Oberlin Alumni Magazine: fall 2001 vol. 97 no.2
Feature Stories
One Week in Manhattan
Defining Words
[cover story] Marriage: For Better? Or Worse?
Business Unusual
Plotting the Past
Message from the Dean
Around Tappan Square
The Business jof Cheating Stirs New Solutions
A Record Year for Legacies
Survey Says...
Cast a Vote for Alumni Trustee
A Student's Perspective
Distinguished Speakers
In Memoriam
Oberlin Revisited
Alumni Notes
The Last Word
Staff Box
One More Thing
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Oberlin Alumni Magazine welcomes mail from readers. Please address your comments to Oberlin Alumni Magazine, 145 W. Lorain St., Oberlin, OH 44074-1023, e-mail: alum.mag@oberlin.edu.



In her letter in the Summer 2001 issue, Lori Ginzberg '78 wondered why the College was concerned about a "gender gap" in male admissions and opposed the affirmative action approach to attract more males. I agree that affirmative action (a politically correct word for quota) is a bad idea but wonder aloud what would attract a heterosexual male to Oberlin College at this point in time? The 1999 Insider's Guide to Colleges notes that a "substantial" number of gay couples populate the campus and that Oberlin has a Drag Ball. No other college is so described. If you read The Review you also note a considerable number of articles addressing various gender issues, perhaps to a degree not found at other colleges. Without making any moral judgements (sexual preference is a biological rather than moral issue), I wonder why a heterosexual male seeking a sexual or possible life partner would attend a school where the odds are so weighted against him? My college-age son skipped Oberlin for more mainstream places. As noted by an alumna letter some time back, Oberlin is socially skewed now in ways that may have long-term implications for the College. Alas, I have no particular solution to what undoubtedly is seen by many gender-conscious Obies as a non-problem. The College, though, does run the risk of becoming even more extreme in its sexual ratio. With tongue only somewhat in cheek, I wonder if Oberlin should foster the trend and become the first openly gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender college. I would appreciate not being labeled as some type of homophobe by stating obvious factors involved in college selection by adolescent males. After all, one can be a sensitive, even feminist-supporting, male without being gay. Discrimination goes both ways.

Stephen Golder '70
Falmouth, Massachusetts

A letter in the Summer 2001 issue recommends that "Oberlin consider closely the cost of admitting more men, as such." The writer does not delineate "the cost," beyond agreeing "that there is a problem with boys in our society and our schools," doubting that the solution is "a more aggressive affirmative action program for white boys," implying that "admitting greater numbers of men (or football players) would lower academic and social standards," and worrying that men will not share "Oberlin's traditions." I applaud Oberlin for seeking to make itself more attractive to men. Oberlin's long-term viability depends on its ability to compete successfully for students. The broader the range of qualified students it can compete for, the more successful it will be, both academically and financially. Relying on niche markets for students is not the route to long-term academic excellence. About half of the future pool of students is male, so Oberlin must make itself attractive to a broader spectrum of intelligent men. As it succeeds in that, it will also become more attractive to a broader spectrum of intelligent women. To broaden its appeal to both men and women, Oberlin must have competitive male and female athletic teams, including football. Athletics are part of a well-rounded campus environment. For many, attending sports events such as a Saturday afternoon football game is an important part of their college experience. Athletes add a valuable dimension to the diversity of the student body and should be valued for their uniqueness. Like other unique groups, they have special needs and circumstances that must be respected, understood, and accommodated. For example, the many hours they spend at practice, games, and travel reduce their time available for study and may cause them to under-perform academically in both high school and college. I applaud President Dye and the trustees for their new commitment to athletic vitality. Hopefully, Oberlin will move closer to where it was in the early '50s, when I was there. It ranked as one of the top two or three liberal arts colleges in the nation. It had winning athletic teams, including football. The male sector of my class produced three Oberlin professors: Geoffrey Blodgett, Norman Craig, and Herbert Henke. Two of them were football players. The palette of Oberlin's traditions changes over time, but is rooted in striving for excellence, open mindedness, and diversity. The perception of the details of that palette varies from decade to decade, and even among students in the same class, but with different campus experiences and friends. During my four years, I never found that "just being different" was an Oberlin tradition.

Floyd L. Smith '53
New York, New York

As I read Andrew Ward's profile (Summer 2001) about his discovery of Oberlin connections with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a sense of pride and nostalgia overwhelmed me. This summer I attended a church music convention in Washington, DC. Besides the delight of visiting an Obie classmate there, returning to Washington since my first visits as a freshman in 1970 unleashed a flood of emotion. I was privileged to be in DC on tour with the College choir the last year of Robert Fountain's leadership, and it was to the National Cathedral that students and faculty returned to sing Mozart's "Requiem" in response to the killing of students at Kent State. This summer we conventioneers attended a concert by Sweet Honey in the Rock, an extraordinary quintet of African-American women who sing everything from traditional African music to the new music that comes out of African-American history, accompanied occasionally by percussion instruments they play. One of the most poignant moments of the whole convention was a comment from one of the singers, who said (and I paraphrase) that they sing the music of their ancestors because it is on

their backs that they are able to make life's journey, and so they honor them. Andrew Ward's comments brought me to tears because they reminded me that I am connected with a college that has been deeply involved "outside the walls" in pivotal moments of American and world history. Amidst the scramble for attracting students and finances, my hope is that the College president and the power structure keep me proud of being an undeserving graduate of such a unique institution.
Terry Hicks '73

Palatine, Illinois

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