The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

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.

58 Responses to “Paideia Classes Censored at Kroger’s Request”
  1. David Jackson says:

    It’s not entirely clear to me why the student body needs to have their Paideia classes cleared by the president’s office. It’s just student body funds at stake here, right? If the administration isn’t funding it, they needn’t be involved in the planning process.

    It’s even less clear why the president’s office would want to be a part of the planning process. The president doesn’t sign off on the construction of a couch see-saw, or $1,000 worth of flower petals and air cannon parts for thesis parade. He certainly never approves the content of the Quest. Without that deniability/decoupling, the college’s liability is worse if/when something goes wrong. What’s the benefit?

    I would strongly encourage the teachers of these cancelled classes to type up the material they were going to teach, and publish it in the next issue of the Quest.

    • Devin Bambrick says:

      Agreed, Mr Jackson, about the potentially unwise decision for the President’s office to become involved with the nitty gritty of Student Activities.

      I can speak to the fact that while I served as Vice President of the Student Body [c. 07-08], there was very little oversight into the funding and selection of activities that occurred at funding poll, Paideia, and Renn Fayre. That said, the autonomy left to the Student Senators was rewarded with semi-rigorous self-monitoring that ensured that Student Body funds would not go toward the purchase of alcohol provided to minors. This is not to say there were not creative workarounds and some evasive accounting practices, but I would encourage current student leadership to avoid providing the administration with such explicit bait.

      • Devin Bambrick says:

        Actually, I’m going to retract that last bit. Alcohol was likely not going to be present at the class–just the knowledge on how it is created, which is pretty public domain. Similarly, I can’t imagine that the inevitable hallucinogens alluded to by that Altered Adventures class would have been purchased with SB funds. The best argument that could be made is that such an activity would constitute a venue for illegal activities, which could conceivably be said about pretty much any concert, film showing, dance party, or anything fun and good.

    • Andrei Stephens says:

      Information: more dangerous than power tools or improvised construction. Heard it here first.

      • Juliet Hougland says:

        Next on the chopping block? O-Chem.

        • Allison Edgar says:

          Students under 21 can only learn about oxidative phosphorylation; anaerobic conditions are strictly prohibited. Well, that’s going to be tough on the Intro Bio students, but they’ll manage.

          However, there is another way: during Prohibition, grape juice was bottled with instructions on how to avoid accidentally turning it into wine, which would be illegal and obviously undesirable. In fact, I’m pretty sure I produced a lot of alcohol freshman year by being a lazy slob who allowed half-finished bottles of Viso and Naked Juice to accumulate in her dorm room like bloated whale carcasses. So, there should just be a Paideia class on how to avoid such accidental breaches of law, and how to avoid making those breaches of law delicious.

          • dylan clark says:

            I remember I kept a collection of unwashed, sticky VISO caps in my freshman dorm with the hopes of one day trading them for a promotional sweatshirt. The smell when I got back from winter break was revolting.

    • Phill Schwartz says:

      Liability, Liability, Liability

      • Shane says:

        Complete this thought?

        • Matt lehat says:

          Omg you guys all rock. Olde reed is dead long live olde reed!
          Also this is outeagous and makes me seriously reconsider my donations as an alumni.

          • Thomas Sherlock Craig '08 says:

            Matt, I’m glad you are considering, but please follow through on cancelling your donations, and call them to tell them why when you do!

            I hope to give money to Reed once again, but for the time being we have to use the most powerful means we have to gain attention. The power of the purse it is!

    • kkmcwhat says:

      I just found this whole Quest-online business. And I might be behind the times, but… it’s on now, boys.

    • Emma Fredieu says:

      When I was Orientation Coordinator in ’09, the administration felt entitled to regulate Noise Parade. Their control over Paideia, Renn Fayre student projects, and RAW is the extension of that attitude. While I understand why it would be helpful for students to have access to Reed administrative resources for these activities, I really think the cost of working with student activities is higher than the cost of buying pots and pans from the Bins, or materials for Renn Fayre out of pocket.

