Reed Students Occupy Admin Building for Second Day Seeking Ouster of Professor Caught Racially Profiling Workers on TikTok

Paul Currie, a member of the psychology faculty, harangued drive-thru employees.

Hundreds of Reed College students occupied the school’s administration building Thursday, their second day of pressing president Audrey Bilger to fire a psychology professor who was caught on video demanding to know if a drive-thru employee was born in the United States.

On his webpage, Paul J. Currie, a tenured professor on sabbatical, says his areas of expertise include neuropharmacology, drug-receptor interactions, and “drugs of abuse.”

The video captures only part of what appears to be a longer exchange. Currie asks about the narrator’s birthplace and then asks if her “rude colleague was born in the United States.”

Students began their occupation of the third floor of Eliot Hall yesterday. Today, starting at 11 am, hundreds of students sat in the long hall outside Bilger’s office beneath walls scrawled with anti-racist graffiti. A Mexican flag hung on the wall beside the door to Bilger’s office. Student organizers had stocked a nearby room with water, hot cocoa, and Kind bars.

There appeared to be between 250 and 350 students in the hallway and up the stairs. Reed enrolls 1,566 students, according to the school’s website.

None of the students were willing to go on the record or to be photographed, saying that right-wing activists had already begun doxxing them, publishing their personal information on the internet with malicious intent.

“My parents are immigrants,” one student, a junior, said. “I’m a first-generation American, and I’ve heard people talk to my parents this way my whole life. It’s a slap in the face to hear the same thing from a member of the Reed faculty. I’m disgusted.”

Reed administrators say the matter has their “full attention.”

“We are aware of a video circulating that shows Reed College Professor Paul Currie making offensive and racist comments at a local business,” Reed spokeswoman Mary Keister said in an email. “The behavior displayed in the video is antithetical to what we believe and value as a college. We are following Reed’s governance processes for investigating complaints about faculty behavior, including complaints about discriminatory harassment and unprofessional conduct, and have initiated the process of examining this conduct to determine next steps.”

Currie apologized to students, faculty and staff in an email.

“I’m reaching out regarding a video in which I recently exhibited reprehensible behavior at a local business in Portland,” Currie wrote. “I know I have deeply offended you and for that I am truly sorry. There is no excuse to ever engage in offensive and discriminatory behavior and I accept full responsibility for my actions. I understand that I must work hard to restore your faith in me.”

In an attempt to defuse the situation, Bilger and her staff invited students to a meeting on April 6, to “reflect on and share the impact of recent events—and to discuss systemic issues impeding our campus efforts,” according to an email to students.

“We are grateful for the steady work of the Office for Institutional Diversity, Reed committees on diversity, and other groups on campus that inform the steps we have taken, and will take, to build community, support all community members, and create a climate that is safe and welcoming,” the email said. “Gatherings with our faculty and staff Affinity Groups will also be arranged.”

Reed students say the administration isn’t doing enough. They say Bilger must fire Currie.

“Actions speak louder than words,” read a message inked on the Eliot Hall walls. “Fire Paul.”

“The way that administration at Reed has been dealing with this is very dismissive and invalidating to the experiences of immigrants and non-white students at Reed,” an Asian American junior said. “It’s being treated as an isolated incident. I believe this is part of a bigger issue within the institution itself and the racism that it encourages, protects and perpetuates.”

Reed officials said they are investigating the matter and will make a determination in time. “I am asking the Committee on Advancement and Tenure (CAT), a committee composed of elected tenured faculty members, to formally begin the process of investigating and determining appropriate next steps as it relates to this faculty member’s position on the Reed faculty,” Kathryn C. Oleson, dean of the faculty and professor of psychology, wrote in an email to students, staff and faculty.

On social media, discussion of the protest shifted to whether news organizations are shirking their duty by not publishing pictures of the protests. Right-wing author Andy Ngo criticized Reed student newspaper The Quest for taking down photos it had published on Twitter.

“We have deleted tweets which contained images of Eliot Hall protestors,” The Quest tweeted. “We apologize for posting the images and putting community-members at risk, and will do better in the future. We condemn anyone who would seek to identify and harm those in the images.”

Ngo responded saying: “Independent media outlet deletes photographic coverage of far-left vandals & occupiers at @Reed_College_ to hide the record. This is ideological propaganda masquerading as journalism and safetyism, and needs to be condemned.”

Currie’s encounter appeared to be heading toward violence before the video ended. In the midst of the conversation with the drive-thru employee, another person comes around to Currie’s passenger window and tells Currie that if he is asking questions about his race, he was going to “break all of your motherf*cking windows, alright?”

”Oh really, so now you’re threatening me,” Currie responds.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that The Oregonian had deleted pictures of students and apologized for printing them. The paper that did that was the The Quest, the student newspaper at Reed College. Willamette Week regrets the error.