Tensions between students opposing a required course at Reed College and students who just want to learn the material are causing a rift as freshmen join together to criticize a protest movement that started last academic year.
In an article published Thursday, The Atlantic exposed cracks spreading through the student body through dozens of interviews with students growing more bold about opposing the anti-racism and anti-fascism protests that have been disrupting classes.
"There was very much a standard opinion you had to have, otherwise people would look at you funny, and some people would say stuff to you—a lot of people were called 'race traitors,'" a sophomore from India told The Atlantic.
For more than a year, a group of activist students called Reedies Against Racism has held sit-ins at Humanities 110 lectures, criticizing the syllabus for being too Eurocentric and lacking diversity among the authors of works taught. The course covers several works widely considered foundational, including The Epic of Gilgamesh and other pieces of early literature from from the ancient Mediterranean, Mesopotamian, Persian, and Egyptian regions.
The targets of student outrage expanded to include a professor's T-shirt and Steve Martin's "King Tut" sketch on Saturday Night Live, both of which were decried as cultural appropriation.
But not everyone agrees with the critiques or protest strategy of Reedies Against Racism. A black student in the front row stood up in class this year when professors clashed with protesters.
"This is a classroom! This is not the place! Right now we are trying to learn! We're the freshman students!" he said.