“I came to the conclusion that Reed, and institutions like Reed, are not the place for me”
Friday, November 12 was former Tutor Program and Quantitative Skills Coordinator Miguel Rodriguez’s last day at Reed College, as he accepted a job doing diversity and equity work at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). As the coordinator for Reed’s Tutor Program, Rodriguez was in charge of organizing around 200 student tutors. His departure is the most recent in a striking series of staff and administrative departures that has seen many members of Reed’s staff, especially staff members of color, leave the institution over the past year.
Rodriguez cited the culture of Reed as one of the reasons for his sudden departure. “When I joined, I knew what I was getting into,” he explained. “There’s a lot of privilege, money, and intellectualism here, and my background is definitely not that. So I knew that I was going to be challenged.” Rodriguez also found that some students failed to treat staff with the same respect that they give faculty. “There are some students who see their professors as people of authority… and don’t take staff as seriously,” he said. “We’re all professionals… a lot of us have degrees as well, in our specific content. It’s just that our content isn’t considered ‘academic’… I haven’t really seen that dynamic before, not to this degree.”
While working at Reed, Rodriguez led a number of initiatives within the Tutor Program, including implementing new ways of tracking how many students use tutoring, updating the new tutor orientation, and beginning talks on revamping tutor recruitment. “I’m happy with the work I’ve done here,” Rodriguez said, a sentiment shared by his former supervisor, Director of Academic Support David Gruber. “Miguel was really excellent in the role,” Gruber told the Quest shortly after Rodriguez’s departure. “He brought an energy and an outward-facing orientation to the role that we hadn’t really had recently.”
Rodriguez’s position at Reed was part-time, and while he was working here, he was also working part-time as a tutor coordinator at Madison High School. He has left both positions in his transition to the new full-time position at OMSI. “The Madison thing is a little bittersweet,” he said. “In a perfect world I would probably want to stay there.” After four years at Madison, Rodriguez had established a number of relationships with students there, and he plans to maintain those relationships as he transitions away from the school. “I have a lot of students that I care about, and I’m not one to just leave students cut.” Though he expressed contentment with the work he had done at Reed, his overall assessment of his time here was more ambivalent: “Overall, I think it’s been kinda in the middle at Reed. There’s been ups and downs.”
Despite this, Rodriguez is excited for his new position. “With OMSI… It is also a predominantly white institution, but I think the position itself, and the fact that I’ll be doing a lot of my work in the community… it’s going to help in that way.” The position will involve a lot of community outreach, and Rodriguez’s main goal will be attracting more applicants of color to jobs and volunteer positions at OMSI. He will also be hosting workshops on equity within the Museum. The new position will also offer greater job stability, since Rodriguez won’t be going back and forth between two positions.
As for Rodriguez’s successor, Gruber hopes to have the position filled by the early weeks of spring semester. The position will still involve both the Tutor Program and the Quantitative Skills program, but it will now be full-time instead of part-time. Once finalists for the position are chosen for the position by a committee of staff members, Gruber hopes to have them meet with current tutors and faculty.
Ultimately, Gruber said, “I believe [Rodriguez] left Reed a better place than he found it.” Rodriguez himself was also satisfied with the work he did as Tutor Program and Quantitative Skills Coordinator. “I just can’t really continue here,” he explained. “It’s not my place.”