Reed College

Reed College, named after Oregon pioneers Simeon Gannett Reed and Amanda Reed, is a private liberal arts college located in the Eastmoreland neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. The school is known for its intense academic focus and liberal political views.

Sitting on 116 acres of land in southeast Portland, Reed College was founded in 1908 as part of the last wishes of the Reed family, who wanted to provide a permanent source of enrichment to the city and its inhabitants. The campus was built on an area known in the early 1900s as Crystal Springs Farm and included Reed College Canyon, a wooded wetland designated as a national wildlife preserve.

Reed College Canyon roughly divides the campus into two main sections, one for its on-campus housing halls and the other for its academic facilities. Blue Bridge starts near Chittick residence hall and terminates on the opposite side of the canyon in front of Eliot Hall. It is a well-recognized landmark of Reed College and a common meeting point for students.

Reed College is known for its non-religious affiliation and emphasis on egalitarian principles, as well as its notable absence of varsity athletics and fraternities. The college gravitates towards academics and intellectual endeavors, referred to as “the life of the mind.” Indeed, Reed is known for producing a large number of PhDs, only behind Caltech and Harvey Mudd. It produced 32 Rhodes scholars, arguably the most prestigious international scholarship in the world, making it the second-best liberal arts school in the nation in that regard.

The school is unique academically on several fronts, one of which is its lack of an actual letter grading system. Although grades are recorded for each student by the registrar, they are not given actual letter grades as long as they perform at a “C” level or above. Exams and papers, while receiving extensive comments, are usually not returned with a traditionally marked grade either. All undergraduate students are also required to complete a thesis in their senior year, and can only begin their final year by passing a junior qualifying exam in their junior year.

As hard as “Reedies” work in the classroom, they also know how to enjoy downtime. Reed’s campus has three coffee shops, two of which are student-run. The first student-run shop to open was The Paradox. The Paradox also has an affiliate store on campus, known as the “Paradox Lost,” near the biology building in an area referred to as the “Bio Fishbowl.” Bon Appétit Management Company runs the third coffee shop, initially called “Cafe Paradiso.” The name changed to Caffe Circo after the installation of a circus-themed mural at the cafe.

Reed College also hosts a three-day celebration every year, called the Renn Fayre, which celebrates the completion of the senior classes’ senior theses. The Renn Fayre can trace its roots back to 1961, which was the first year that the senior class decided to have an organized thesis parade. The parade continued without an attached party until 1967 when the students had a celebration entitled “St. Cecilia’s Day Festival of the Arts.” (7) This festival continued to change in size and scope until it became the modern-day Renn Fayre.

The liberal arts school is also one of the few places of higher learning that openly opposes college ranking systems. It was the first educational institution to fail to take part in U.S. News & World Report’s “best college” rankings in 1995, stating that other schools manipulated the data used to create the rankings. Even today, U.S News & World Report and Reed seem to be at odds with each other. Reed claims that the media company purposely ranks Reed lower due to its failure to cooperate. Earlier this year, Reed students reverse-engineered U.S News & World Report’s ranking system, providing strong evidence that the former fact is actual. Reed students Bailee Cruger, Huaying Qiu, and Wenxin Du showed the college should rank 38th, rather than their current position of 90th, using a system of formulas very similar to that of U.S News & World Report.

Next Up: Bagdad Theatre & Pub



Geni: Simeon Reed Jr. Oral history timeline

Wikipedia: Reed College

US News: Reed College Awards

Reed the Grail: The Complete History of Renn Fayre