College divestment protesters set their eyes on a new target

Turning our attention back to the college protest scene, we’re once again reminded of all the activity taking place at Reed College in Oregon. Some of the students there have been quite busy of late, but not because they’re cracking the books. A group of nearly fifty of them have set up camp in the administrative offices of the school for more than a week. And when I say set up camp I mean it literally. They’ve actually pitched tents in the waiting room and hallway outside of the school president’s office.

Who they are and what they are doing is made clear in this report from Oregon Live. The students are part of a group called Reedies Against Racism. Among their many demands, the students want the school to divest its endowment from unapproved entities. Normally we see liberal students calling for divestment from Israel or fossil fuel companies, but this time the target is Wells Fargo.

A rotating group of around 40 or 50 students at Reed College have been camped out in an administration building for nine days, demanding the the college divest from Wells Fargo. And the college is, largely, supporting the effort.

“It’s our job to disrupt oppressive systems,” Tiffany Chang, a sophomore, said Tuesday.

Chang is one of the students who has been occupying the president’s office. She’s been there, along with other members of a group called Reedies Against Racism, for over a week. The students have actually pitched tents in the offices and hallways of Eliot Hall.

Chang says she is still attending class during the protest. It’s more of a revolving occupation — students take breaks to get food or go to class and other students take over.

Now, there’s plenty of reasons to be upset with Wells Fargo, particularly if you were among the millions who were hit by that fake account scandal they’ve been fighting for the past year. But that’s not what’s got the Reedies up in arms. They are claiming that Wells Fargo, “funds racism in the form of things like oil pipelines and immigration detention centers.”

So now pipelines and buildings used by federal authorities to detain criminals are… racist. Okay then.

The strange part of the story is that the college administration is not only tolerating this but seeming to encourage it. They’ve tried to explain to the students that the board of trustees needs to meet and vote on such decisions but they don’t seem to be listening. The one student who claimed that it was “her job to disrupt oppressive systems” said that the students should make the decision and the school should be able to divest without waiting around for the board to act.

First of all, your “job” is to get an education. And second, that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. The investments the school makes for their endowment have to provide a good return on investment so they can keep the place running. Wells Fargo is a proven performer and is likely in the portfolio of most of the colleges around the country.

It’s also worth pointing out that regular readers may recall that this isn’t the first story coming out of Reed College in recent weeks. The group mentioned above is the same one which Reed English and Humanities professor Dr. Lucía Martínez Valdivia was complaining about in a recent op-ed. The Reedies were the folks who shouted down lectures that she took part in and caused the disruption of the Basic Humanities course she teaches because, the syllabus for the class is too white, male and Eurocentric. (For those not keeping score at home, that means they don’t like it because they have to learn about Plato, Socrates and other old white guys.)

Best of luck to Reed College. You at least have a few professors who retain some sort of grip on reality. Sadly, the college president seems to not be among their ranks so you may be doomed after all.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022