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Aggressive Reed College student sit-in shuts down school’s finance office

Activists also create ‘Whitey Tasks’ list

Reed College has placed no-contact orders against a group of student protesters after they allegedly harassed a staff member during an occupation of the university treasurer’s office and blocked the office’s employees from doing their jobs.

The aggressive sit-in has resulted in the finance office being closed for three days and prompted officials to quickly relocate sensitive financial documents so they could not be absconded with.

The demonstration, led by members of a student protest group known as “Reedies Against Racism,” began Oct. 26 and stems from the group’s demand that the university divest from Wells Fargo because of what protesters allege are the banking company’s ties to private prisons, mass incarceration and the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Students have occupied the university’s administrative building, Eliot Hall, for about 10 days now. As of Wednesday, a campus spokesman told The College Fix that student protesters were still occupying the hallways of Eliot Hall, the president’s office and the treasurer’s office.

The protests are the latest demonstration by “Reedies Against Racism,” a group that has been active on campus for a little over a year and whose members interrupted the lecture of a humanities class earlier this semester to protest a mandatory Western Civilization course it described as “really harmful.”

On Oct. 14, the group posted a link on Facebook to “a master list of tasks that don’t require completion by a [Person of Color] or [Reedies Against Racism] member.” The list, a screenshot of which was posted on Twitter, includes so-called “Whitey Tasks” such as printing labels and designing poster templates for the group.

Regarding the group’s latest protest, Reed College President John Kroger said in an email sent to the university community on Oct. 27 that a group of student protesters entered the treasurer’s office on Oct. 26 and “verbally harassed a staff member” during their demonstration.

The agitators declined to leave the building, according to Kroger, occupying it that night and forcing the office to be closed the next day.

“We condemn this behavior. This conduct violates the principles of respectful dialogue upon which this community is based. Dissent is encouraged at Reed, but harassment is not,” Kroger said in his email, referring to the university’s dissent policy.

In a Facebook post, Reedies Against Racism denied it harrassed any staff members and said its demonstration was “a peaceful sit-in.” Members of the group did not respond to requests for comment from The College Fix.

Student protesters have been occupying Reed College’s administrative building, Eliot Hall, for about 10 days demanding the university cut ties with Wells Fargo. The Oregonian reports the protests have included a “rotating group of around 40 or 50 students.”

“It’s our job to disrupt oppressive systems,” student protester Tiffany Chang told The Oregonian.

A source who visited Eliot Hall on Tuesday told The College Fix “the scene is truly shocking, there are a number of tents, food everywhere, and several fire code violations.”

In a statement made on Tuesday, Kroger addressed the recent demonstrations.

“I have no objection to the current, peaceful sit-in outside my office. The meeting area outside my office is a place of symbolic power, and thus a reasonable place to express one’s political views,” he said.

However, Kroger said demonstrations in the treasurer’s office “prevented finance staff members from working since Thursday evening” and that protesters refused to leave the space.

He further announced that no-contact orders had been levied against student protesters, temporarily banning them from freely entering campus offices.

“To ensure that this no-contact order is effective, the students will be required to
clear the hallways around the Treasurer’s Office and bathroom so staff can access their offices and facilities without risk of additional adverse contact,” Kroger explained.

Campus spokesman Kevin Myers said no-contact orders were placed against a couple dozen students total. Myers told The Fix the college encourages dissent but “there are parameters” regarding its policy.

Reedies Against Racism responded to the no-contact order by saying Reed College “would rather leverage police intervention and disrupt the ability for students to walk freely through Eliot Hall then admit that Wells Fargo is an unethical bank.”

Kroger said in his statement the protesters’ demand regarding Wells Fargo had been referred to the college’s board of trustees for review and “the protesting students have been invited to participate in that process.”

Earlier this semester, members of Reedies Against Racism interrupted the first lecture of “Humanities 110 – Introduction to Humanities: Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean” saying that “forcing students to take a mandatory Western Civilization course is really harmful.”

In a list of demands, Reedies Against Racism said the Western Civilization course needed to be “reformed to represent the voices of people of color.”

MORE: Students protest mandatory humanities class studying ‘predominantly white authors’

IMAGE: Reed College/Leah Nash

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke is a staff reporter for The College Fix with a specialty on investigative and enterprise reporting. He has also held editorial positions at The Commercial Review daily newspaper in Portland, Indiana, as well as at The Washington Examiner, Red Alert Politics and St. Louis Public Radio. Rubbelke graduated from Saint Louis University, where he majored in political science and sociology.

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