Theater Cuts Unjustified, other letters
Dear Members of Oberlin College:
We are writing to protest the firing of two teachers from the department of theater and dance, Jen Groseth and Damen Mroczek. This action is not only unwarranted, but will be detrimental to the functioning of the department and to the educational mission of the program. As students in the theater and dance department, we ask the managing director, Mike Grube, and the department chair, Paul Moser, to reverse their decision to fire two of our teachers. We also call on the administration of Oberlin College to investigate the growing structural problems within the department that preceeded this drastic and unnecessary decision.
Ms. Groseth has been a teacher at Oberlin College for the past nine years. In that time she has taught a number of technical courses including lighting design and sound design. In addition to her teaching duties, Ms. Groseth has been both the resident lighting designer and sound designer for the theater and dance department. Ms. Groseth oversees a student staff in Little Theater and Hall, is the faculty advisor for the Oberlin Student Theater Association and frequently designs for opera or dance productions outside of Hall in Warner and Finney Chapel. No reason has been given for firing Ms. Groseth except that it was based on a controversial negative evaluation from the Spring of 2005.
Damen Mroczek is finishing his fourth year as a teacher and designer at Oberlin College. He teaches scene design and historical research in addition to his duties as the scene designer for both the theater and dance department and the Conservatory of Music’s opera theater program. Mr. Mroczek also oversees part of the student staff working in Hall Mainstage on sets for both theater and opera productions. The reason given for firing Mr. Mroczek is that the quality of his design work for the department has been poor. This was also based on the spring 2005 staff evaluation.
Both of these teachers were loved by many students and respected by their peers within the department for the quality of their design and teaching work. We were shocked to hear of their dismissal and are baffled by the reasons given or not given for this action. While we cannot speak to Ms. Groseth’s dismissal due to the lack of information available on the troubled evaluation process of 2005, we will address Mr. Mroczek’s. As a designer, Mr. Mroczek’s work has been outstanding. The quality of his work is clear to anyone who has seen it on stage or who has participated in it with him during the design or construction process. He consistently provides high quality settings in which student actors can learn while performing in a mainstage production. As those actors and as students who have worked for and with him to implement his design concepts on stage, we affirm that Mr. Mroczek’s work is an inspiration to student designers and actors. Unless he has been blatantly violating the artistic vision of his directors, something we believe not to be true, we cannot understand how Mr. Mroczek’s impressive design work could form the basis for his dismissal.
Although the primary cause for writing this letter is the confusing decision to fire two of our teachers, we believe that there are larger problems at work here and that the dismissal of Ms. Groseth and Mr. Mroczek is only one symptom of a much larger set of issues within the department.
One such issue is the dual roles of Michael Grube, the technical director and managing director in Hall Auditorium. The managing director has authority over the other untenured members of the theater and dance staff. He has firing power over his co-workers. As technical director, however, Mr. Grube is subordinate to the staff designers. He is responsible for implementing the designs of the scene designer and working with and accommodating the technical requirements of the lighting designer. This double role where one person can be someone’s boss one minute and someone’s subordinate the next is very dangerous. How can designers work properly with a person in areas of production where they have authority over him, if they are fearful for their jobs?
The design process necessitates a high level of constructive criticism. It is unsafe to operate the department in such a way that designers must ask someone to change work in progress, to do something over again or to complete additional work when that person is also their boss. This arrangement of staff responsibilities is highly unusual for a theater hierarchy and we believe has led to such a degree of staff conflict that, the dismissal of staff aside for a moment, the department’s educational work within the design setting is being adversely affected.
Another instance of structural instability within the department that concerns us is the lack of intradepartmental communication. Some of the faculty members from the theater, dance and opera departments who work with Ms. Groseth and Mr. Mroczek professionally, and are pleased with their work, were not notified of their dismissal either prior to or immediately after it took place. There was no attempt to address the concerns that Mr. Grube and Mr. Moser had with the job performance of their design staff throughout the year. In fact, there has been only one department meeting all year. All of the business of the department has been conducted in closed meetings that the design staff and the elected student theater representatives were not invited to.
Given the theater and dance department’s history of including the student reps and design teachers at faculty meetings, we are upset that these individuals were shut out this year. We also find it very disturbing that such drastic staffing decisions were made at the end of a year when the administrative decisions of the department were closed to staff and students alike.
