Rhythm Discriminates on Color, other letters
To the Editors:
I’m a dancer here at Oberlin who was very much looking forward to performing at Colors of Rhythm. My hip-hop group has been rehearsing twice a week since the beginning of the year and this concert was going to be a great forum to showcase a dance form that doesn’t get a lot of hype on this campus. Colors of Rhythm was going to be our time to shine, to put hip-hop forward to the masses.
Unfortunately, one of the dancers in my group is white. This means she cannot perform and therefore our group cannot perform.
Now, I understand completely the history of Colors of Rhythm; the concert was started ten years ago as a form of protest for performers of color who normally do not have a forum in which to showcase their cultural talents. The concert is a safe space for performers of color to celebrate non-western/non-European dance forms and shows everyone in the community that these cultures have dances worth appreciating.
Being a dancer of color, this would be right up my alley. However, while I don’t want to undermine the agenda of the concert and certainly don’t want to ignore that this concert is based on a form of protest, I want to question the effectiveness of excluding dancers solely based on race. History tells us that this sort of exclusion happened to Blacks for centuries; I therefore question whether flipping the dynamic levels the playing field or simply perpetuates the racial divide so pervasive on this campus.
The white dancer in my group has been working with me for the past two years. She is not ignorant of the dance form or the necessity for respecting the safe space. She has worked hard to become educated about this dance form; it is a shame that her efforts to learn something about my culture, about an art form for which I am very passionate, has no validity because of how she “identifies.”
That is what truly trips me out about the situation; when I inquired about a biracial member of my group (Chinese and White), I was asked, “Well, how does he identify?” Should he have to pick either one? I’m sure he identifies as biracial. Does he now have to identify or “pass” as 100 percent Asian to be allowed in the concert? The committee member then asked me if a certain friend of mine (who is also biracial, Black and White, but very light-skinned) was the person in question, as if she would never be allowed to perform because she doesn’t identify as 100 percent Black.
The result of this sort of mentality is a divide of student of color performances and White performances all over the campus. Perhaps this type of mentality is also why we see the same six or so dancers every single year in Fall Forward/Spring Back doing the same choreographic vocabulary.
My goal is to teach hip-hop to everyone who is willing to work hard to learn the craft and the culture behind it, but right now we have a concert of performers of color, where all the White students sit in the audience and enjoy the “ethnic festivities” without ever having to learn or think about the different cultures.
The point of protest is that eventually there will no longer be a need for it. Being a performer of color myself, I’m left without a forum at all; hip-hop has no place in a T and D performance, but sharing my culture is apparently against the ideal of Colors of Rhythm. I want to teach, not simply put on a show.
To the Editors:
I want to clarify the proposal on gender discrimination. The original proposal that was voted down by the Housing and Dining Committee was a conceptual resolution. I brought the exact wording that had unanimously been recommended by the Housing Sub-Committee. This proposal/resolution is not being brought back to the Housing & Dining Committee — instead, the proposal going to General Faculty will be brought to the committee for endorsement.
The Housing and Dining Committee supports the principle of all-gender housing in all rooms that are not halls/floors/buildings specifically designated as single sex. The Housing and Dining Committee recommends policy be changed to bring Residential Education closer in line with this principle. All-gender housing is to be defined as rooms having no designation regarding the sex or gender identity of any of the room’s residents.
Current GF proposal:
All college housing not wings, floors or buildings specifically designated as single sex shall be all-gender housing by school year 2016-2017.
Residential Education and Dining Services shall be responsible for phasing in and implementing this plan.
All-gender housing is to be defined as rooms of enrolled students that have no designation regarding the sex or gender identity of any of the room’s residents.
To the Editors:
Barry Mallis makes a good point that there is no requirement to memorize a text for the SAT. Unfortunately, I was misquoted in the article to which he refers. The editors of the Review have published a correction to the quote Mr. Mallis rightly points out is misleading.
The reporter might have been more accurate had he quoted me saying to do well on the essay, one should use examples from “highfalutin’ texts” when backing up argumentative claims. For example, in a sample booklet of essays and responses by scorers, an essay by a student who referenced a novel by Margaret Atwood was deemed stronger, and thus scored higher, than an essay by a student who referenced Christopher Columbus.
