The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Bear Wilner-Nugent ‘95 Challenges Kroger to Debate Over Paideia Controversy

Criminal defense lawyer Bear Wilner-Nugent ‘95 challenged President John Kroger last month to a public debate on “Reed’s drug policies under the administration and how they do or do not relate to the US drug policy.” Wilner-Nugent, who has long been critical of Reed’s drug policy, issued the challenge after recent censorship of Paideia classes, hoping to make “Kroger think twice about the hornets’ nest he’s stirred up and maybe [have] a moment of personal growth where he can learn from this” as well as provide an additional, informed viewpoint to the discussion.

Kroger says he will probably not take up a debate challenge any time soon, though he may sit down to lunch with Wilner-Nugent. “Bear and I probably agree on more than I think he’s aware,” he says, adding, “I’m more into community conversations than one-on-one debates.”

Should Reed take the challenge seriously? Alumni board member Paul Levy ’72 does not know Wilner-Nugent but believes the challenge is “posturing” and an attempt to “raise his profile.” Former President of the alumni board Jay Hubert ’66 says Reed “needs a more open process, and I think Bear is trying to push for that, but I’m not sure he’s the best person” but that “ultimately what we need to see is a debate between [Kroger,] students and faculty.”

On the other hand, alumni board member Steven Seal ’01, who has worked with Wilner-Nugent professionally, sees him as an “expert on drug policy,” and believes that this is a “debate worth having” because the community would receive “actual figures on how dangerous [are] different types of drugs, including alcohol.” Wilner-Nugent wrote his senior thesis on drug law, was listed in Reed Magazine’s 2008 Volunteer Honor Roll, co-teaches his yearly Paideia class “The Law and Your Ass” and smokes meat at Renn Fayre.

Ideally, Wilner-Nugent hopes to have a Reed Union, with a panel consisting of him, a “student who has been active around these issues,” a “member of the Health and Counseling Center or a Psychology professor familiar with these issues,” President Kroger, Director of Community Safety Gary Granger, and Dean of Student Services Mike Brody. He would like to address the following topics in either this Reed Union or a public debate with John Kroger.

First, Wilner-Nugent would like to argue that “going after pot smokers” in response to the problems of harder drugs is an example of how Kroger “conflates marijuana with other drugs routinely” and misleadingly “employs public health rhetoric around it.”

He claims “Gary Granger wants to expel students for involvement with selling nonviolent drugs” and that “Reed is feeding its students to the criminal justice system.” (He declined to comment further due to “client issues.”) He would like to have Brody involved in the Reed Union because he “approves searches of student rooms.”

Wilner-Nugent critiques Reed’s strictly confidential judiciary system, calling it a process of “secret tribunals” where, for the marijuana cases, “the punishments are vastly more destructive than drugs,” and students are at a disadvantage due to their lack of legal resources compared to the college’s.

Ultimately, Wilner-Nugent advocates less unilateral decision-making on Kroger’s side as well as a more open environment where “without probable cause of felony students won’t be searched.” Furthermore, he believes that “Reed can set an example of how to have the most valid drug safety education,” but at present it is a “conservative college in a liberal climate.” He claims, “Reed has a drug policy that is ostensibly safety based, which is making the college less safe” since it engenders more secretive behaviors by students.

10 Responses to “Bear Wilner-Nugent ‘95 Challenges Kroger to Debate Over Paideia Controversy”
  1. Jordan Horowitz says:

    Can’t we just make Bear our president?

  2. Grizzly says:

    This would have been much more effective and interesting if Bear had challenged to debate Kroger in the nude. Bear knows a bit about being naked in public at Reed.

  3. Ruthanne Roussel '86 says:

    Well, as someone who graduated almost thirty years back, it doesn’t sit right with me when someone who graduated over forty years back starts accusing a mid-90′s alum whom he’s apparently never met of “posturing.” Bear may or may not be “trying to raise his profile,” he may or may not be the best person to take this debate forward, but I believe, based on personal acquaintance, that he is very sincere and very smart. Like most Reedies. Alums, including those on the Board, PLEASE let’s keep in mind that this conversation is primarily by and for current students.

  4. Gary says:

    I want to compliment the Quest on continuing coverage of what is clearly an important issue to us all. I would also like to point out that Bear really doesn’t know what I want. I respect Bear’s passion and intellect–and I think it’s important to point out that, while Bear and I have met in passing at Renn Fayres past, we have never had a conversation about what I may or may not want regarding AOD on campus. As I’ve posted before, I welcome meetings with anyone in the Reed community, including alumni, who have ideas, concerns, or who just want to have an exchange of ideas on the subject of AOD at Reed. I extend this offer to Bear so that he can hear what I think first-hand.

    I also respectfully ask that the Quest consider offering me an opportunity to comment on reports that carry attributions related to me before they go to print. It might have been informative for readers to have had a chance to read what I “want” on these issues.

    Gary Granger, Community Safety Director

  5. Bear Wilner-Nugent says:

    Gary, I am not going to answer you in public because of client confidentiality issues that we both know about. Please check your email.

  6. Vox Clamantis '77 says:

    If there are room searches and confiscations for minor violations ( < 1oz. marijuana) then students will move off-campus or more likely choose not to attend Reed in the first place. There will be no community left at Reed to protect. Dealing drugs is a whole other matter. Most colleges just expel students without involving the police. Reed's policy of involving the police but not expelling students may be a better way to go.

  7. Bear Wilner-Nugent '95 says:

    Sadly, they both involve the police and expel students.

  8. Jon Gilbert '03 says:

    People, people. Clearly we wouldn’t have this problem if Oregon voters were Washington or Colorado voters. Perhaps instead of going after Kroger, whose CV alone would have told you what to expect from him, how about organizing a legitimate campaign to legalize marijuana and change the drinking age to 18 (which would still be high compared to most countries)? Clearly pot laws are barely enforced and anyone who wants to smoke weed in their back yard or living room has no issues with search and seizure. And college kids almost all drink. How about, as a society, we make our laws sane? Put it on the ballot and make a decent campaign of it. Jeez.

    Or, debate Kroger about why Reed has to enforce drug policies and quickly learn about the MIT settlement and the cascade of liability-fear-driven BS that flowed forth like an avalanch of John Ashcrofts taped to the backs of sharks.

  9. means that Oregon is much more likely to legalize marijuana than lower the drinking age to 18, but what MIT settlement are you referring to, Jon?

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