English and Math

Who could disagree with Prof. Paul Gronke [political science 2001–] pointing out the need to acknowledge that it is the chosen major and the senior thesis rather than the first-year humanities class that defines a Reed education? (Letters, June 2015.)

However, I want to note a slippage in his argument about Reed’s identity and reputation that concerns me. Paul’s letter notes, “If you look at theses, it is quite clear that Reed emphasizes the natural and physical sciences, mathematics, psychology, English, and the social sciences,” correctly grouping English among the most popular majors. A few lines later, however, the letter concludes that the majority of Reed students do “classes . . . quals, and . . . theses . . . in the sciences, mathematics, and the social and behavioral sciences. This is our emphasis.” 

How did English drop off the radar here? English has long been and remains one of the top three majors at Reed. Focusing attention on the importance of the disciplines in which most Reed students work should acknowledge this fact, not sidestep it. I am concerned about a vision being articulated here of Reed as a place which is “really” about the natural and social sciences which ignores the actual numbers. This unwarranted sidelining renders English peripheral, if not invisible, as a major, and does a disservice to English students and faculty at Reed. I may be a professor of English, but I believe numbers are very important.

—Prof. Maureen Harkin [English 2002–]