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Defending the Citadel

In 1961 the first thesis parade from the library to the registrar’s office is organized. The following year, the Columbus Day Storm wreaks havoc on campus, destroying many trees in the campus’s original stand of Douglas Fir and causing damage to Eliot Hall.

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Reflecting a national phenomenon of expansion in higher education due to the baby boom and government funding during the Cold War, Reed’s enrollment in the mid-sixties increases to over 1,000 students. More cross canyon dorms are built and two dozen faculty members are added to accommodate the growth and maintain Reed’s 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. A new commons dining hall and sports center are constructed.

To help meet the shortage of teachers in the country during the Cold War, Reed establishes a Masters of Teaching program in 1959 for secondary school teachers. The program, which runs until 1979, is expanded in 1966 to include a master of arts in liberal studies, initially for teachers wishing to continue their studies. In 1963, citing the lack of a graduate school in Portland and substantial federal support for university-level institutions, President Sullivan and the trustees initiate the development of a full graduate program at Reed. A lack of sufficient funding and faculty support, and a sudden college deficit arising from a shift in government and foundation funding, defeat the initiative, as well as a performing arts center slated for development. To help address the deficit, the student-to-faculty ratio is officially raised to 12:1, and student enrollment is rapidly increased, reaching more than thirteen hundred students in 1969. After eleven years of service, President Sullivan leaves Reed in 1967.

A research reactor is built in 1968, providing students and faculty with a neutron source to perform biology, chemistry, and physics research. It is the only research reactor in the world operated primarily by undergraduate students, under the supervision of chemistry professor Arthur Scott.

Reed’s core curriculum is challenged in the late sixties by a group of younger faculty members, igniting a debate that grows increasingly contentious. Victor G. Rosenblum is appointed president in 1968, and faces a campus embroiled in an intense struggle over the humanities program, the requirement structure, and the college’s mission. In the midst of this internal battle and the general social unrest on college campuses, Reed’s attrition rate rises.

The first Renaissance Fair & May Festival (later renamed Renn Fayre) is held in 1968, and Paideia—a period between first and second-semester classes of seminars and workshops taught by students, faculty, and staff members for noncredit—is inaugurated the following winter. Rules about intervisitation between men and women in their gender-segregated dorms and requiring women to sign out of their dorms in the evenings disappear. Dance courses are offered for the first time, and in 1969 the old student union building, having served as the Reed Theatre for several years, burns down.

Reed applies for support from the Rockefeller Foundation to recruit underrepresented students. Students recruited to Reed through the program establish Reed’s first Black Student Union in the late sixties. In 1969, students demanding a black studies program—and stipulating that its curriculum and professors must be overseen by the Black Student Union—blockade themselves in Eliot Hall for a week. Caught between the concerns of the students and the anxieties of the faculty, the faculty approves a resolution to create a black studies program, with the condition that it be governed by accepted academic procedures. The program, although never fully integrated, runs until 1976.