Paideia Classes Censored at Kroger’s Request
A week before his Paideia class, Austin Weisgrau ’15 received an email informing him of a change in his curriculum. Entitled “Kombucha and Other Fermentation Basics,” the class was to focus on brewing kombucha, but would also cover the basics of fermenting sauerkraut and alcoholic beverages. However, the email, from Paideia Czar Julia Selker, informed him that the alcohol section of his class would have to be removed at President John Kroger’s request.
Weisgrau’s was not the only class to be altered. According to Selker, a cigarette rolling class was told that its participants would have to wait until the end of class to smoke, and two classes, “Adroit Anticipation of Awesome Altered Adventures 201″ and “Put that in your Pipe and Smoke it,” were canceled. Selker says that she was not informed of the schedule changes by Kroger himself, but instead by Director of Student Activities Kristin Holmberg.
Upon hearing that his class would have to be changed, Weisgrau emailed Kroger asking him “why his class was a problem.” According to Weisgrau, Kroger then forwarded the email to Holmberg, asking her to respond to Weisgrau’s inquiry. “I went in to talk to Kristin, who told me she didn’t really know what was going on and that I should talk to [Vice President and Dean of Student Services] Mike Brody,” says Weisgrau.
Although President Kroger could not be reached for comment in time for publication (he was home with the flu), an email he sent to Weisgrau five days before his class read, “The class needs to be safe and legal… If it can be done in a manner that is safe and legal, then it is fine to teach the class.” However, after talking to Brody, Weisgrau was informed that he still had to remove the alcohol element from his class.
According to Brody, “In conversations with various staff and faculty regarding the Paideia schedule, it became clear that the concern that has grown over the years regarding Reed’s role in sponsoring classes that instruct participants in the fabrication and/or use of alcohol and other drugs compelled us to impose some reasonable limits. I sincerely regret that we did not begin a conversation about this long before December, and I look forward to participating in a discussion with students, staff and faculty about Paideia 2k14 and beyond.”
Based on AOD policy passed last semester, “Students who make beer or wine for personal consumption anywhere on campus, including in student housing, must comply with all applicable local, state and federal laws.” In compliance with this policy, Reed’s Brewer’s Guild teaches students how to brew alcoholic beverages as long as they are over 21. According to Brody, however, the problem with Weisgrau’s class was that there would be no guarantee that students would be of legal age to brew alcohol.
Brody adds, “I explained [to Weisgrau] that as benign as he believed the alcohol fermentation instruction to be, the college was nonetheless not prepared to sanction a class that teaches students whose age and relationship with alcohol are unknown to the instructor.”
Weisgrau, on the other hand, was not of the opinion that the alteration to his class was warranted. “[This] event is a clear breach of honorable student-administrative relations and a portentous glimpse of John Kroger’s perspective on student body autonomy,” Weisgrau commented in an email.
Update: President Kroger has issued a statement.