Letter To The Editor: Concerning Paradox

Recently, news of Paradox and its financial situation have been a large part of Reed’s Student Senate discourse. Paradox has existed to the beat of its own drum, and without the oversight or consultation of Senate. We respect that, and up to this point, they have been able to maintain an important space on campus with very little outside help. After two weeks of public discussion, Senate and Treasury feel that we have an obligation to explain the situation more fully to the student body. We don’t seek to overreach beyond what Paradox needs for its own success, but rather to provide clarity to the student body on what we, as representatives elected by and for the student body, are able to do in support of Paradox. 

Paradox has operated and continues to operate on a deficit; our records show that it has since at least 2014. The deficit had previously been backfilled by the Business Office (meaning that Paradox’s suppliers, workers, and managers have been getting paid, but the shops haven’t made back all the money that the College has paid out). The Business Office’s funds are not part of Senate or Treasury, which means that Paradox’s expenses have not been covered by you, the student, but rather by the administration. Last semester, the Paradox debt that is usually backfilled by the administration doubled, raising the debt to well over 10,000 dollars. While the administration would usually support Paradox despite its debt, reduced donations and cash flow as a whole have left the school with tighter finances. As a result, they no longer feel that Reed can accommodate Paradox’s debt, and they have denied backfilling the larger debt this semester. Because Paradox cannot stay open on its own profits and the administration’s change of heart, both Paradox shops face closing their doors without further notice at the end of the semester. Paradox’s greatest cost—as they are not responsible for rent, water, or electricity bills—is their wages. While a portion of their earnings goes towards paying the wages of their workers, the administration is the main financial contributor for Paradox wages. Because the wages are paid by the school, they have consequently undergone the same pay cycle changes that many of our AppComm appointed workers, senators, and treasurers are familiar with—with pay for the Spring semester starting last week, February 18th, rather than earlier in the semester. The Paradox managers were aware of the payment schedule back in November and as an autonomous body, they have and continue to be in control of their wages. As the sole proprietors of Paradox, this means that the decision to change Paradox, or seek aid with the deficit that Paradox has accrued within this year, falls on the shoulders of the Paradox management. Senate and Treasury have no control over how this situation unfolds and can only offer potential solutions or aid. 

The student body budget is fundamentally something that you, the students, have elected and thus appointed the Reed College Autonomous Student Body Senate and Treasury to manage and distribute. We have, and continue to, prioritize utilities and clubs that offer free services to the student body like Period Kollektiv, KRRC, and the Pool Hall. Some services, like Beer Nation, do charge the student body, but they are responsible for returning the revenue they make back to the Treasury in order to offset the money allocated to them. Because Paradox is a business that charges money for its services to students and is not currently returning revenue to the Treasury, we were not able to fund them in Funding Circus/Hell. However, we recognize that the difficulties facing Paradox are student issues, and that Paradox supports student workers and off-campus students to find places to study, relax, and socialize in. Therefore, we extend our aid and support in whatever way Paradox finds best to ask us. However, the situation must not just be finalized between Senate, Treasury, and Paradox, but by the community as a whole to find a sustainable long term solution. 

In conversations with the Paradox managers, Senate has made it clear that, in order to offer Paradox aid with wages, positions must be appointed through Reed’s Appointments Committee. Committee members set values and standards regarding equity, justice, and bias to ensure fair hiring practices, which have been established in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Diversity’s Jessika Chi. While Paradox has similar hiring practices, Senate must abide by the Appointments Committee and Senate bylaws which require all employees paid with student body funds to be hired through our internal processes. These bylaws are in place to help us maintain consistently equitable practices, not only within one hiring cycle, but for years to come.

On the 20th of February, 2022, the Student Body Senate and Treasury decided to table the issue of Paradox at the Senate Executive meeting. Those present voted in favor of giving Paradox a deadline to request financial aid from Treasury and restructuring help from Senate. It was decided that the deadline would be April 1st in hopes that this would give Paradox adequate time to evaluate their options and figure out what was best for the shop and its employees. This deadline also ensures that, if Paradox does request our help, Senate and Treasury will have enough time to allocate funds, restructure hiring, and work out new financial processes before the school year ends. We hope that the student body will also give us, and Paradox, input on their ideas and opinions before this date so that we can work out a solution that serves the whole community.

In the end, the Paradox paradox is one that we hope the student body will actively engage with by asking us questions and sharing your opinions. The reality of the Student Body Budget is that it is ultimately student dollars, and your input is not only greatly appreciated, it is needed. Paradox, and its future, will be decided and forged by the work of students, and your Senate will support that future in ways that hold true to student values, and do justice to the time and effort past Senators have put in in making our current Senate run equitably and honorably. 

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