More Evergreen-like shenanigans at Reed College: students disrupt required humanities class because it “perpetuates white supremacy”

This October 27 article in the Washington Post, “Professors like me can’t stay silent about this extremist movement on campuses,” is doubly surprising. First, it’s in the Washington Post, and mainstream media tend to shy away from reporting about the craziness of identity politics and student entitlement on American campuses. The second surprise is that it’s written by Lucia Martinez Valdivia, who is an assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College in Oregon—the very college whose students she criticizes in her piece. I fear she’ll go the way of Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying.

Reed College is like a high-class Evergreen State: it’s free-form (no grades are given), located in the Pacific Northwest, and full of radicals. The difference is in the academic rigor: while Evergreen State has an acceptance rate of 97%, so that it takes nearly anyone who applies and is breathing, Reed (a private school) accepts only 39% of applicants. Further, unlike Evergreen State, Reed has a long history of producing accomplished students. As Wikipedia notes,

Reed is known for its academic rigor, mandatory freshman humanities program, senior thesis, and unusually high proportion of graduates who go on to earn doctorates and other postgraduate degrees. The college has many prominent alumni, including over a hundred Fulbright Scholars, 67 Watson Fellows, 3 Winston Churchill Scholars, and 32 Rhodes Scholars—the second-highest number of any liberal arts college. Reed is ranked number four in the U.S. of all colleges for the percentage of its graduates who go on to earn a PhD.

But never mind about that, for Reed is located in the epicenter of Student Entitlement (and of Antifa): Portland, Oregon. And Dr. Valvida has written a plaintive piece for the Post about what she faced at Reed when she tried to teach a required freshman (first-year) humanities course centered on the Mediterranean. The entitled students tried to shut the class down on the grounds that it “centered whiteness” and “perpetuated white supremacy” (never mind that Valvida describes herself as an “untenured, gay, mixed-race woman with PTSD”).  Have a gander:

At Reed College in Oregon, where I work, a group of students began protesting the required first-year humanities course a year ago. Three times a week, students sat in the lecture space holding signs — many too obscene to be printed here — condemning the course and its faculty as white supremacists, as anti-black, as not open to dialogue and criticism, on the grounds that we continue to teach, among many other things, Aristotle and Plato.

In the interest of supporting dissent and the free exchange of ideas, the faculty and administration allowed this. Those who felt able to do so lectured surrounded by those signs for the better part of a year. I lectured, but dealt with physical anxiety — lack of sleep, nausea, loss of appetite, inability to focus — in the weeks leading up to my lecture. Instead of walking around or standing at the lectern, as I typically do, I sat as I tried to teach students how to read the poetry of Sappho. Inadvertently, I spoke more quietly, more timidly.

Then came the first lecture of 2017, which the students shut down (see a longer description at Inside Higher Education (IHE):

. . . . We introduced ourselves and took our seats. But as we were about to begin, the protesters seized our microphones, stood in front of us and shut down the lecture.

The Humanities professors present then just walked out. Here’s a short video of the disruption. As the group of humanities professors sit down, the whiners come forward. The faculty then walks out, and good for them!


Remember that the course, Humanities 110, concentrates on the Ancient Mediterranean, which according to Authoritarian Leftists was both mixed race and multicutural (I’m not going to enter that debate). Nevertheless, it was stopped because, after all, the Epic of Gilgamesh led directly to Hitler. (What Professor Valvida was going to say is posted here.) The next lecture, on that Epic of Gilgamesh—from Mesopotamia—was also shut down.

Valvida’s post goes on to call for students to listen and “say yes to the text”, by which she means “read in good faith and try to understand the texts’ distance their strangeness, from our historical moment.” She calls for empathy and for students trying to “understand positions that aren’t ours and the points of view of people who aren’t us.”

Sadly, that’s going to fall on deaf ears at Reed. While the faculty may be on Valvida’s side, the students will demonize her from now on. In other words, she’s toast. And the students, of course, will be deprived of the chance to learn anything that they don’t see as ideologically compatible. Of course the students deserve to be (and will be) exposed to a huge variety of viewpoints at Reed, in courses and elsewhere. But no group of students has the right to determine what they are taught. Their feedback is welcome, but not their disruption. Can you imagine what would ensue if the students, as they seem to want, designed the curriculum?

Videos like the above are only going to make parents less likely to send their children to Reed, and that’s a damn shame because it’s a good school.  But if the College doesn’t stop this, they’ll eventually get what they deserve.

I wonder how many students in the audience were like, “WTF? I came here to learn something!” Judging by the applause at the end, not as many as I’d hoped.


