A New Hope.
The last time we reported on Reed College in Portland, Oregon, a student sit-in had shut down school’s finance office. The protests were organized by “Reedies Against Racism,” (RAR) a group that has been active on campus for a little over a year and whose members interrupted the lecture of a humanities class (Humanities 110) on Western Civilization it described as “Eurocentric” and “silencing people of color”.
Despite the intimidation and harassment, Reed College freshmen are battling back. The following snippet is from an article in the Atlantic that details the challenge the freshmen are giving to the RAR’s moral authority.
…This school year, students are ditching anonymity and standing up to RAR in public—and almost all of them are freshmen of color. The turning point was the derailment of the Hum lecture on August 28, the first day of classes. As the Humanities 110 program chair, Elizabeth Drumm, introduced a panel presentation, three RAR leaders took to the stage and ignored her objections. Drumm canceled the lecture—a first since the boycott. Using a panelist’s microphone, a leader told the freshmen, “[Our] work is just as important as the work of the faculty, so we were going to introduce ourselves as well.”
The pushback from freshmen first came over Facebook. “To interrupt a lecture in a classroom setting is in serious violation of academic freedom and is just unthoughtful and wrong,” wrote a student from China named Sicheng, who distributed a letter of dissent against RAR. Another student, Isabel, ridiculed the group for its “unsolicited emotional theater.”
Two days later, a video circulated showing freshmen in the lecture hall admonishing protesters. When a few professors get into a heated exchange with RAR leaders, an African American freshman in the front row stands up and raises his arms: “This is a classroom! This is not the place! Right now we are trying to learn! We’re the freshman students!” The room erupts with applause.
I caught up with that student, whose name is Pax. “This is a weird year to be a freshman,” he sighed. Pax is very mild-mannered, so I asked what made him snap into action that morning. “It felt like both sides [RAR and faculty] weren’t paying attention to the freshman class, as it being our class,” he replied. “They started yelling over the freshmen. It was very much like we weren’t people to them—that we were just a body to use.”
Freshmen students organized their own meetings after a lecture was cancelled because of RAR antics, which was attended by 150 scholars who were willing to actually debate instead of run to a “safe space” and grab a coloring book. Another course on The Iliad was disrupted by a RAR partcipant; the professor simply walked out, went to another room, and proceeded to give the lecture to the entire class that followed her out.
Support for RAR seems to be collapsing, as about 100 students were involved in this year’s boycott, a substantial decline from the 400 plus who participated the year before. There haven’t been any Hum protests since the upperclassmen who participated in the disruptions were barred from lectures.
File this story under, “A New Hope.”DONATE
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