      Paideia 2014 should be taught out of off-campus housing. Just bypass student activities and hand out flyers and you can teach whatever you want.

  2. Sarah Henderson '91 says:

    This is really disappointing. Carried to its logical conclusion, Reed would have to radically change the content of a lot of classes in order to not have content that would be illegal for students to practice. Librarians will have to make sure students are old enough to read the content of certain books. What is going on?

  3. KC Lewis says:

    I can understand the administration wanting to have a dialogue about the content of the paideia classes, but it is disappointing that rather than trying to do that they unilaterally made these changes at the last minutes. Maybe it’s true that it was just a mistake that the discussion wasn’t started much earlier, but it certainly stinks of them trying to push through what they wanted to do without time for a debate.

  4. Argyre Patras says:

    Seriously silly. They are perfectly okay having freshman take a Paideia class on how to operate the reactor, and prep for the licensing exam (or they were in my day), and are balking at them learning fermentation techniques?
    Does this mean that they aren’t going to allow anyone to take chemistry or biology until after they are 21?
    And filter all websearches (via campus connectivity) to sites pertaining to brewing?

    I’m appalled.

    • Ellen McManis '12 says:

      I’m appalled too — it’s a drastic change in the administration/student relationship, it puts them _more_ on the hook for liability (see the first comment thread), and it’s not like this class will teach innocent freshmen anything that’s not trivially easy to learn elsewhere. The class isn’t even doing anything illegal!

      However, the reactor is a bad analogy here — nothing the freshman learn in learning to operate the reactor is anything remotely near anything illegal. They learn how to operate a TRIGA mk I reactor and handle radioactive materials safely (and some good old academic science-doing). Once they pass their licensing exam, they can operate the reactor by themselves.

      They don’t know anything near what it would take to build a nuclear or dirty bomb, and it’s not like they can waltz in and operate, say, OSU’s reactor without authorization. On the other hand, the administration is right that someone with the knowledge from this class could go brew something up at home. That’s just not a sufficient reason to forbid it.

  5. Argyre Patras '81 says:

    Hmmm… No biotech career for you!

  6. Noah Muldavin says:

    There are many moral issues here, but I might point out that brewing beer/wine/mead is 100% legal even in the presence of minors as long as there is at least one adult present. Minors could not legally cannot drink the product, but it wouldn’t be fermented fully until at least 2 weeks after the paideia class anyways.

  7. Mary Hunt says:

    Bravo to the authorities for their decisive action! But rest not… Just today, I searched the Reed College library database for books on concocting the devil’s drink and found, among many others, the following results: Country House Brewing in England 1500-1900, Essays in Brewing Science, Handbook of Brewing, Brewing Science: The Early Days, On Beer Techniques and Brewing in Ancient Mesopotamia, A Treatise on the Art of Brewing, The Philosophical Principles of the Science of Brewing, The Complete Family Brewer, The Complete English Brewer, An Essay on Brewing, A New Art of Brewing Ale, House Winemaking for Dummies, etc. etc. Imagine my outrage! Any impressionable student, whether of age or not, could check any of these nefarious and dangerous books out AT ANY TIME and start down the road of depravity and intemperance.

    I demand that the school remove these books post haste, sealing the library until all of them may be ferreted out and safely burned. Some of the little alcoholics may raise a fuss, but don’t worry, we can “participate in a discussion” with them after the fact.

    • Shane says:

      Hear, hear. I also have heard rumors that some students have been skipping morning prayer. Help us, President Kroger!

  8. The problem seems to be fear that underage students will learn how to ferment alcohol from another student with the explicit sponsorship of the college. So here’s a link on how to ferment hard cider, one of dozens on the Internet:
    Well, cat’s out of the bag. Holy smokes, it happened totally without administration permission – a terrible tragedy that youth were led astray by an errant alum. If everyone’s ass is sufficiently covered, maybe we can grow up and learn some very basic chemistry.

