Monday, May 19, 2008

Drugs at Reed, M'Kay?

In the first chapter his 1989 book Choosing a College, Thomas Sowell recycled what was already a rather shopworn insight about Reed College:

A student who would love Reed College would probably be miserable at Brigham Young University, and vice versa (among numerous differences, it is easier to get cocaine at Reed College than it is to get Coca-Cola at BYU).
In 1989, I was attending Reed College and I would have agreed with Sowell on one thing: I had no desire to trade being neck-deep in cocaine-addled trust-fund hippy classics majors for being surrounded by caffeine-abstinent Mormon finance majors, and I don't remember any incoming transfers from BYU. In my own case, this would have had nothing to do with the relative degrees of difficulty in obtaining the two kinds of coke, but close enough.

I would like to report that Sowell's insight made a splash on campus, vaulting the libertine excesses of the Reed Ethos® into the spotlight of the then-raging Kulturkampf over Reagan-era drug prohibitions, but I would prefer to report the truth of the matter, which is that we were all too wiped out on cocaine to notice if Reed's tolerance of drug use did vault it into the public consciousness, news of this fact failed to reach campus. And rest assured I would have noticed, as Reed's navel-gazing is such that any mention of Reed that doesn't originate there instantly becomes the Most Interesting Topic of Conversation on Campus (excluding, of course, where to score cocaine).

With that ancient history now pressed into blog form, I finally get to why I bothered to bring it up: Portland's Willamette Week has devoted its most recent cover story to re-rehashing Sowell's rehash:
Reed College ... is one of the last schools in the country where students enjoy almost unlimited freedom to experiment openly with drugs, with little or no hassles from authorities.
Just say oh noes!!1! The WW article wrings its hands about the fact that few Reedies are sent off to hard labor for their crimes, frets over whether students there are pressured into purchasing cocaine from vending machines (answer: no, not then and not now), and cites the awful but few apposite tragedies.

Um, slow news week?

Don't do drugs, m'kay? Drugs are bad, m'kay?


Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Yah, well.

The fiction of Reed being a place of sybaritic excess are just so neat and Keep-Portland-Weird-y that it's going to be impossible to give up; the fact that Dr. Demento (who, I understand, drug users absolutely lurve (and being a user of both caffeine on a daily basis as well as, occasionally, alcohol, I am, so there ya go)) went to Reed kind of burnishes that.

Of course, on my economic strata the only thing I can really afford about Reed is to drive past it on Woodstock Blvd or SE 28th Avenue, so that's me for you.

I notice they have trees there. That's awesome!

Dale said...

Be careful of the trees -- they charge for touching those, or for looking at them for more than a 'reasonable period of time.'

A low price leader, it ain't. I could never have afforded without loads of aid from Uncle Sucker. Heck, it would be a stretch to say I afforded it even with Uncle Sucker.

Domestically Challenged said...

Wait, wait, wait!!! I am sooo confuzled. Since when do hippy types do coke??? I have never known a hippy to do coke, it just makes no sense! It's like, counterproductive to their hippyness.

Herbage, shrooms, peyote, LSD and maybe if they are really stupid, a bit of the big, evil H. But coke? That's for yuppies and frat parties!

BTW,I have a couple friends who went to BYU. Not only did they do quite a bit of coke in their day, but they had copious amounts of lesbian sex... on campus! So, take that BYU!

Dale said...

DC, I had the same reaction ... cocaine? I never saw any of that at Reed. I saw plenty else, but not that.

Not that I was looking!!! Drugs are bad, m'kay?

Wow, BYU is more interesting than I thought.