Our concerns are not with the actions taken by individuals within the department; they are with the structure of the department and the processes through which staffing decisions are made. We ask that the chair of the theater and dance department and its managing director hire back our teachers. We also ask that Oberlin College, be it through the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Ombudsperson or the Office of the President, investigate the administration of the theater and dance department and help it to resolve the many structural problems that it has been unable or unwilling to address.
To the Editors:
In response to inquiries we received as a result of our whodoyoudo.com ad placed in last the issue (The Oberlin Review, May 12, 2006), I’d like to clarify that whodoyoudo.com is a small venture started by a former Obie (myself) and some former Clevelanders who feel strongly about self expression and individual creativity. Our intent is to have these shirts be a fun and engaging way to bring people together through Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s sexual identity scale (featuring numbers zero through six representing “exclusively straight” through “exclusively gay” and everyone in between).
These shirts are meant primarily as conversation starters; we advocate the appreciation of diversity in all walks of life, not just sexuality. They are not to be construed as a diagnostic tool. Thus, our website does not feature any sort of Kinsey assessment, nor do we advocate being overly scientific about the wearer’s Kinsey number.
We hope this explains the simplicity of our product. We would love for Obies to take the lead this summer in proudly showing the world that human rights — and particularly gay rights — are something that people of all Kinsey numbers can celebrate.
To the Editors:
With the commissioning of a residential master plan (to evaluate existing buildings for renovation or replacement) and the beginning of planning for Phase II (new student housing), Oberlin faces an exciting future. By dedicating itself to sustainable buildings, Oberlin has an opportunity to return to the leadership position it once occupied when it built the Adam Joseph Lewis Center.
An overwhelming literature proves the benefits of high performance green building. At a luncheon hosted by the Environmental Policy Implementation Group, Oberlin Policy Institute and Student Senate to educate faculty and administrators, Kurt Teichert, sustainability coordinator at Brown University, extolled these benefits of green beyond the traditionally considered decreases in resource use and environmental damage. An integrated design approach can lead to lower first costs. Interior environmental factors (daylighting, decreased toxins, individual control) contribute to positively affect the productivity and health (physically and psychologically) of a building’s occupants.
In March 2004, Oberlin’s Board of Trustees adopted an environmental policy. It reads, in part:
“The core mission of Oberlin College is the education of its students. One aspect of such education is the demonstration by its actions of the College’s concern for, and protection of, its physical environment.”
Recent construction on campus — the Science Center and Union Street Village Housing — show little concern for our physical environment. Planning for the Science Center rejected substantial high performance elements. The result is an energy sieve, with energy usage significantly higher than Middlebury’s science center (designed by the same architect, completed two years earlier). Union Street housing is a step in the right direction. But somewhat shoddy construction combines with greenwashing (a false claim of sustainability) to fail that policy. Oberlin has claimed that Union Street meets LEED-Silver equivalency, yet the project does not meet several claimed sustainable features.
Oberlin is about to embark on a series of building and renovation. The College could choose to embrace sustainable, high performance design or it could choose expensive, damaging, conventional buildings.
I’m worried that Oberlin won’t make the right choice.
In my meetings with administrators as a student and as a student senator, I’ve witnessed a strange dissonance. Outwardly the College supports sustainability. But when confronted with an actual project, key administrators seem to perceive sustainability as a large cost increase without much benefit despite overwhelming literature and real world examples (Teichert: no correlation between building cost and LEED). For example, administrators have repeatedly claimed that a LEED Science Center is impossible despite reality: Swarthmore and Mt. Holyoke both built LEED-certified science centers and UC Santa Barabara’s Bren Hall is LEED-Platinum (a two percent premium).
In those meetings, I have been told that the Board of Trustees would conduct a feasibility study and then that no such study existed. I have been told that the College does not want to consult experts because they might be biased (much like a heart surgeon might be biased toward a certain procedure). I have been told that Oberlin is pledged to sustainability but I have not seen any concrete commitment.
Student Senate has endeavored to ensure Oberlin’s commitment to sustainability by introducing a proposal to General Faculty, the main campus governance body. The proposal was first defeated through parliamentary procedures and then by President Dye’s abrupt cancellation of General Faculty’s final meeting.
As Oberlin begins new construction and renovations, the College must commit to high performance building from the start. We cannot afford to do otherwise.
I entreat you all to talk with President Dye about Oberlin’s commitment to sustainability. If Oberlin is truly committed to sustainable, high performance buildings, I urge President Dye to make that commitment widely known.