  9. Quintus says:

    Additionally, Kroger is in violation of the community constitution, specifically Article VI Section 1 which reads:

    Section 1. Publications, exhibitions, public lectures, and public performances under the sponsorship of the College or of recognized organizations within the Reed Community shall not be subject to institutional censorship. Publications supported wholly by Student Body funds, or by Student Body funds supplemented by revenues external to the College, shall not be subject to censorship or editorial control by the College, by the Student Body Senate, or by any member of the academic or administrative faculty. Official publications of the College, however, shall be subject to editorial control by appropriate institutional officers.

    Paideia is organized wholly with student body funds. It is not under the jurisdiction of Kroger or the trustees.

    Kroger certainly has a habit of skipping over important documents.

    • Brandy Ryan says:

      Technically this says that publications – not exhibitions, lectures, or public performances – wholly or partially funded by Student Body Funds are not subject to institutional censorship. Paideia classes are non-publications supported by SB funds, and thus not protected under this section.

      • Quintus says:

        How, precisely, is Paideia not a “recognized organization?”

        • Brandy Ryan says:

          The clause says “under the sponsorship of… recognized organizations”. While Paideia is listed on the Student Activities website as a student organization, one might argue that because it is funded by student body funds, it is not actually funded by an organization. If that’s not acceptable, one might argue that despite the listing in Student Activities, Paideia itself is not an organization.

      • Geoffrey Hendersen says:

        I would have thought that Paideia czars being funded by the student body would be “under the sponsorship of the College or of recognized organizations within the Reed Community” and thus “public lectures” and their “publications” during Paideia can be argued to fall under that and thus would be protected from any “institutional censorship” as Quintus suggested.

        • Sarah Carlisle says:

          I agree with Geoff. The Student Body Senate is a recognized organization, and Paideia is an event made possible by the Senate (in appointing the Paideia Czars and providing funding). Furthermore, the publication of the Paideia schedule and the class description were censored alongside the classes themselves, so this section of the Community Constitution certainly applies.

        • Brandy Ryan says:

          My second response to Quintus above addresses the possibility of Paideia not being funded by a recognized organization. As for “sponsorship of the College”, the language of this section suggests that “College” and “Student Body funds” are completely separate, SB funds not being considered “College” funding.

          These are all just suggestions as to how this might not violate the community constitution, and I’m not on campus and don’t have access to the rest of the constitution to put this section in any context that might be necessary for a better reading.

          • Thomas Sherlock Craig '08 says:

            You’re having to make a lot of twists and turns to get there. The plain sense of the first sentence very clearly applies to Paideia. It is an exhibition or series of lectures clearly under the sponsorship of recognized organizations within the community. There would have to be a series of past readings of this text establishing an historical interpretation other than the plain sense of the words for your reading to be accurate, unless other sections of the constitution make it otherwise clear.

        • Pettifogger '72 says:

          Or, put more simply, Kroger must at least *think* that Paideia is “under the sponsorship of the College or of recognized organizations within the Reed Community” or he would not have undertaken to use the power of his office within that community to censor it.

  10. For a more technical discussion of fermentation, the Reed Library has online access to the excellent Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, which has an excellent chapter on fermentation.

  11. John Sajo says:

    It is disappointing to see Reed not standing for the principles that free speech and unfettered access to information and dialogue are good for the student, good for the college and good for the society.

  12. Argyre Patras '81 says:

    In the ’70′s a number of faculty were renowned for their brewing skills, with at least one entire garage taken up by the effort. Oddly enough, the math department seemed to be the leader in this, not the biologists.

    This behavior by Kroeger is very disturbing, and i am astonished that the SB prez didn’t go nuts about it.

  13. bob combs says:

    Dear Mr. President,

    I’m disgusted with the way the college has decided to portray brewing on campus. Brewers are not all vibrant, fun-loving sex maniacs skirting state and federal laws. Many of us are bitter, resentful scientists and engineers who remember the good old days when beer was bland and inoffensive, and it really meant something to culture yeast anaerobically. Why, I remember one time when I needed a new wort chiller. I took the ferry across to Downtown, which was called Longtown then. So I put some cheese in my pocket, which was all the rage in those days. To take the ferry you had to wait in three queues. It was decided that three was more fashionable than two. We were all into odd numbers then. I remember when we were doing even numbers the decade before. We used to think back on those days and laugh at how foolish we were. “Hey, evenie” we used to say, and then laugh at how ridiculous that sounded.