  1. yazikus
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Further, unlike Evergreen State, Reed has a long history of producing accomplished students.

    Dear PCC,

    I know you’ve got rather a beef with Evergeen (and it seems the PNW in general), but that statement isn’t true.

    And in defense of PDX, though they have their share of anarchists, the locals usually just clean up their messes. Friends of mine describe watching the antifa folks pull out newspaper boxes into the street, followed by PDXers who would put them right back.

    • Posted October 29, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      All I can say in response is that I’ve met a lot of biologists who went to Reed, and never one who went to Evergreen state. Is your issue with my statement that Reed hasn’t produced many accomplished students, or that Evergreen has, given its longevity (50 yrs vs 109 yrs for Reed) and student output, produced at least as distinguished a group of graduates? If so, please weight the output by student/years and support whichever claim you’re making.

      I’m not sure what PDX is, but Portland certainly is the epicenter of antifa activity in the US: see here, where Politico calls Portland the U.S.’s “most politically violent city”.

      Of course I have a beef with Evergreen; the behavior of the students and faculty has, by and large, been reprehensible. It’s not a bias; it occurred because of what happened there last year. And no, I love the Pacific Northwest; what on earth makes you think I have a beef with that part of the country?

      • Posted October 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Evergreen State has probably not produced many world-class scientists, but it did produce Matt Groening and Macklemore.

        • BJ
          Posted October 29, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          Only one of those people is valuable 😉

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted October 29, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        As a Portlander I am compelled to respond.

        PDX is the designation of Portland International Airport but has become a short form for the city as well.

        The Oregon State Constitution is generally considered to have the most liberal free speech laws in the entire country and yes, Portland and Eugene alone turn the state blue come election time. This liberal position on speech results in a lot more peaceful protest than your average American city. One of the things we love about the place.

        Portland tries very hard to accommodate protests of all kinds – including trouble makers from other cities who come her for that very reason. Our police have bent over backwards at times to not escalate trouble unlike many other cities. I can speak to this from personal experience at several of these events.

        Most of the ‘violence’ that has been reported in the national media represents the actions of a literal handful of people. Some are antifa and some are just assholes. To give one example reported nationally, about 4000 protesters marched downtown without incident while 9 (they have the video) asshats broke windows and vandalized cars.

        As a not infrequent participant in the Portland protest scene, I’m concerned about how we are being inaccurately portrayed.

        • Posted October 29, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

          I live in Seattle, but I totally love Portland. Seattle has its assets, but you can’t beat Portland’s free thinking, free speech vibe.

          Keep Portland weird! Ain’t it weird that the folks in Trump land think they’re the normal ones?

          • yazikus
            Posted October 29, 2017 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

            Indeed! I love Portland. Seattle is great too (less the traffic).

      • yazikus
        Posted October 29, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

        Apologies for my delayed response. The first was eaten either by my slow internet or some other mystery. As others have handled the Portland/PDX question, I’ll move on to the Reed vs. Evergreen: which is to say, it isn’t a fair comparison. Reed is an expensive private school, Evergreen is a state school with a mission to reach many types of students. One might sneer at their acceptance rate, but if a student who didn’t (for whatever reason) do well in high school, but wants to attend college at some point, should they not be able to? Is a state school not the right place for that? Evergreen also has a large amount of neurological diversity, with students whose learning needs might not be met by another school. Painting the entire student body, and faculty with a broad and very harsh brush seems unnecessary. Yes, students misbehaved. Yes, the admin didn’t handle it properly. Does that invalidate all of the other work done by students and faculty? I can think of a few faculty members (in the sciences!) I think you’d enjoy speaking to. Feel free to email me if you are interested.

        I’ll stand corrected on your feelings about our lovely PNW, of which I am very biased about and fond.

        • biz
          Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

          “but if a student who didn’t (for whatever reason) do well in high school, but wants to attend college at some point, should they not be able to?”

          If a student did not do well in high school and does not have another indicator that they are ready for real college level work such as a high SAT score, then no, they should not be able to attend a four year college. That would defeat the whole purpose of higher education. The person should possibly have the option of proving themselves at a two year community college and then re-applying.

          Evergreen and its 98% acceptance rate makes a mockery of the concept of higher education. We already have a stage of education that is universal and accepts all comers – it is called high school.

          • yazikus
            Posted October 30, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

            You should look up the stats, you may be surprised. TESC has a large number of transfer and non-traditional students, who have, as you put it ‘proved themselves at a two year college’ before applying. The average gpa of a transfer student (in 2016) was 3.05 – not terrible. 30% of students are first generation students. 12% have documented disabilities. Over half are beneath the federal poverty level. TESC is serving a student population that is somewhat different than other traditional schools, and that is what it was set up to do.

