Goodbye to the Class of 2007, other letters
To the Editors:
Thirty-six years ago this month, on Memorial Day 1971, I could not wait to be done, finished, away from, through with Oberlin College. My college years were not a fun time for my generation or our country. Like today, America was engaged in a controversial, messy and unpopular war far away from home. We had a president who would soon be re-elected by a large majority of the people and would take his “mandate” as an opportunity to pay back his “enemies” and thereby initiate his own destruction. Our current president, in contrast, represents the American tendency toward anti-intellectualism and the popularity of the smug bad-boy type versus the earnest, accomplished patrician.
Our graduation was a big protest ceremony. There were black death figures carrying black coffins representing things like war, poverty and racism, and there were lots and lots of black balloons that were to be released when Erwin Griswold, the then Solicitor General of the United States and longtime Oberlin Trustee, got up to speak (most of us did not have a clue as to who Griswold was and all the wonderful things he had accomplished with his life). All of this under the sunny blue sky of a perfect spring day! In the minds of some it was a glorious time, but in my memory I just wanted to get away from this place.
Like many members of the Class of 2007, I was in a rush to get ready for graduate school (yes, we Oberlin types do love school since many of us never want to leave), in my case the Harvard Law School. I thought that fair Harvard would be such a better place than Oberlin. Little did I know that within a very short period, Oberlin and her people and values would look very good to me.
When I graduated from Oberlin, I felt that I was being freed from a burdensome place but I soon enough appreciated what a wonderful and secure intellectual and artistic community I had been privileged to be a part of. So, members of the Class of 2007, be happy about your accomplishments, don’t feel guilty about being glad to be leaving Oberlin, and be optimistic about your future. Your Oberlin years will quickly start looking better in retrospect and don’t forget that you will always be part of the Oberlin family.
I welcome you into the ranks of the alumni body, the lifelong Oberlin community where you will always have opportunities to exercise your Oberlin spirit and work to make your alma mater a place where young people can develop themselves against a high standard of excellence.–Wendell P. Russell, Jr.
President, Oberlin College Alumni Association
To the Editors:
Most deservedly, President Nancy Schrom Dye will receive an Honorary doctorate at this Monday’s Commencement Exercises, becoming just the fourth of our great Oberlin presidents to be so honored.
It must be said that President Dye’s support of the WAVE Program allows Oberlin to boast that we offer more free academic help to children than perhaps any other institution in America or even in the world. Yes, a whole lot more needs to be done to help all children, especially black children, do better in school and in life. But she did all that she could do to improve local children’s education.
Thanks to her keen understanding of the awesome barriers to an excellent education for black and other children, all Oberlin High School students who meet all the criteria may receive a four-year free education at the College that is worth at least $120,000. Yes, very few poor children will qualify, but President Dye did all that she could do to give all children a fighting chance.
She provided the tenacious and enlightened leadership needed to create our Graduate Teachers Education Program that will ensure that black and other local children will get an infusion of young new teachers. Yes, GTEP alone cannot solve our schools’ problems, but President Dye showed courage in bringing the issues to the forefront.
Finally, President Dye fought aggressively to save our Upward Bound Program that prepared black and other children for college. Yes, in the end, her heart was broken when the government used some of those funds to sustain the war in Iraq. But she displayed the spirited commitment that will surely be needed for future programs in education.
Nothing provides more grounds for optimism that we can address the problems caused by racism, poverty, and injustice than the improvement in education for blacks and other children. Though it was not part of her job description, President Dye made it her business to try to improve education. Yes, more needs to be done. But W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. King, and Malcolm X would have been very proud of President Dye. And so should we all! Celebrate this day!–Booker C. Peek
Associate Professor, African-American Studies Department
To the Editors:
[Editor’s Note: This letter is in response to an opinion piece published in The Grape by Eliza Starbuck Little.]
As Gender and Women’s Studies majors, as concerned students, and yes, as self-identified feminists, we felt we could not let this article go without a response.
We want to point out the danger in so casually urging the entire campus community to disregard and devalue the GAWS department. The very fact that a woman is able to have her opinion published and widely read in a college newspaper is because of the important foundation established by feminist activism and academic thought. The suggestion that students in the GAWS department should leave academic study to the “real scholars” implies that all women, including the author, lack intellectual agency. Statements such as these have been used throughout history to deny women equal access to academia.
The criticism that the GAWS department is not integrated into the rest of the college ignores the fact that many GAWS students are also majoring in other departments. Furthermore, the GAWS program is designed [so that] students cannot fulfill the major requirements without inter-departmental course work. Would the author also suggest that other identity-focused disciplines, such as African American Studies and Comparative American Studies, also be disbanded? Students within these disciplines would not be able to share their respective expertise on the subject matter with their other classes were it not for the strong academic foundation they receive in such departments.
Perhaps being raised by a “passel of lesbians” would lead the author to believe that women in the world and at Oberlin have “arrived,” but this is a relatively privileged viewpoint to come from. Even if the author feels comfortable in her social position, she should recognize that there are women around the world who are still fighting for basic human rights. It’s a sad day when someone so young thinks that the need to contribute to our society’s development is no longer a necessity and a responsibility.