Editorial: Oberlin Through a Prospie's Eyes
Imagine for a moment that you are a prospective Obie seeing our campus for the first time, just one more pilgrim on the Office of Admissions’ “All Roads Lead to Oberlin” program designed to attract admitted students. What impression do you get after some time spent on campus?
You arrive on a beautiful spring day, when students are lounging in Wilder Bowl as if it were the beach. The colorful, glowing window panels of Mudd — the culmination of a senior thesis art project — capture your attention. You step inside and revel at the rainbow chairs; the diagrams for the new academic commons send you into fantasies of yourself sipping a latte while immersed in a collection of essays by Foucault.
Back home you volunteer regularly at your local park, so you can’t wait to visit the entirely sustainable Environmental Studies center. By chatting with a friendly current student, you learn that Oberlin is a leader in the commitment to green building and energy efficiency, from its hybrid cars to “quarter poops.” During your overnight in Dascomb, you step out of the room to call your parents, and stumble around the dark hallways as you describe the Dorm Energy Competition. You are saddened to discover, however, that many recent additions to campus, including the Science Center and Union Street housing, were not built with green goals prioritized and use an embarrassing amount of energy.
When you hear that the famous humorist David Sedaris recently gave a free reading, it reminds you of your own literary aspirations; maybe you too will write a best-selling memoir like Ishmael Beah, OC ’04. Yet reality begins to set in when you learn how frustrating it can be to get into a competitive creative writing workshop when the department’s handful of professors cannot accommodate the high demand.
After sitting in on an Arabic class, you imagine immersing yourself in this language before spending a semester abroad. But all too quickly, you learn that your dream might be thwarted; Arabic is not yet a permanent offering at Oberlin, despite the fact that it is at some of the other colleges you’re considering. And though the 2007-2008 course catalog states its dedication to developing a program of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, you remain troubled by the lack of class offerings in the field.
After class, you take a walk around campus and the surrounding areas. The beautiful residential neighborhoods that surround the campus and its aging dormitories make you excited for your senior year, when you can live in your own house and cook your own meals. You are disappointed to learn, though, that the College only releases a limited number of upperclassmen for off-campus housing — and that if you aren’t picked, you’ll be forced to stay on a dining plan, even if your College-owned apartment comes with a well-furnished kitchen.
You, a high school senior deciding where to spend the next few years of your life, will take the merits and pitfalls of Oberlin at face value — perhaps more so than any of the current students or administrators in the middle of everything can. You recognize Oberlin as a unique, dynamic place, but you also see the places where Oberlin falls short of your expectations. We hope that you, prospective student, will help us recognize how Oberlin both thrives and struggles. We hope that you, along with our new president, will fight to preserve the spirit of Oberlin that drew you here, but continue to push Oberlin to be the best it can be.