Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Spring 2012 Vol. 107 No. 2 OAM Home | Oberlin Online


Teach Piece

I just received my copy of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, and I love the piece "Innovations in Teaching" (Winter 2011-12). I am a lifelong prep-school educator, and I could not be more pleased to hear about the great things going on in Oberlin College classrooms, although I am not the least bit surprised. Thanks for sharing this with the greater alumni community, and bravo to the fine educators at Oberlin. Keep up the good work.

Patrick Smith ’84
Hudson, Ohio

Project Objections

Like Oberlin’s view of a world without slavery in the 19th century, the Oberlin Project’s vision of a sustainable future (Fall 2011) launches the college into a 21st-century process that few other schools understand.

The heart of this vision lies in the connection between education and the campus’ immediate surroundings. However, sustainable economic development is not the same as education, and I hope Oberlin doesn’t sacrifice the latter for the former.

I am troubled by the first stated goal, the 13-acre Green Arts District, which will allegedly serve as a driver for economic development. I don’t see the connection with the other five goals, which are laudable. The Green Arts District looks like a real estate development, pure and simple.

Unfortunately, it may be easier to gather big contributions for collegiate real estate than for education itself. My local state university just completed a multimillion dollar building that few wanted, while at the same time, classes and faculty were being cut.

I doubt Oberlin will fall into that trap.

My preferred Oberlin Project includes activities students participate in rather than observe over a construction fence. With regard to replacing the Oberlin Inn, it can certainly use energy improvements, but it doesn’t need to be replaced. With help, the old inn could be almost as green as a new one.

After years in the energy business, I have to observe that building something new and making it efficient or renewable or sustainable is easy. Where the challenge lies is in figuring out what to do with the old stuff. Oberlin can’t be sustainable in energy until it fixes the town’s old houses and the college’s old stone buildings. Those are student-friendly evaluations I hope the Oberlin Project will support.

John Schaefer ’59
Arcata, Calif.

Thanks for a comprehensive review of the Oberlin Project. I would add to your suggested reading list Patrick J. Michaels, ed., Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming, 2005. I also recommend the website www.climate-skeptic.com , where there is an excellent hour-long illustrated lecture by Warren Meyer.

Is the project investigating using small nuclear-powered electricity generation? This is the only reasonable sustainable/renewable energy source, unlike unreliable and inefficient wind and solar power.

What does David Orr mean by "a fair, decent, resilient, prosperous, and durable global society"? Does this mean a global socialist dictatorship?

David Nisbet Stewart ’65
Royal Oak, Mich.

ROTC Revisited

Although I have developed a far more positive opinion of the military in my 23 years since leaving Oberlin, I still object to the ROTC on campus. College is a time for idealism, to focus wholeheartedly on developing the skills and vision needed for careers and whole life experiences. What the military offers is tempting in terms of funding for that education, and they also tout the discipline and work ethic that military training produces. While these are all valuable, what they are doing is enticing the most vulnerable to sign themselves up and put their lives in jeopardy.

We have many valid military operations going on right now—though I don’t agree with all of them. Still, it just seems to go against everything that Oberlin has stood for in its 175 (give or take) year history to have the military an active presence on campus.

I hope there will be a time when I can contribute to the college to make financial aid more available so these talented young people do not have to consider the ROTC option at all.

Alex Citron ’89
Syracuse, N.Y.

Obie Inspires

Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown books were very important in my childhood (Fall 2011). One of my own "young author" books in elementary schools was directly "inspired" (meaning, as an elementary school student, completely ripped off from) his works. I must say I’m a little bit prouder of being an Obie after reading this.

W. David Frost ’04
Louisville, Ky.

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