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Thompson had recently published a paper on Rousseau’s Social Contract—which is, coincidentally, about the need to reconcile personal liberty with the general welfare—and Roush had agreed to debate the paper with Levich during the meeting.

Levich’s debating skills were legendary. Five years before, he had demolished William F. Buckley in a debate over civil liberties at Cleveland High School (Levich attacked Buckley as being a radical in conservative’s clothing; Buckley never recovered from the shock.) As Roush jousted with Levich over Thompson’s paper, he believed he was holding his own. “I think I made a very persuasive case in that debate,” he says.

But when the committee finally came to a vote on Thompson’s tenure, Roush was the only one in favor. “I think it was a show trial,” he says.

Levich disagrees vigorously. “Every case was evaluated by the committee in light of the standard criteria,” he says. “While there’s always some degree of flabbiness in any such decision, to my knowledge the end result was always based on the teaching effectiveness, publications, and research of the people in question.”

The decision not to award tenure to Thompson was the final straw for the Young Turks. The atmosphere had become so poisonous that Roush, Drukman and Waskow decided to resign from their posts. Waskow would write later in his book Becoming Brothers: “Years of struggling for reform at Reed had gone for naught. Reed was intractable—no room for me there. . . I would spend my whole professional life fighting this man [Levich], I realized, and even if I won, the victories would be small. In a dream I heard a powerful voice instructing me—‘You must leave Reed.’”

Roush, Drukman and Waskow eventually departed academia altogether, as did others in the progressive camp. “I think it’s really systematic that so many of us left the academic life,” Roush recalls. “It wasn’t that we wanted to be in some other college. It’s that, in various ways, we were all traumatized.” A year after resigning, Roush visited Reed, and spotted Jones walking across campus in his general direction. Roush actually hid behind a tree to avoid facing him.

Reed was traumatized as well. “Good, open discussion wasn’t the habit any more,” Jones recalled in a 1990 interview. “The habit was confrontation. What was needed, of course, if we were to restore the old traditional institution, was a great deal of emphasis on open discussion of all kinds of issues in the faculty—getting the faculty to work together again. . . But for twenty years [afterwards] there were no open discussions in the faculty, and none in which the administration ever participated at all, with faculty or students.”

These four Young Turks all went on to distinguished careers. Thompson and Waskow declined to be interviewed for this article. But time has softened the views of Roush and Drukman. Neither regrets resigning: Drukman jokes that he only wishes that he had stuck around long enough for his sabbatical; Roush says Reed’s lasting influence was to cure him of academic aspirations. If he had the good fortune now to see Jones coming down the sidewalk, Roush says, he’d shake his hand. “I loved teaching at Reed. I loved the students. Everything that went on in classrooms was just spectacular. . . I think it’s really a tragedy that we could not meld those two forces. It wasn’t black and white. It was just that we made it black and white. We insisted that it be black and white. That was, for me, the real tragedy.”

Forty years after the fact, the curricular battles of the late 1960s are still a controversial subject. The years of constant stress and conflict left permanent, if fading, scars on some who lived through them. To this day there are people who believe that the tenure decisions of the late sixties represented an attempt by the Old Guard to push the Turks out of the college—an understandable view, especially considering that the faculty voted in 1970, by a substantial majority, to “restore and give adherence to the traditional college program and the traditional way of operating it.”

And yet there are problems with this interpretation. Two of the most prominent Turks, Drukman and Waskow, had in fact received tenure; it is quite possible that Roush would eventually have received tenure as well, had he not resigned first. Further, it is not unusual for tenure decisions, even under the best of circumstances, to generate controversy and hard feelings.

Aside from personnel issues, the curricular wars had several other lasting effects. The Black Studies Program, which was never fully integrated into the curriculum, vanished—some would argue, was starved out—in 1976, and its absence complicated Reed’s efforts to recruit minority students to campus, a problem that continued for decades. (Minority enrollment has since climbed to a respectable 26 percent).

One can only speculate as to what might have happened if Reed had followed the curricular path laid out by Foster, and to some extent resurrected by the Young Turks. Antioch College, which was defined by its progressive and experimental pedagogical methods, took that path by combining practical with academic learning and emphasizing community involvement, and thrived in the 1960s and 1970s. Last year, however, the main liberal arts college of Antioch closed its doors due to insufficient enrollment and funding. Perhaps a more progressive and experimental version of Reed would have suffered a similar fate.

Instead the faculty leaders of the 1960s held fast to Scholz’s vision, upheld Reed’s tradition of academic rigor, and steered the college through a time of profound upheaval. Their decisions weren’t always popular, and perhaps weren’t always right. But they were always based in the absolute conviction that Reed’s intellectual legacy was worth fighting for.

Laura Ross ’98 MALS ’06 is a faculty interviewer and excerpting editor for Reed’s Oral History Project, which she joined in 2004. This is her first article for the magazine.

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