Here is a note I composed to send to the editor of my college’s alumni magazine:
Nothing personal here, but could you forward this note to the mailing list manager? I’d like to be off the mailing list, even though I recall my days at Reed fondly, and even though it’s a good magazine.
Reason is Reedies Against Racism. I can’t be the first alum to write about this subject. I am ashamed to be a Reed graduate now; I do not want to think about the school or what happened there. I have already thought about it enough. Search for Reed College at The Jeffersonian. I published some longer essays in Stars and Stripes Forever, Requiem.
Now I’ll explain myself briefly. Trouble began when protesters verbally assaulted Kimberly Peirce, director of Boys Don’t Cry. Campus activism took its course, and its cue, from there. My strongest objection concerned treatment of faculty, and of course students who do not agree with RAR’s methods or goals. I used to teach college courses in the humanities. I felt discouraged and indignant about what happened inside Reed’s classrooms. That was not free speech. That was Reed’s version of Red Guards visiting intimidation on the entire community.
I corresponded with Dean of the Faculty Nigel Nicholson way back, and I copied him on this message. I wish all of us who used to be proud of our school could affect political matters on campus, but of course we have jobs and families and all the rest. We watch helplessly, and then want to forget.
Someday these memories may become less discouraging. I’ll wish I could be back on the mailing list again. I might even want to donate again. The RAR activists who acted to destroy faculty members’ sense of security in their own classrooms will have graduated. We have long memories, though. During these protests, I recalled Marvin Levich’s leadership during the Vietnam war protests, to keep the school open as a free insititution. He sat on my thesis committee. I know he would be aware of campus events fifty years later, from his home in Portland.
That’s all for today. The next issue of Reed should contain a letter that acknowledges the damage RAR did to Reed’s reputation. It would not make anyone feel better at this point, and I know it won’t appear anyway, but it might make reconciliation more likely down the line.