To the Editors:
In the May 5 issue of the Review, Professor David Young said, “Good art requires hard work and when people seek out courses in the arts as an alternative to difficult courses, they run into [problems].” I agree. But I also know this:
When non-major upperclassmen seek out courses in the creative writing department, even with seriousness of purpose and a commitment to hard work, they are universally stone-walled.
One creative writing major claimed the department selects the most “polished” writers. While this may be true for underclassmen, if you’re not an underclassman, you’re over-the-hill as far the creative writing program is concerned. For example, when, as a junior, I applied for a nonfiction workshop, no one read further than the line listing my major. My rejection letter read: “Because we have to accommodate majors first, there was just no room for non-majors.” Appeals — and I made them — were futile.
This is not exceptional: It is the norm. It doesn’t matter if you’re “polished” or otherwise: You’d better be from the right class. That is, a freshman has every opportunity, a sophomore has limited opportunity and a junior is completely out of the running. You’re a senior? Better luck next life!
Oberlin should, I think, allow for a little flexibility, or rather, a little intellectual mobility within the class system. (We do, after all, pride ourselves on progressivism.)
Some kids have had their career paths brilliantly mapped out since freshman year, but most of us just stumble along for a while in the dark, groping for the handrail. And if an Oberlin student looks up halfway through sophomore year and says, “Wait — I want to write!” Oberlin should not bar this shining Road Less Traveled.
Clearly this kind of instruction is labor intensive, and that means expensive. But so is college education, and students, even upperclassman, should be able to argue that they need creative writing instruction for their long-term plans. Oberlin should lift its lamp, not shut the gate.
To the Editors:
Keep Co-op wireless service has been really poor ever since it was installed. It is intermittent (sometimes cuts out every ten to 20 minutes for no apparent reason), at times cannot get outside of ResNet and, often, excruciatingly slow. Obiemail, if it will load at all, takes several minutes. Of those who study or use Internet in the lounge, nobody really uses wireless if they can help it.
Nobody in Keep (and probably in OSCA, too) explicitly requested wireless and we don’t want anyone, ResEd, College or otherwise, to think they’ve been providing a service they haven’t been, or a service that we even wanted to begin with. Please consider correcting this problem and making note of this in your records. While wireless is nice, it is an unnecessary technology that seems to cause more trouble than it’s worth.
It seems that this is indicative of a problem with the College and technology as a whole. The lights in the Science Center cannot be turned off because they are controlled by a computer that even $10,000 worth of consultants could not unravel. The bandwidth across campus is far in excess of our needs, but due to internal inefficiencies fails to provide even a minimum standard of service.
Would it not be better to stick with simpler, slower solutions that cost less and provide roughly the same benefits? Why the rush to compete with our “peer institutions” when we don’t need to keep up with the Joneses to provide a unique, stimulating educational experience? I hope the administrators and those working on the strategic plan will consider the priorities of this institution before we go astray.
To the Editors:
Hello Reviewers, readers and all other-ers in the world (can’t be exclusionary, this is Oberlin).
I am writing in response to the results of the smoking survey that were just sent to all students. Much of the survey was fine, and raised no controversy. For instance “Is smoking bad” yes, no, maybe so etc.; however, it greatly shocks me that the majority of Oberlin students who had an opinion on the issue supported the banning of tobacco advertising on campus, the banning of tobacco sponsorship of campus events and the prohibition of tobacco sales on campus.
While tobacco advertising is restricted over some mediums, TV, and print etc., due to viewership or readership by children, as adults, smoking remains a choice. I think it is fair to say that most Obies are above the legal age to smoke, and some of us (myself not included) have above average intelligence quotients, test scores, etc. I find it quite a concern that people as broad and open-minded and as smart as the typical Obie would choose to restrict tobacco companies even sponsoring an event on campus.
It seems rather pitiful that people who should be strong-willed, open-minded and hopefully able to make decisions on their own would support, or resort to tactics like banning sponsorship or advertising. While the uneducated peon who makes his way in the world without any education or guidance from a fully functioning higher brain may be influenced by advertising, due to a lack of education not his fault, we are hopefully intelligent enough to make our own decisions, I would hope that we posses a small modicum of intelligence to exercise freedom of choice, and not succumb to group-think.
The case for removal of sponsorship could be made quite strongly, after all the tobacco companies have been shown to be unethical many times. However, removal or advertising is simply a last-resort, “I can’t think for myself any longer” method or strategy, and when applied to those of lower intelligence, education or social class is very condescending. The fact that Oberlin College students, who are supposed to be able to think for themselves, and many of us will be the policy makers that enforce the next generation of condescending “they aren’t smart enough/educated enough etc. to think on their own accord” public policy decisions.
