On the afternoon of Tuesday, February 7, Ash Auer received an email from the Admissions Office stating that Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Milyon Trulove had “requested to meet with [her] as soon as possible.” Ash was an auditor — a non-traditional student who pays a flat rate of $100 to sit in on a single Reed class per semester, with the permission of that class’s professor. As auditors, students like Ash do not pay tuition or apply through the normal admissions and background check process, but their coursework is not graded and they cannot receive credit for the courses they take. As a result, the audit program is often most appealing to low-income students like Ash, who has cited her financial situation and academic history as two reasons that full transfer admission to Reed would not be viable for her.
In an interview with the Quest, Ash stated that her initial reaction to the email was, “Okay, he’s head of financial aid, I thought he was going to encourage me to become a degree-seeking student at Reed, rather than one who was participating through the audit program.” However, this did not prove to be the case. At the meeting, which reportedly took place at 2:30 PM on Wednesday, February 8, and lasted for about an hour, Mr. Trulove informed Ash that she was being removed from the audit program and confiscated her student ID. “Mr. Trulove informed me that because I had abused access to school resources and spaces, I was being immediately withdrawn from the audit program, and the course in which I was enrolled,” Ash said, “He then demanded that I give him my student ID and informed me that I was no longer allowed to access campus facilities.”
While Ash has stated that this Wednesday afternoon meeting was her only interaction with the admissions office regarding her auditing status, Mr. Trulove, who is legally bound not to reveal the specifics of the case, has maintained in general terms that, in cases of expulsion over abuse of resources, students always receive multiple communications and warnings before the final decision is made. Mr. Trulove has further cited the Reed policy on auditors (https://www.reed.edu/catalog/admission/admission.html) as having informed the department’s decision on Ash’s case, stating that this document is an “affirmative policy” which lays out all of the things that auditors can do, and that, by default, anything not on the list, such as participating in student groups, is something that auditors cannot do.
When a group of students gathered for a sit-in at the admissions office on Tuesday to protest Ash’s alleged treatment, Mr. Trulove stated that, “If there’s any case where an auditor does run into an area of breaching into something [that] they cannot do, then we would speak with the auditor and let them know and inform them, we would affirm with them that they understood the policy that they had breached. And so that would be the very first action, … one of our administrators would reach out to that person and have a conversation with them. And they would come to an agreement in that conversation that continuing to breach a policy is not appropriate, and that if they continue to, it may jeopardize [their] position as an auditor.”
While Mr. Trulove has stated that, for reasons of confidentiality, he is not legally able to speak about any of the specific details of Ash’s case, he and other admissions staff present at the sit-in seemed to imply that those present may not have been aware of the full details of Ash’s situation. In conversation with the Quest, Ash confirmed that she had requested that she be given an official reed.edu email address shortly before September 22nd, 2022, supposedly with the help of her professor at the time. According to Ash, this request was initially approved, but, on September 21st, she received an email from Admissions Fellow Bahar Tarighi stating that the email had been granted in error. Ms. Tarighi wrote that, “I spoke to my team and we discovered that auditors are not eligible for reed [sic] accounts, the email you got from CUS was for us to submit your information for swipe access. You should be using your personal email address for communication with professors, no reed [sic] email is necessary for audit purposes.” Ash’s email account was reportedly closed shortly thereafter. In a subsequent phone call Ash placed to the admissions office, she spoke with an admissions professional she believed to be Ms. Tarighi, although she could not confirm the name. At that time, this admissions professional reportedly informed Ash that “participation in student-run organizations was not a feature of the audit program.” This conversation would have taken place “shortly after September 30th,” although Ash was unable to provide an exact date.
Reflecting on this conversation, Ash stated that she had not understood this statement to be a declaration of college policy. “At the time,” Ash said, “this just seemed to be them not wanting to go through the trouble of setting up an email account so I could more easily join those organizations, rather than this being an official policy process.” However, during the Wednesday afternoon meeting with Ash, Mr. Trulove allegedly cited this September phone call as evidence that Ash was aware of the college’s policy regarding auditing students’ participation in campus groups and had “deliberately disobeyed an admissions staff member.”
