Letter to the Editor: Putting Action Where Reed’s Mouth Is

By Lennox Reeder


Over the past decade and some changes, Reed College has undergone a profound and noteworthy demographic transformation. One of the supreme highlights of this moment has been the outburst in gender equity at the college that has allowed for a vast and unique effort at gender desegregation of campus facilities, from dorms to lavatories. The past five years or so have brought, across America and at Reed, a colossal and sustained growth in gender-nonconforming individuals. As we face increased oppression around the United States, Great Britain, and elsewhere, I and others have sought an increase in competent protection from the college. In some ways, this protection has begun to manifest itself, but in many others, it has not. I would like to highlight one salient point, as it addresses a dysfunction I believe is typical of administrative offices at the college.

In IRIS, the comprehensive system through which students, faculty, and staff, are managed, there is a directory. On that directory, you can select a preferred name, and list the pronouns you would like to be called. That name, those pronouns, are reflected on your school Gmail account. So if you search “Lennox Reeder” in Gmail, it gives you my Reed email address. What Reed desperately needs is a “Dead Name” option. A dead name is a name one used to use, that is now “dead” to the individual to whom it would refer. Calling someone their dead name is not just hurtful, it’s essentially a means of negating their humanity. It requires conformity from them, not something our college traditionally obliges. If we had a “Dead Name System,” students would be able to select, via IRIS, a preferred name for Reed Community Members, to be displayed when those individuals looked through campus directories or searched Gmail, but place a separate name on documents, letters, or other materials that went to students’ “home addresses” or parents or whoever the student chose. 

There’s no great reason this can’t be implemented. The Admissions office has said that they offer a similar system to prospective students because people can be regularly endangered when they put their preferred name into a system and then their parents, whom they are not out to, receive information using that preferred name. IT needs to follow the protocols of Admissions and innovate a way to help support Reedies, from move-in to alum status. When I moved into Reed, I was outed by college paperwork. This made my initial weeks and months at the college needlessly harried by having to explain my gender to people I had chosen, for whatever reason, not to explain it to prior. If, during my pre-orientation modules and account setup process, I could’ve said “Please refer to me as Lennox on my Student ID, but mail my parents home address with my deadname,” I would’ve. Another aspect of lacking a “Dead Name System” is that transgender students who cannot be out at home may be harmed by having to maintain possessions with their dead names. Imagine if your ID said your name was Sarah, but everyone had known you as Goat for eight months. How poorly might you feel if someone asked you about that discrepancy? 

If we truly believe in diversity, equity, and inclusion, then the College will address this issue. As a recent Quest article indicated, throughout the pandemic Administrative authority at the college has expanded in an unprecedented way. I have to assume that it is this gross negligence, privileging the individual concerns of specific Admins over the vox populi of faculty, working staff, and students, that has allowed us to misdevelop in such a way that students are made to suffer the indignity of being outed. I have to hope something can be done.

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