To me the results of the survey are very scary, and a frightening group of prospects indeed. After all, who is left in the world to think, if the majority of students here, who did try to think, admitted that they are no longer capable of thinking for themselves, and must stick and cling to silly little rules and laws they shouldn’t even need? It is indeed a sad day when this many Obies openly acknowledge their inability to think freely or operate beyond a group mentality.
P.S. Yes, I used the masculine pronoun, not because I am sexist, because I currently identify as male. I would not be offended if a woman used the feminine pronoun in a work, or a transgender person used whatever pronoun suited them best, if any. Nor would I expect them to write in a manner that I identified with. I am obviously not female or transgender. In my opinion the real beauty of diversity is that other viewpoints are heard, not that every viewpoint is exactly the same in terms of language, message and style.
To the Editors:
On behalf of Third World Liberation Front, we send our sincerest apologies to Friends of the Underground Railroad Center for any miscommunication or misrepresentation of FOURC to the Oberlin community. Chants on the Underground: Past, Present, and Future is a collaboration between Oberlin College students, alumni, faculty and other Oberlin community members whom compose the TWLF. We are taking an opportunity to educate ourselves and the Oberlin community about history regarding the Underground Railroad. We started off by hosting a march to protest inadequate attention given to the UGRR.
TWLF is a predominantly black student coalition, also composed of other students of color as well as white allies. We are shamefully ignorant of the history of black students at OC and the UGRR, and thus blind to our own history as black people, as students of color, and as Americans. Our intention for the project/march was to bring attention to the fact that the College shamelessly commodifies the UGRR and yet has made no intentional effort of philanthropic work to honor the “trail to freedom.” We are taking a stand about this fact. We are also celebrating the efforts of FOURC to establish the Trail Marker on Main and Lorain Streets, which is the first one of its kind in Northeast Ohio! We are extremely proud that a black grassroots organization had a major hand in establishing the marker.
However, we apologize for not coming before the entire FOURC organization before igniting our project. We were not trying to bring any negative publicity to FOURC, but we are in solidarity with the organization’s mission to preserve the history of the UGRR. In retrospect, perhaps we were overly zealous to learn about forgotten and untold history, and we may have not gotten portions of our story correct, and for this we have the most regret. One major discrepancy can be found in pamphlets distributed to the OC campus and surrounding community giving historical context to what Chants is about. The pamphlet stated that the land on which the Trail Marker is located was formerly owned by one of Oberlin’s black families, however this information is not true. The land was once occupied by a gas station, but was not owned by the Rainbow family as stated in the pamphlet. TWLF recognizes that the history of black people and in this case the UGRR is not commonly kept by people it belongs to, however we are trying to make an effort change that; we are conscious of the fact that at times oral history is lost in translation.
In the future, TWLF hopes we will be regarded as responsible members of the Oberlin community, and FOURC will come to us when in need of support.
–Submitted by Francisca Chaidez-Gutierrez
To the Editors:
I was very much surprised to read your commentary from May 12, 2006, “Initiate All-Gender Housing,” which reached me through an Internet news service. Surprised and displeased to read that Oberlin College, which as you wrote, took “pride in being at the forefront of previous social movements” has been evidently, as an institution, taking a back seat in LGBTQ quality of life issues. Fear a liberal and open policy might hinder recruitment? As I recall, the coverage LOOK (or was it LIFE) gave to co-ed couples sharing rooms was not unimportant in my decision to choose Oberlin.
Coming out, and transitioning, for transgender persons is difficult enough without an added stigmatization of being restricted to a particular living space.
To the Editors:
On May 13, a group of student volunteers constructed Safer Sex Kits for all first year students entering fall 2006. These kits contain not only safer sex supplies but also valuable information on safer sex practices to help students make healthy choices while in college.
The kits were funded by The Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation and the Center for Leadership in Health Promotion (formerly the Office of Health and Life Skills Education) with support from the HIV Educators, the HIV Testers, Student Health Services and SIC.
Thank you for your time: Kate Dirks, Liz Morrison, Emily Riggs, Nik Smart, Anna Schuettge, Krissy Ferris, Megan Dawson, Colin Koffel, Elana Feldman, Cristina Jardine, Carmen Horne, Evan Paul, Lindsay Garces, Ariel Samach and Alissa Wibble.
–Lori K. Morgan Flood