            With a student body of under 4,000, not that many are applying to start with. I don’t favor the idea of shutting the doors of academia to those who want to learn. If the only students you’d want to see in college were those with high SAT scores, we’ll just have to disagree.

            • biz
              Posted October 31, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

              The SAT is designed to measure readiness for, and is a good predictor of success in, college. Therefore, yes, absolutely I think that college should only be for those with high SAT scores, or some other indicator that they are likely to succeed in, or benefit from, a higher education.

              The idea that most people should be going to college is one of the most destructive and ridiculous that our society has had.

              To the extent that Evergreen gets some worthwhile transfer students good on them, but that 98% acceptance rate tells me that they are admitting way too many people, transfer or not, who should not be in college.

    • ploubere
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Jerry provided sources for his statements, do you have some to support your counter-claim?

      And quite few of the commenters here have a beef with Evergreen, as do I, on the basis that students disrupting classes, condemning, bullying and intimidating anyone who doesn’t fall within their narrow idealogical beliefs, sometimes physically, are displaying their own ignorance and preventing others from having an educational experience.

      And yeah, I don’t know what PDX is, but if they promote anarchy, they’re not helping either.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Steve Jobs went to Reed. He dropped out.

      • Chris Lang
        Posted October 29, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        If I’m not mistaken, Jobs dropped out at the end of his first year because he didn’t want his parents to pay his tuition. He was allowed to hang around and do informal audits of courses. One course he apparently enjoyed was calligraphy. This eventually inspired the design of the Macintosh, which included beautiful fonts.

      • yazikus
        Posted October 29, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        So did the late Taleisin Myrddin Namkai-Meche. He was murdered on the MAX in Portland after standing up to a violent white supremacist who was harassing some Muslim teenage girls.

  2. Liz
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    No grades are given? Maybe that’s part of the problem.

    • yazikus
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      If it is the same system as Evergreen, you get evaluations and you lose your credits for poor work. No skating by with a dismal grade as you can in a traditional school.

      • Taz
        Posted October 29, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        Students can fail under both systems, and the degree to which students are permitted to “skate by” depends on the standards of each institution, which vary a great deal. I’m not particularly impressed by Evergreen’s standards.

    • Chris Lang
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Students do get grades at Reed. But by custom, they’re not told their grades unless they’re in academic trouble. Students who want to know their grades can always go to the Registrar and ask. Reed actually has fairly rigorous grading–less grade inflation than at many other selective colleges.

  3. Chemist
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Just imagine the world run by the thinking this piece represents. How these students will function in the working world, where expectations are laid out & met or you’re directed to exit? the movie Idiocracy comes to mind.

    Do they expect that reality won’t assert itself on their special view? I have 2 university students in my family & they are grounded in reality & roll their eyes at this nonsense. I’m not sure how I would deal with students described in this piece.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    If that had been done in any schools I attended, the police would have been called to remove any who disrupted a class. Hopefully, then been booked on disrupting the peace or other laws. The demonstrators would be removed and maybe never to return. But more importantly, this would not happen. The fact that this goes on is simply nonsense.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I cannot understand that disrupting a class – as opposed to demonstrate on a non-threatening distance from the building – is considered “free speech”.

      Especially considering the – now reported by Valdivia – “fight-or-flee” response of participants! I suspect it would have been a job health – and likely security, however non-violent the protests were – issue right off the bat here in Sweden.

  5. alexandra Moffat
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Re-education camps? Is that what these young stalinists want? Seems like. The ones who come out of this brain stupor are going to be SOOOO embarrassed someday.
    Too bad that such energy is not going in to getting rid of nuclear weapons…..

  6. Historian
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting that in the posted lecture Lucía Martinez Valdivia describes herself as an atheist. This was omitted from her quote in the Washington Post article, although in both places she stated she is gay. Perhaps she thought that mentioning she is an atheist would lose her national support. If so, that is a shame. Atheists should not be afraid to state that they stand for reason, rationality and evidence

    • Craw
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      I think on such campuses you must absolutely be afraid if you stand for reason, rationality, and evidence.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Wow and to think the Ancient world was anything but “white”. Back then the whites of Northern Europe were engaging in Guerilla warfare and living in small tribal groups. When they did come into contact with the Mediterranean cultures it usually resulted in assimilation of ideas but in many cases also death and enslavement for the white people.

