Letter to the Editor: Permanently Missed Connections

Regarding a permanently missed connection: I think we can all agree that Reed is a community in crisis. This is not terribly abnormal; it is an institution full to the brim with young people advancing through the most turbulent times of their lives. But critically, amid the shifting mass of administrators and a confluence of unfortunate circumstances, the singular reliable body within the institution has gone quiet. We the student body and collective of Reedies must, if we value ourselves and our fellow comrades of the quest, reinvigorate, reinvent, and investigate the social life of the college, for all of our sake.

It seems to me that the most prescient issue within the college is the issue of lost community. Many people come into college seeking such community, and as one of the oldest alumni networks on the continent, Reed is a place usually brimming with it. I have had the misfortune of entering the college amidst this dark and lonely moment, and have found the place described in past issues of the Quest; with a table for all in commons, posters crying about clubs and balls and events, and people spreading out of cliques and into community, is gone. I have a few thoughts on a course of action for us, and I sincerely hope any one of them can help any one person on this campus. Critically, I think the repossession of student spaces and autonomy is at the top of the list. 

This cannot just mean Senate: the practice rooms should be filled again, the union used to host birthday parties and D&D games and hangouts. So many people, especially my fellow freshmen, seem to hole up in their rooms amidst anxieties over COVID-19, and I think we should relearn how to sprawl. How many of us have spent an afternoon, an evening, in the canyon? How many have scrawled on a poster or a bathroom wall? How many have passed someone by, caught their eye, and said “Hello in there”? Of course we need more parties, but we also need to go out of our way to include those we do not yet know. This does not mean more activities based in the Office for Student Life: those tend to reify instead of reduce cliques as “mandatory fun” predominantly brings in those with pre-ordained groups and treats mere mass consumption as artifice of interpersonal growth. We as a community, in including a variety of backgrounds must grow to leave such things to the wayside, because a growth into student organization and activity by a body that necessarily mandates and manifests as the students landlord and guardian, cannot be allowed to form the predominant connection between individuals lest we find ourselves the subject of interoffice conflict. This does mean the expansion, by any means necessary, of student good into student spaces. If an area is closed and belongs to us, then we must be able to use Senate to reify our ownership, if a tradition is known and lost to COVID then we must use our elders and writings to reidentify it. Let no Reedie be unserved by their community.

Clubs are the basis of good social welfare and insight in any collegiate community. Reed has never been an exception to this rule, with her clubs shaping some of the finest events in the school’s history. However, they should and do exist predominantly as the interface between the authority of the school as an institution and the authority of the student body via our government. Clubs as institutional pursestrings and accountable bodies are fine, but I believe that we need to push out of them and into deeper personal communication and spontaneity, two things that for all their smiles and quiet niceties, clubs are necessarily inept at. This is not to diminish the work of our minority representative bodies, nor the incredible effort of institutions like the Quest and the MLLL and the glorious Pool Hall at allowing various modes of communication and hangout, but to say that the place and time for social interaction starts and ends with the individual student, and that if the same thirty odd clubs are constantly interacting with each other through the same three or six hundred students that use the majority of them (these numbers being hypotheticals) then much of the community is not being reached, their money in the student fund is not serving them, and something must be done. I am reminded of Missed Connections and the stories and tales that unfold there as I imagine what new inventions in student socialising may look like. A pick up game of Mario Kart projected against a wall, a word of mouth silent rave in the steam tunnels, a book club sitting with the dastardly lampreys of the canyon: ours is an invitingly fertile campus that I hope we can sow with the good seed of fellowship and community. Let us mark in chalk and paste up posters, and overcome the divisions of obligation, affiliation, meek representation, that reactionary elements foment among us. Fellow leftists, if we are to help the poor and meek and mild, the quiet and downtrodden, we must help ourselves and learn to speak to one another without letting mere quarrel demarcate the lines. Liberals, you know that the conservatives and reactionaries love nothing more than you overlooking one another, wandering the campus with your head down, let us look up and around and nod at one another. Reactionaries, why are you here? I hope that if we can step into the deep water together, and cast nets together, we can replenish the social bonds here together, and what’s more, make new ones.

We must investigate loudly the social life of this college. Not since the work towards a better HUM 110 curriculum (which is not yet over) and the efforts for a working group on student needs (which was strangled in its crib) has the student body invigorated itself by leaning on the right to action and protest that is the only mechanism I know of which improves this place. However, improvement takes two strong hands, the left hand of obligation through the student Senate and the right hand of enforcement by the student body. If there is an initiative you need, a constantly broken pipe, an empty planter, or a poorly run conference, the impetus is on us as a society to uplift that through posters and calls to action, and this invigorates the Senate and gives them greater standing in advocating to our aid. If we cannot for sake of ability or fear of retribution bring these to the forefront, then it is the duty of our friends, and if we have no friends, we have nothing. Thus, the strength and welfare of the weakest of us rests on the shoulders of the strongest and their capability to reach out. I do not ask for everyone to trauma dump, nor do I ask that we accept the weight of the world on our shoulders, just that each individual investigates their ability and their need, that we could work together to solve problems instead of adding weight and the stress of issues to ourselves. 

Pursuant to all of this, and in measure of as much of a call to action as can be recorded in a student paper, I believe the key to many issues at Reed lies in a student body willing to take back up the mantle of collective ownership, action, and accountability, and that our ability to tow into use that mantle lies in our communication, and that lies in our reconnecting and kindling new expansive relationships with one another.

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