Crimson flags adorned the third floor of Eliot on Tuesday, November 10. From noon to five, students from various activist groups gathered in President Kroger’s office to demonstrate, converse, and workshop activism. A coalition of student activists representing the Reed Socialist Alternative, Blue Heron, DiversIfY, Fossil Free Reed, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy gathered in the office to workshop.
Shortly after three, Dagan Douglas ’18 began his workshop by handing out sheets of printer paper, pencils, and asking the sitting group to write down the “problems that are in the world.” No easy task. After a minute, he asked the group to stop writing: he planned to compile a master list. Systemic racism, religious intolerance, anti-blackness, lack of immigrant rights, slavery, climate change, poverty, and homelessness all made the short list. Someone asked, “What about gender?” The participants nodded and began to add gendered and LGBTQ issues to the list.
After compiling the frightening list of problems, the students discussed how a Reed education faces those issues: specifically with regard to the Hum syllabus. Attendees brainstormed possible solutions for changing the curriculum. Many took issue with the fact that few non-eurocentric classes are available. “It’s too exclusive” said Douglas. Sitting quietly on the floor was President John Kroger. After the main discussion ended, Kroger tried to address the students' concerns. He talked about the difficulties establishing new majors, the process of hiring new faculty, capital campaigns, and funding issues.
But why the sit in? According to Douglas “The purpose of this sit in is to address issues that the administration has been ignoring students on”, and “this was a show of student solidarity.” When asked why little notice was given the the demonstrations, Douglas said that it spoke “to students’ relationship to the administration.” The organizers thought it best to err on the side of caution; “We didn’t want to get stonewalled once again” remarked Douglas. When asked about “#OccupyEliot” and lack of event announcement, activist Anthony Bencivengo ’18 admitted “a lot of people complained about the confusion.” But said the lack of prior activist-student communication was intentional. “We were not sure of how the administration were going to react,” he said. As it turned out, the administration was receptive. “Kroger participated in full in several workshops,” Bencivengo added. Douglas hopes the success of this demonstration may lead to more in the future. “Start being activists, start caring.”