    Anyway, what’s important here is that I was off to Longtown with some cheese in my pocket. You couldn’t get the good chedar because of the war, so I had jack cheese. I did get my wort chiller, which taught me a good lesson about never picking up frogs in the street. Something I value to this day.

    So, if you want to do something useful, stop being so darned picky about who gets to learn about basic biology and go purchase a good pipe organ, or some new storm windows.

    What smells like mustard?

    Bob Combs ’90

  14. Geoffrey Hendersen says:

    Lockpicking 101 didn’t get any flak, so apparently yeast is far more dangerous than larceny tools.

  15. Brianna Walker says:

    In Jkrog’s defense, classes about teaching brewing require permits and age verification, and despite what we like to think, Reed isn’t above the law. Legal liability is a real issue and needs to be taken into account. The other alcohol-related classes were clearly 21+; perhaps a separate, 21+ brewing class could have been offered in order to comply with the law.

    • Emma Fredieu says:

      Hi Brianna,

      Could you link to OLCC regulations that state that classes about fermentation need to be permitted? I can’t seem to find it on the internet.

  16. Bear Wilner-Nugent '95 says:

    In light of this and related developments, I have publicly challenged John Kroger to a debate on drug policy before the student body in Vollum Lecture Hall. Please see my Facebook page for more details.

  17. Andrew says:

    Are you sure? I believe that the relevant sections of Oregon criminal code are ORS 471.403, 471.406, 471.410, 471.430, but I might be missing something. The other classes involved actual tastings, not imparting information. I’m sure President Kroger can clarify this.

  18. Argyre Patras '81 says:

    Where does it say that “classes about teaching brewing require permits and age verification”? Is there actually a law on the books in Oregon that is this ridiculous? There is publicly available (in just about every form of information storage and distribution system in existence – pretty sure there is info about beer and wine making in the bible, and certainly in countless historical texts) information on this topic. Is that information illegal for those under 21 to consume? Will Wikipedia and Google have to start verifying ages prior to letting folks surf these sites? Will public libraries have to start having a separate over 21 section? Will the Reed library have to start segregating the under 21 to certain areas of the stack? Will there be age checkers in the bio and chem libraries for fear that one of these tender young’uns might find out that things ferment?

    They are not drinking, they are learning. Get over it.

  19. Greg Lawrence '12 says:

    From the “Operating Principles of the College” section at (first bullet point):

    “The educational mission of the college requires the freest exchange and most open discussion of ideas. The use of censorship or intimidation is intolerable in such a community.”

    I wonder if President Kroger and the other administrators have read these “Operating Principles?”

  20. Julia Selker '15 says:

    When I was first told to cancel the classes, my friend brought up an interesting sex ed metaphor.
    It’s not much of a stretch to look at canceling classes which provide knowledge on how to safely take drugs as similar to abstinence-only education.
    I’m hoping that there will be dialogue about this between students and administrators this semester. I know the controversy goes much deeper than “We don’t want students to know how to take drugs.”

  21. Toby Sheppard Bloch says:

    Brianna, can you provide a citation for the notion brewing instruction requires permits and is age limited? My own research hasn’t found anything to support that, but if so that’s an important element of the conversation. Mr. Brody’s statement in the Quest article doesn’t invoke a legal rationale–if there is one it ought be presented.

  22. auden lincoln-vogel says:

    While I think most people who have replied here (myself included) believe that none of these classes should have been canceled and, moreover, are unnerved by what seems to have been a rather slippery and opaque way of undermining student autonomy, I think it’s important to keep a couple things separate—that is, keep separate the different classes that were canceled. So far there’s been a lot of talk about the brewing class. If it’s indeed true that there is a legal issue with this class (i.e. that to teach such a class one needs a permit, age restrictions etc.) then, whatever your opinions are regarding such laws, this class is a different issue than the other classes, all of which were unquestionably legal. So, first off, a reminder: if we only pay attention to the brewing class or casually conflate these various classes we not only enter into a negotiation with the administration that should have always been one of the student body (i.e. legitimate this transgression simply by meeting the administration on its own terms and legitimating its agenda), but, furthermore, by making alcohol the central issue here we allow this one class to become a red herring for the entire debate (i.e. since legal issues are a serious instance in which the administration has the right to interfere) .

