Freshmen students at Reed College are expected to attend a 9 a.m. class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. The class, titled “Introduction to the Humanities: Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean,” is a rite of passage for Reed students.
This year, however, protesters have disrupted lectures and some sessions have been cancelled entirely; the school could have hired additional security for the class but instead, caved to leftist demands.
“We don’t ever want to repeat what happened that Wednesday — we don’t ever want there to be shouting over one another and shouting people down,” said Kevin Myers, a Reed spokesperson said.
According to a group called “Reedies Against Racism,” the class focuses too much on the European contributions to Western civilization. This foundational liberal arts class happens to be about Greece and the Mediterranean, and Greece (as well as half of the Mediterranean coast) happens to be in Europe. (Imagine, a class about Europe being Eurocentric!)
In addition, protesters say the class ignores how the great literature of these cultures has been used to oppress others. The class simply isn’t inclusive enough, and campus leftists are trying to shut it down.
Any history or literature class on any subject is bound to leave out the history and literature that does not relate to that subject. In a world of full inclusion, every humanities class would be titled “The History and Culture of All People Throughout All of History.”
Reedies Against Racism maintains that it’s right, the class is wrong, and the class shouldn’t be taking place at all. The group organizes herds of protesters who walk into the 300-person lecture hall, go down the aisles and onto the teaching platform, and stand around the professor while holding cardboard signs.
The class, affectionately called “Hum 110,” has been around since 1943. Student surveys from last Spring semester show that the course rates highly overall. In fact, 91 percent of all students said that what they learned in the class helped them with later coursework. Despite this statistic, only 30 percent of women describe the course positively and 47 percent of all students of color responded that the course needs to change.
The protesters likely have not thought through their grievances. If they had picked up the class syllabus, by chance, they would have seen that a significant portion of the course material comes from places like Iran, Egypt, and Syria – in other words, places that are not in Europe, and places where natives are not white.
Perhaps the best rebuttal to these protests is found in the planned lecture by Professor Lucía Martinez Valdivia. In previous years, more than 20 professors would deliver lectures throughout the semester. This year, Valdivia was scheduled to go first, but protesters shouted her down.
According to her remarks as posted online, Valdivia would have told students:
“I’m female, mixed race, American and Peruvian, gay, atheist, and relatively young. I study poetry that is basically the opposite of me: male, white, British, straight, God-fearing, five hundred years old. And I love it.”
There’s a lot that students can learn from people who are different than themselves. In fact, it can be fun and enriching. Instead, “Reedies Against Racism” has decided that the study of Western civilization is bad because Western civilization is bad.
These protesting students must not have learned that the very concept of college originated in Europe and was spread around the world by Europeans. When they learn this, will they drop out or admit that the West has built a learning tradition that we still benefit from today?
Reedies Against Racism did not return Red Alert Politics‘ request for comment in time for publication.