you and in joining you in making Reed the safe and productive place we all seek. Providing students the best possible liberal arts education in a safe environment remains our top priority. I recognize that recent very public and hostile events have left many community members feeling at risk. We remain vigilant in assessing risks to community members and will continue to address all individual concerns.  

Though the college has made great strides in becoming more diverse and inclusive, we clearly have a lot of work to do. I know many are frustrated by the pace of change, but I see sustained engagement by the entire campus community in both responding to critique and in building capacity for the free and open exchange of ideas. 

Below I have outlined my response to the demands you recently posted.

  1. Community meeting school-wide assembly discussing the ways in which the administration is addressing racism at Reed
    I agree it would be valuable to hold a community meeting to discuss the ways in which the administration is addressing racism and other forms of hate at Reed. I have asked Vice President Mike Brody and Mary James, Dean for Institutional Diversity, to work with you to plan this event.
  2. Financial aid for undocumented persons
    Reed does not discriminate against applicants on the basis of immigration status. We admit and will continue to admit undocumented students. Reed currently meets the full financial need of all students who are admitted, including the full need of all admitted undocumented students.
  3. Change to the college’s mission
    No single person at Reed has the authority to unilaterally change the college’s mission statement. Any change to the mission must be voted on by the faculty and approved by the board of trustees.
    I have, however, repeatedly and publicly stated that Reed opposes and will not tolerate racism or hate in any form. This is a sentiment shared by all faculty and staff at the college. In addition, I am working on a presidential statement against racism, which was requested on September 26 at a meeting in my office. That statement will be sent to the community this month.
  4. Immigration sanctuary
    The entire city of Portland is an immigration sanctuary city. Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler reaffirmed yesterday that Portland will continue to serve in this role. Sanctuary cities pledge not to use city resources, including law enforcement, to assist federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel in investigations of the immigration status of its residents or visitors. I am proud to live and work in a city that shares Reed’s values on this issue. Reed also does not assist ICE personnel in investigations of the immigration status of its faculty, staff, or students. Absent a court order you have my promise that we will not do so in the future.
  5. Academic accommodations
    I acknowledge that many students are seeking academic accommodation because their work has been disrupted by national events and local protest activity. Nigel Nicholson, Dean of the Faculty, has communicated with faculty and encouraged them to check in with students and, if needed, help students to find ways to manage their academic work during this time. I encourage students to communicate directly with their instructors, who are entrusted by the college to make appropriate accommodations in participation and course assignments.

 Finally, I respectfully request that you discontinue or relocate your protest from the admission office. It is not fair to our staff to prevent them from doing their important work with prospective students and their families. We must engage with inclusive governance practices to make changes and allow the educational program and the business of the college to move forward.

I have unwavering confidence in our students, faculty, and staff to work together through this difficult time.

Yours Sincerely,
John R. Kroger