The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Kroger Discusses Portland, Curriculum, and Drugs

John Kroger has demonstrated his ability to deliver a speech, but at the Kroger Forum Wednesday, Sept. 19 students got to know the president more personally in a session ahead of his inauguration. For an hour in the Vollum Lounge, Kroger opened himself up to any student questions.

Of the fifteen or so attendees, one student asked how he felt about Reed’s engagement with Portland, noting that Portlanders were sometimes contemptuous or judgmental of Reedies.

Kroger spoke briefly about Reed’s history with Portland, noting that Portland used to be “a very republican, conservative town,” and that for this reason, Reed clashed with Portland at times.

“[The phrase] ‘communism, atheism, free love’ came out of a newspaper editorial complaining that that was what Reedies believe,” Kroger said. “And we embraced that, like, ‘Oh, that’s what you abhor? We’re all about that!’”

Kroger sees the public as ignorant about Reed, however.

“We’ve never really tried, I think, to communicate with the Portland community about what Reed is all about,” he said. “We can be as warm and fuzzy as we want, but it freaks people out for a reason. Reed is threatening to many people’s way of life.”

The subject quickly shifted to drugs as a student asked about Kroger’s position with regard to the AOD policy.

Kroger first explained that he is “more or less an Aristotelian” in his moral beliefs.

“[Aristotle] basically defined that as the end of ethics: to thrive as a human being, and he basically [said] that that was what a community needed to do, to assure its citizens thrived and lived fully,” he said.

Kroger recalled his time at Yale and his friend Michael, who had a promising future before he became addicted to heroin and died of an overdose about four years after graduating.

“Yale certainly didn’t help Michael,” he said.  “I was drinking six nights a week by that point, and Yale certainly didn’t do me any favors.”

“That is the reality of what can happen,” he said.  “Highly artistic and creative people often have a significant susceptibility to depression and to addiction. If you ask what I don’t want for Reed students, it’s that.”

Dean of Student Services Mike Brody chimed in on the subject.

“We have not seen a reduction in the number of people getting help as the AOD policy has been enforced,” Brody said. “Generally speaking, the more people know about the AOD process the less they have to worry about it; our response is mostly educational. You have to go pretty far to really get in trouble.”

A student suggested a solution.

“If someone gets addicted to something, that’s where they are. It would be great for the college to provide avenues to deal with that problem,” he said.

Kroger stressed that although he didn’t want to trivialize the issue of drugs, he felt there were more important questions to ask, like “what is the curriculum going to look like in the future?”

The future of the curriculum is one thing Kroger discussed when asked about his vision for Reed not just within his tenure, but 50 years down the line.

“Reed needs to have discussions about its curriculum. The world is in a very different place than it was 50 years ago: it’s more global,” he said. “[We need] to find ways that our curriculum can be a little more global.”

But he clarified his role in this change would not be authoritarian.

“It’s less, ‘Here are my answers, [how] can I get the community to agree?’ and more, ‘Here are our big challenges, how are we going to respond to them?’” he said.

Kroger did his best to answer all questions in detail, but some students commented after the session that they did not feel satisfied.

As the topic shifted again to Reed’s relationship with Portland, Brody concluded the session on a positive note.

“I don’t know what school pride looks like for other places, but you guys are the ambassadors,” Brody said. “I sit in these groups and I see this profound pride in your faces.”

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