Mr. Mallis points out that there are “some simple ways to prepare for this essay.” That one needs to prepare — and that those that do score better than those that don’t — is problematic. Not all high school students have equal access to test preparation materials or classes. Until they do, the SAT essay threatens to further privilege the privileged and disadvantage the disadvantaged (I wrote about this in more detail in the Summer 2005 Oberlin Alumni Magazine).
To the Editors:
One of my favorite Liz Phair songs goes a little something like this: “I can’t, I can’t believe it; But it’s here on the pages I’m reading... Jealousy.” Hmm.
Speaking with Ms. Carolin Young, OC ’90, housemate of Ms. Phair in 148 South Professor during their overlapping college careers, it seems that this longed for locale may not have been as friendly as it is purported to be now. Liz, reportedly, did not like Oberlin College all that much. I guess she didn’t find Blue House all that friendly. Rather, Ms. Young recalled the house as being quite filthy and unruly. Ms. Young, now a journalist and author who writes about epicurean history, was happy to hear that her and Liz’s old place was to become a center for culinary education at Oberlin.
While it is easy to characterize the future inhabitants of 148 S. Professor as a bunch of gourmand geeks; we too will throw parties... dinner parties. We hope that our love for existence and eating can be shared with members of the (former) Liz Phair House for Friendship Peoples and many others through our policy of planned participatory programming pertaining to producing premium pabulum. Blue House will continue to be a place for fun and frolic – but next year will provide food in addition to drink.
As for the opposing charges that the Culinary Program House is “raiding college funds” or inflating the College’s already “bloated coffers,” we are doing neither. Members of the Culinary Program House will be paying for a meal plan, just like everyone else.
Take heart in the fact that if next year one is looking for a place for cavorting and camaraderie concerning convivial consumption of copious quantities of cocktails on this college campus, well, that there’s always Frat Row.
To the Editors:
The Review is quite mistaken in comparing the off-campus housing issue to the London Program, Fearless branding or even the Biggs closing. The latter are about transparency, the former is solely an outcome with which many students disagree.
The decision to move 300 students back on campus was made in the 1990s as a result of town-College discussions. The decision and the implementation have been discussed multiple times. No one has tried to hide anything.
The Review article from November 4, 2005, “Phase 2 of Oberlin’s new housing plan revealed,” stated, “Because of the increase in the supply of on-campus housing, it will become more difficult for students to move off campus.” A December 2, 2005 article was titled, “Fewer Students Will Live Off-Campus: ResEd Plans to Curtail Off-Campus Housing.”
In October 2005, Director of Residential Education Molly Tyson gave an estimate of 465 students being released to off-campus. ResEd has always stated that decisions to release to off-campus housing are based solely on first filling available occupancy.
With this in mind, releasing 446 students as opposed to a 465 student estimate does not seem to merit cries about lack of transparency.
If the Review wants greater transparency, they should look into self-reform. The Review has not had one reporter at a Senate meeting this semester. The issue of branding Oberlin fearless was disseminated much slower because The Review did not send a reporter to the General Faculty meeting where it was presented. The Review lacks coverage of the February 9, 2006 ResEd forum.
The information on this issue was, and is, out there. The Review, as the official campus publication, should be more upfront that they often do not report news not considered “sexy” until catastrophe hits.
The Review did not find this information newsworthy to protest until after off-campus postings. In fact, a Review editorial on April 29, 2005 was less sure of how it felt regarding off-campus housing: “More students living off-campus drives up the price of rent, which causes members of the community living in rented properties to go to other cities to find more affordable housing.”
The Review should not use transparency or the President as a scapegoat. Most students I speak with from other campuses are shocked at President Nancy Dye’s level of commitment and accessibility to students. They consider us quite lucky in this regard.
While there have been decisions and processes that I have not agreed with, I would blame the results of the no-confidence vote partially on many Obies’ privilege and general anti-authority sentiments and partially on the Review’s failure to thoroughly and realistically communicate what goes on in college governance on our campus.
While there are definitely tangible improvements that can be made on campus towards transparency and collective governance, the Review is misguided in trying to link the issue of off-campus housing to transparency.