    It’s too bad because during my Classical education I learned how similar but how truly foreign those cultures, separated in space and time, were to mine and I think that taught me a lot. But identify politics isn’t about empathy and understanding different cultures, it’s about disconnection and separation.

    • ploubere
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. When immigrants from Mediterranean countries arrived in the U.S. in the previous two centuries, they were often discriminated against and treated as minorities. So these ignorant children should welcome studying the origins of these oppressed groups.

    • Craw
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      The blend of continuity and strangeness is fascinating, and as you say, it’s valuable to confront it. A prejudice against the past is the easiest prejudice to hold and an insidious one. Confronting it is important to learning how to asses your own judgment and biases. And these protesters resolutely refuse to do any such thing. My bet is their thinking is a mess of unexamined presuppositions, emotional biases, and ignorance. In other words, deeply prejudiced.

  8. Posted October 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    This is from the course description of the Humanities 110 course.
    “Recognizing that no culture is self-contained, we seek as well to interpret ancient sources as artifacts of cultural exchange, influence, and differentiation. For example, we might consider how materials from ancient Athens intersect and diverge from one another in their reflections on democracy, empire, gender, race, or class, while also considering how these materials compare with those of Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Israelite, Hellenistic, Jewish, Roman, or early Christian cultures. In doing so, we will encounter issues of continuing relevance pertaining to ideals of truth, beauty, virtue, justice, happiness, and freedom, as well as challenges posed by social inequality, war, power, and prejudice.”
    Wow. Those kids are social justice heroes (not).

    • Posted October 30, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      It sounds like the exact sort of course that a sane multiculturalist, etc. would want!

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Well, good luck to Dr. Valvida. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is labeled a white supremacist. As for Reed, and other schools out there, it has a duty to allow students to learn, and it should not tolerate either a small number of students or a large number stopping that.

  10. Posted October 29, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Reed was my first teaching job (1969-1972). It already had a liberal reputation, but we definitely gave grades (with high standards) and, I hope, would not have tolerated disruption of classes. There was a call for a “strike” to protest Vietnam, but I don’t recall any coercion (although there was a good bit of irrationality: who exactly was hurt by students staying away from class?).

    • Chris Lang
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      I attended Reed circa 1980. We were pretty left-wing and long-haired, but we took our studies very seriously. No one would have tolerated interrupting or disrupting classes. It galls me, and I think many alumni, that this is going on.

  11. FB
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s Valdivia, like the conquistador.

    • FB
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      And the last name is Martínez Valdivia.

  12. Posted October 29, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Down with the G’rup — bonk bonk on the head. Bonk bonk on the head.

  13. Debbie Coplan
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Glad my son graduated way before this nonsense. He worked really hard there.
    How sad these students ruin the experience for others. Not a cheap place to go for an education either.

  14. GM
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, so if Gilgamesh had indeed caused Hitler, wouldn’t that be all the more a reason to study Gilgamesh? You know, to understand how exactly and what to do so that it does not happen again?

    Another question is when exactly is it that these students become so crazy?

    Is it in high schools? I don’t have direct recent observations from US high schools but somehow I find it unlikely that teachers in most high schools are indoctrinating them into this nonsense to a degree sufficient to cause such behavior a year later when they enter college.

    So is it happening at the universities themselves then, i.e. when they take gender studies classes and are around other gender studies students? That seems a lot more likely to me. But in that case the universities are digging their own graves and it’s kind of difficult to sympathize with them (unless you are working at one and having to deal with it every day) — individual faculty will suffer and protest but unless the university cleanses itself from the cancer altogether, i.e. by shutting down the gender and race studies departments (which are anyway producing nothing but pseudointellectual vacuous garbage that blemishes the reputation of the institutions it’s coming from and of academia in general), this will continue to happen again and again.

    Unfortunately there are few real men having the balls to do what’s necessary left on those campuses so it’s not going to happen.

  15. Posted October 29, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Obvious solution: document and expel. Want to protest that with more violence and disruption? Expel some more, with forceful removal if necessary. No one needs to vow to these jerks.

    • GM
      Posted October 29, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      It’s an obvious solution but it is impossible to implement because it would be blocked immediately by faculty in certain sections of the humanities departments.

      That’s a symptomatic treatment, you have to target the root cause of the problem.

      Which is the faculty in those sections of the humanities that brainwash kids into behaving in this way.

      • Posted October 30, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        I don’t know how that process works, but I imagine it would be simple enough to point at da roolz and execute said roolz. In U of Chicago case, the rules have been made perfectly clear, so that’s one step forward.

        Is it enough that a minority of the faculty oppose the expelling?

