>A required year-long course for freshmen, Hum 110 consists of lectures that everyone attends and small break-out classes “where students learn how to discuss, debate, and defend their readings.” It’s the heart of the academic experience at Reed, which ranks second for future Ph.D.s in the humanities and fourth in all subjects. (Reed famously shuns the U.S. News & World Report, as explained in a 2005 Atlantic article by a former Reed president.) As Professor Peter Steinberger details in a 2011 piece for Reed magazine, “What Hum 110 Is All About,” the course is intended to train students whose “primary goal” is “to engage in original, open-ended, critical inquiry.”
Beginning on boycott day, RAR protested every single Hum lecture that school year.
But for RAR, Hum 110 is all about oppression. “We believe that the first lesson that freshmen should learn about Hum 110 is that it perpetuates white supremacy—by centering ‘whiteness’ as the only required class at Reed,” according to a RAR statement delivered to all new freshmen. The texts that make up the Hum 110 syllabus—from the ancient Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt regions—are “Eurocentric,” “Caucasoid,” and thus “oppressive,” RAR leaders have stated. Hum 110 “feels like a cruel test for students of color,” one leader remarked on public radio. “It traumatized my peers.”
RAR was created on boycott day to mourn the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police nationwide. Speeches and open mics highlighted the angst that many students feel on a campus where African Americans account for just 5 percent of those enrolled. What’s more, the graduation rate among black students at the time was 65 percent, compared with 79 percent for all students. RAR has a sympathetic audience: Reed is home to the most liberal student body of any college, according to The Princeton Review. It’s also ranked the second most-studious—a rigor inculcated in Hum 110.