    However, “Put that in your Pipe and Smoke it” and “Adroit Anticipation of Awesome Altered Adventures 201” were unquestionably legal. I seem to remember the description of the former explicitly stating that only legal herbs would be smoked. Nor was the latter class to involve illegal substances. It was educational (which, might I add, is especially important when it comes to handling “Altered Adventures”—for oneself and those around; to censor this sort of information is also morally questionable—but that’s another debate).

    In short, if the brewing class indeed overstepped its bounds legally and we are forced to concede at least this, the cancelation of these other two classes is undoubtedly a different issue entirely: one of the administration encroaching on student autonomy through far from transparent or direct means. Though it is certainly after the fact by this point and it would have been far more noble (honorable?…or do we not want to go there yet?) for the administration to have engaged in direct discussion before unilaterally canceling classes, I hope that John Kroger, and/or other parties responsible for canceling the classes will respond to the incredulity of the student body resulting from this article. Hopefully such discussion will allow the administration and student body to mutually recognize their boundaries and, in the future, be more transparent in their interactions.

    • Emma Fredieu says:

      There’s been absolutely no evidence presented to suggest that teaching the basics of fermentation requires any sort of certification or verification of 21+ only attendees. The administration simply disapproved of the content of the classes, and probably didn’t want any sort of printed schedule or online record to become public.

      If someone can show me where the OLCC regulates private fermentation classes (not tastings, or classes that charge any sort of entrance fee), please speak up!

      • The notion that one might need some sort of permit to teach fermentation or distillation techniques is not merely preposterous, it is nonsensical.

        The Reed administration should consider the existence of programs like this and this.

        What a debacle. What an inauspicious start for President Kroger.

        • Alexey Merz '92 says:

          The December, 2012 issue of Reed magazine highlights “A Century of Great Books” by Reed authors. Among these is The Impoverished Students’ Book of Cookery, Drinkery, and Housekeepery, by Jay Rosenberg (’63). Amazon reviewers give it five stars, but of course the best place to get the book is at the Reed Bookstore. According to Reed magazine, the “book is still in print. Jay donated all royalties to the Rosenberg Cookbook Fund Scholarship at Reed and went on to write many books as a noted philosopher.”

          As you, gentle reader, may have guessed, and as this charming book’s title hints, there’s an entire chapter describing a simple and inexpensive recipe for home-brewed beer.

  23. Was this merely a “request?” If so, someone caved. Why?

    Stand for nothing and you’ll fall for anything, as Malcolm X reportedly said.

  24. Landon says:

    The Willamette Week is researching a story about this event. Given how the paper has covered Reed in the past, we should do our best not to give them any ammunition. Please comment in a manner that will reflect well upon the college and the student body (which is not at all to say stop talking about it, just be mindful that we’re having this debate in public). I say this as someone who was going to teach one of the cancelled classes, and as a proud Reedie.

  25. This little matter is assuredly a pre-trial hearing on whether the prosecutor’s illegally-obtained evidence can be used in his upcoming case against Renn Fayre.

  26. paulschwarzkopf says:

    are you there for a top notch education or just to fool around get with it and learn somthing besides how to roll your own and what’s great about drugs

  27. James D. Reid says:

    President Kroger is clearly fulfilling his function as figurehead, or at least effigy, of an institution: He’s teaching Reed students to engage in a robust insurgency. He has no idea how his Paideia putsch could spark a Renniassance of creative anarchism; but I have a deep and abiding faith, from what I’ve seen, that in a war of wits, he’s doomed if he militates this way against his constituency.
    -James D. Reid ’86

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