Faculty Letter Calls for Investigation of Paul Currie

Professors and Students Express Varying Concerns

On the web-exclusive issue published on March 31, The Quest covered the campus-wide walkout and subsequent demonstrations by the Reed Community in response to Reed’s insufficient response to the despicable and racist statements of Psychology Professor Paul Currie. Before the demonstrators began to accumulate in front of the Psych Building, an anonymous professor informed The Quest about collective action by a group of fifty faculty members denouncing the racist, xenophobic behavior exhibited by Currie. The group, as described by the professor, submitted a letter to Reed describing “the harm caused by Paul Currie’s actions” and urged the Committee on Advancement and Tenure, Office of the President, Office for Institutional Diversity, and Office of The Dean of Faculty “to take decisive, substantive action in this matter, and explicitly consider all options up to and including separation of Paul Currie from the College.”

Excerpts of the letter containing the name of signatories were circulated on social media by students urging each other to reach out to their professors. Students were called to ask their professors about their positions on the call for action described in the letter and request that they sign. The absence of 112 out of 162 full-time faculty members’ signatures on the letter generated confusion, and subsequent frustration, across the student body.

The professor, in his email correspondence with the Quest, explains that the letter is a “spontaneous, collaborative effort by faculty to start the accountability and healing processes necessitated by Currie’s actions.” The full faculty did not have knowledge of the letter until recently. In particular, a number of interested faculty were informed “after it was submitted to CAT” on Tuesday at 3:00 p.m..

Professor of Religion and Humanities Kristin Scheible, in a response to the Quest, added that initially “the letter was not circulated widely among faculty, and it was written and submitted rather quickly.” Because of limited circulation and time, the letter does not accurately reflect the support of all faculty in general. Scheible further held that “some faculty, for whatever reason, do not sign petitions and letters, even as they are working assiduously for good.”

In a late-night SB info sent out at 1:30 a.m. of April 1, Student Body President Safi Zenger further elucidated on the confusion surrounding the letter. She held that for untenured faculty, especially those who are from minority ethnic and racial groups, signing the letter can be detrimental, “they may not want to put their livelihood at risk; they may be worried about how this impacts their chances of tenure in the future, considering how obtaining tenure as a faculty of color is already difficult enough with its own set of unique obstacles.” Moreover, some faculty chose not to sign this particular letter because they are members of the committees that are responsible for steering the college through the next steps of the investigation. According to Zenger, the Committee on Advancement and Tenure (CAT) shall play the most vital role “in determining Paul Currie’s future at Reed”. Faculty members serving on CAT and involved in the deliberation regarding Paul Currie may not sign the letter to abide by due process. Added Zenger, “For a CAT member who condemns Pauls’ actions, it’s likely that they’d rather vote for his termination in the committee meeting than sign the petition and have to recuse [themselves] during those discussions.”

According to the anonymous professor, there can be other reasons why a number of faculty had not signed the letter. Some faculty “plan to write their own response to Currie’s actions,” the professor stated in the email. He notes that “there is a diversity of opinion among faculty regarding the appropriate sanction for Currie’s actions: some think that separation from the college [Currie resigning or having his tenure terminated] is best, some support lesser but still serious sanctions (e.g. suspension without pay), and some support a process grounded in the principles of restorative justice.” He further states that “Faculty are also actively investigating ways they can support the affected service workers and the broader Latine community in Portland. The letter represents the first step of a longer process.” The letter was reopened for additional signatures and resubmitted on the evening of Friday, April 1.

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