Campus Free Speech

Reed College Trains RAs to Recognize Covert White Supremacy. Examples: 'Colorblindness' and 'Assuming Good Intentions Are Enough.'

"It's provocative, and that was the intention."


Another Believer / Wikimedia Commons

Students who wish to become housing assistants at Reed College must undergo training to identify overt and covert white supremacy. A handout used in the January seminar lists examples of both: Overt white supremacy concerns obviously racist things such as racial slurs, hate crimes, and using the n-word, whereas covert white supremacy consists of a much broader and more baffling spectrum of behaviors, including "assuming that good intentions are enough," engaging in "cultural appropriation," expecting people of color "to teach white people," being a "self-appointed white ally," and of course, use of the phrase "Make America Great Again."

It's this last inclusion that drew the attention of The College Fix. But whether or not MAGA should be considered always and automatically an example of racism, there are enough questionable inclusions to make a reasonable person wonder about this list.

As it turns out, the list was not created by Reed College. A staffer at the college's Office for Inclusive Community found it on the internet and printed it off.

"It's provocative, and that was the intention, to present the RAs with something provocative and spur a conversation about the difference between implicit bias versus explicit bias," Kevin Myers, a spokesperson for Reed College, told The College Fix.

Note that this conversation did not take place inside a classroom—it took place in a training seminar for student resident advisors and housing staff. This is concerning; as part of a course's curriculum, one might reasonably expect this information to be presented by an academic expert on white supremacy, and the subsequent discussion to contain some nuance and room for disagreement. The Office for Inclusive Community, on the other hand, is an activist bureaucracy. What free speech assurances are there for students entering an administrative training program?

When I talk about campus free speech issues in the context of my forthcoming book, Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (pre-order here), I'm often asked whether I think the faculty are indoctrinating the students. People are usually surprised to learn that the greater dangers to intellectual diversity and freedom of expression may be coming from the administration, and this Reed College seminar is an excellent example of why that's the case.