According to Ash, at some point later in the first semester, the same unnamed professor who had been involved in her request for a campus email reportedly contacted the OneCard corporation — an outside company to which Reed outsources its swipe system — to request that Ash’s card be given access to the on-campus Pride Center, bypassing the Admissions Office in the process. Ash’s card was granted access to the Pride Center soon after, and Ash suggested in conversation with the Quest that her use of the Pride Center and other student spaces, alongside her leadership of student groups like the Queer Student Union (QSU) and her use of the Reed library, factored into the decision to revoke her auditor status.
Mr. Trulove, however, has denied the assertion that Ash’s use of the Reed library was a factor in the decision to remove her from the audit program, saying “I haven’t had conversations about the library and access or exclusion as a result of access to the library. And so I understand the line of thinking, but that’s not been part of any conversations that I’ve had.” When one of the students present at the February 14th sit-in contradicted this, saying “our conversations with Ash have indicated otherwise,” Mr. Trulove seemed about to respond, but ceded the floor when another student started to speak, starting a tangent discussion that continued for several minutes. Later, however, he reiterated the college’s official policy for dismissing students from the audit program, saying, “In any situation where it will be a student’s status may change, what we would do in that circumstance or any similar circumstances, that student would know, well ahead of their circumstances changing, if there is a situation evident. So we have a process, speaking with students and giving them an update on a certain circumstance, we have a process of investigating, we have a process of giving the students information, so they provide us information just in case we’ve missed something. So while I can’t comment on this particular case, I want you to know that this is a process in college admission that we really take seriously. And that it is not a one-step process.”
When asked if he could provide Ash with a complete, written list of reasons for her removal from campus, Mr. Trulove responded in general terms that Reed’s written policy on withdrawal of admission indicates that “we may or may not let a student know why we’ve changed their student status.” While he reiterated that he legally could not discuss the specifics of Ash’s case, when asked in what situation a student would not know why their status was revoked, Mr. Trulove stated, “So I want to say this, this is not intended to be talking about this particular situation. … So I want to be clear that whatever I’m saying, I’m not trying to indirectly apply this to Ash. Is that clear? [general nods of agreement] Okay, so off the top of my head, if I thought it might reveal something about a different individual. If I thought that the reason was complicated enough that maybe the student may not be aware of this. If I thought that there are these circumstances about communication that weren’t going to be particularly effective. … But that’s just what the decision says. And that’s fairly standard in admission. And so it’s basically a cookie cutter sort of form that’s out there, you’ll see that with many colleges. And so those are some ways and reasons in which we might not let someone know. But again, it’s a standard policy and I want to make sure that you’re aware of this so that I can set expectations on the policy.” This statement was consistent with Ash’s account of her meeting with Mr. Trulove on Wednesday afternoon, during which she reportedly asked him “whether there was anything other than what was stated that I did wrong,” to which Mr. Trulove allegedly again responded that he was unable to answer.
In the last minutes of the sit-in on Tuesday afternoon, students read aloud a list of demands that included, for auditors, “the ability to participate in student-run organizations, swipe card access to all academic buildings, the library, and GCC student spaces, a Reed email address, Moodle access by default, the ability to use printers on campus, the ability to audit more than two classes per academic year, and access to an advisor.” Students further demanded that “the rules for auditing students’ protections be put into documentation and made accessible to viewers,” that “a democratically elected body of students be given oversight over the selection, hiring, and firing of all college administrators, and that the selection processes for college administrators occur in a manner that is transparent and accountable to the student body.” The group’s printed list of demands also included that “Trulove resign or be removed from his position immediately,” although some students seemed hesitant to say that with Mr. Trulove present, saying only that he should face “consequences” for his involvement in Ash’s case.
Students further cited a 2018 Quest article which provides information on a 2014 Title IX case brought by Andrea Hendrickson, a senior admissions counselor who accused Mr. Trulove of sexual harassment. To this day some of the details of that case remain unclear or confidential, and an internal Title IX Board presided over by then Reed President John Kroger ultimately concluded that “while Trulove had clearly engaged in inappropriate behavior, it did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.” While Trulove was reportedly “sanctioned for his actions,” the decision still apparently “shocked many staff members in the Admission Office, who believed Hendrickson’s account of events to be credible.” For more information, see https://reedquest.org/2019/04/26/2019-4-26-an-untenable-workplace/.