  16. Craw
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    The protesters have a point and we need to acknowledge it. Consider just one of the men discussed in that “course”: Euclid. Do you know he built his theory around his famous fifth postulate, that parallel lines never meet. But he only considers *straight* lines!
    Young minds should not be exposed to this poison.

  17. Posted October 29, 2017 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    Several thoughts/statements:

    1. I live in Oregon and love Portland. As was mentioned, it’s due to the Portland metropolitan area (also Corvallis and Eugene) that Oregon is politically blue. We have some of the finest governance at all levels. Our congressmen are especially great people; especially DeFazio and Merkely.

    2. Friends and relatives of mine were at the
    gathering in Portland that was disrupted by Antifa. Their reports reiterate what Pliny the in Between has to say about the event. Some of my relatives and friends who went to the protest are in their 70s and 80s. All were safe. None were violent.

    Wikipedia and other articles on the internet make it clear that Antifa is not exclusively a Portland phenomenon. I can’t dig them all out now, but newspaper reports I’ve read in the past also identify other locations with such groups that have disrupted other events in other cities.

    3. Protests at California universities (such as Stanford and Berkeley) during the Viet Nam war were not all nonviolent. My husband worked at Stanford then and (as I recall) police officers used tear gas on campus at least one time to disperse student protesters who were blocking doors and preventing people from coming and going peacefully.

    4. Reed College, as you point out, is not comparable to Evergreen. I don’t know any of the scholastic honorees, but I do know that Alafair Burke, daughter of novelist James Lee Burke, graduated from there. She went on to become a lawyer and worked for the City of Portland as a prosecutor, and is also a novelist like her father. And she teaches law at one of the New York universities now.

    5. I don’t know where our students are becoming so ignorant and hateful. Home? On the street? In school? I don’t think they’re taught well enough in grade school or high school to learn it there. How quickly can they learn it from professors of certain Humanities courses at university?

    I would dearly love to take a course like the one taught by Lucia Martinez Valdivia. How I wish the students would listen, read and learn.
    Most history I was taught as a student in this country was Eurocentric. I have spent years expanding my reading to other parts of the world. I’m currently reading The Silk Roads A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan. I haven’t gotten very far, but what I’ve read thus far would cause me to highly recommend it.

  18. Ash
    Posted October 29, 2017 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    The schools should announce, and if they do not, professors should announce on their syllabus and publish on the doors to their lectures that entry within grants permission for the professor and school to video all participants and that the school and professors will seek to expel students engaging in protesting that halts or delays a class.

    And then they should do that.

    • Posted October 29, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      What a shame that it comes to that. But the rights of students who seek to learn, and have paid good money to do so, should be protected.

  19. Posted October 29, 2017 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    My problem has always been students who do not challenge what they learn. Instead, they write down everything I say and regurgitate it back. I resorted to informing students at the beginning of class that I would tell them some things that are totally wrong, and their job is to correct me. Worked quite well. A good way to help them hone their bullshit detectors.

  20. Diane G.
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 3:12 am | Permalink


  21. Posted October 30, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink


    Nice target for protest, too. You’d think people in favour of more diversity and such would be ok with Sappho …

  22. Frank Vergoerin
    Posted October 30, 2017 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    A few quick points re the article

    – Reed College gives academic grades and always have. In fact their grading is unsparingly brutal. There’s no Gentleman’s C or B. More like Gentleman’s D, even is a reasonably intelligent student does work that would earn them an easy B at a decent state university, for instance. What people confuse is that Reed’s administration and faculty want to deemphasize the obsession with grades so you don’t automatically see you grades unless you get below a C- or something. They’re always they’re but you have to ask for them unless you get very low ones, in which they automatically get sent to you.

    – I’m not sure what free form meant in the beginning of article. Academically Reed is very traditional, and old fashioned, classic to the point of being more like Oxford or a British university than the average American college. There’s no modern flashy majors it classes. No Marketing. No Business. Very little besides hard sciences and maybe math, econ and psych that’s readily applicable to high powered jobs or professions.

    -The author is very right about the extremist often unreasonable and irrational identity politics that goes on there. A healthy fraction of the students seem to subscribe to the most shrill, enraged, ad hominem style identity extreme leftism and are way too entitled to this behavior in their Reed College bubble. The sizable fraction of students who may be generally liberal but way more balanced and rational are usually afraid to speak against extreme identity politics insanity or even ask questions because they will get screamed at and verbally, publicly, psychologically terrorized by these extremist partisans on their campus. i went to Reed and I hate this aspect that seems to have gotten way worse since I attended.

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