While some students in attendance at the sit-in seemed satisfied with Mr. Trulove’s proposal that they provide a list of demands and that he reply with an official response within a week, others are seemingly unwilling to wait. At a meeting to discuss future plans on Wednesday night, a student read aloud from a statement, reportedly written by Ash, that described the group’s current actions as a “war of attrition,” and outlined a list of potential strategies for moving forward that included applying pressure to the Reed parents’ Facebook group, asking parents to call college administration to complain, sending emails to private high school college advisors, discouraging donors from giving money to Reed, general “disruption of student events,” and taking unspecified further actions to “cost the school money and disrupt enrollment.”
However, this does not necessarily reflect the views of all students who attended the sit-in. Soap Khan, for example, stated that their primary aim at this stage was to pursue “holding Milyon Trulove accountable in student Senate.” When asked about the potential strategies outlined above, Khan seemed to express some surprise, and said that “those are certainly strategies of protest, those are not necessarily parts of our plan now, but if need be, if the staff here at Reed College do not work with us, I can see how that might be a possibility, but it’s not directly in our plans.”
In a written statement to the Quest, as in his statements during the sit-in, Mr. Trulove emphasized that there are multiple ways for students to engage with the Reed community. “Every year approximately 20 auditors enjoy courses with Reed faculty and students,” Mr. Trulove wrote, “Most often, they are retirees who are neighbors to the college and occasionally transfer eligible students. Our auditing policy and level of access are typical. The program is priced more affordably than other colleges and universities that charge the same as the credit-bearing courses — tuition by credit. There are several ways for individuals to participate in the Reed classroom — as an auditor, through the Young Scholars high school program, by taking a credit-bearing course, or as an enrolled student. Student activities are limited to enrolled students who pay the student fee. There are other campus services that are limited to students who pay tuition.”
Some students, however, are beginning to discuss issues wider than Ash’s situation. Speaking at the Tuesday sit-in, Khan said that, “It’s not simply the situation of Ash, but also now we’re seeing all of these systematic issues with the school in particular, and the ability for people to be protected in their access to education here. But then … it also made us realize that there’s a lack of power that students have, to be able to have any say in these sorts of changes being made. Like the process with people like [Paul] Currie, … that sort of a situation, it took an extremely, extremely long period of time for anything to happen. … But … if we were to want to … make the demands for auditing students to get the rights as they do at other colleges, like … the ability to participate in student run organizations, swipe card access, etc. … protections being put into a document that’s made readily accessible to viewers. … We really think that it’d be extremely valuable at this school, to be able to make demands like that and set the process of putting them into effect. [To] have that be something that students can take part in, especially when … prior things have happened, where students have felt, frankly, powerless, and … the school doesn’t necessarily care about what they have to say, right? … This situation is stressful for us …, definitely, it’s especially stressful for Ash, it affects people. And I think that I want you all to recognize that, and actually allow us to make some changes to the school for the better and inclusion of everybody, especially when we’re the ones who are paying for everything here.”
In response, Mr. Trulove and other admissions staff assured those present that they welcome student feedback and take such input seriously. “In my mind, that doesn’t have to be a demand,” Mr. Trulove said, “It’s a conversation, like you coming here and saying that, hey, these things don’t work. I have office hours every week that are open to the student body. And … many of the changes we made to our deposit fee — being able to adjust it — to how we present our essay, [and] how we are giving people access to campus, have all been initiated by students. … We might not come to the exact same decision,” Mr. Trulove said, “but I am committed to having this conversation to make this college better.”
While the Quest has done its best to report these events in full, much about this story remains unclear. Given that these events are ongoing, and we were unable to get in touch with several parties who have some connection to the story, the Quest anticipates that we will be publishing further coverage as we learn more. Stay tuned for further stories in the coming weeks.
By Declan Bradley and Madeleine Voth