News in Brief: ROSS promises reform, slave rescue re-enacted, and more
Oberlin may be a teaching-based liberal arts college, but Associate Professor of Politics Stephen Crowley gets the chance to let the research end of his profession shine through. Crowley will spend this academic year researching the state and function of labor unions in post-communist countries joining the European Union.
Crowley is one of four American professors who recently received a post-doctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. The award may total up to $25,000 and will help finance Crowley’s stay as a research fellow at the Collegium Budapest/Institute of Advanced Study in Hungary.
According to Crowley, the research he does “has to do with how the labor unions and labor relations basically collapsed after communism.” Crowley explained that organized labor, which had been a staple of communist social organization, disappeared when communism ended.
“The problem now is that these countries have adopted capitalism but they don’t have unions.” He said that these countries struggle after joining the European Union, which is primarily made up of countries that operate very differently than post-communist peers.
“Already the South Eastern European countries are coming under a lot of pressure to be more American,” commented Crowley, “to be more market oriented.”
Crowley will investigate this phenomenon’s effects on post-communist countries as well as on the European Union by studying Romania and Bulgaria in particular.
The project, titled “East European Labor, Varieties of Capitalism and the Future of the European Social Model,” is also set to receive funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities. This year, Oberlin College has granted him research status.
A year of research, however, doesn’t mean that Crowley has left teaching behind. Crowley has been at Oberlin since 1995 and has taught such classes as a seminar on Post-Communist Transformations and Labor in the Global Economy. He says that doing research for a year should help rekindle his fires for teaching before he leads the Oberlin-in-London program in the fall of 2008.
In true Oberlin form, Crowley said, “I will use this one year that comes around only every once in awhile to do research and write papers so that when I get back to Oberlin I can get back to teaching and be more energized."
ROSS Candidates Promise Student Senate Reform
For the first time in years, candidates running as a slate under the banner of an independent student group are challenging a Student Senate election. This fall, Reform Oberlin Student Senate has nominated five official candidates for Oberlin Student Senate: ROSS founder Justin Brogden, Jon Harmatz and Renee Covey, all College juniors; College senior Ian Hilburger and first-year Raj Sheth.
“I’ve had the idea to create something like ROSS for some time now, but it really started to take shape last semester,” wrote Brogden in an e-mail. “The flame was really ignited when I expressed my interest in becoming involved on a committee (for the third time) and for the third time Student Senate failed to respond. When I inquired as to why, one senator admitted that at that point they just weren’t sure what committees actually existed. I found this completely unacceptable.”
“The goal of ROSS is to make the Student Senate more accountable to the student body. The Senate is really the only voice the student body has when it comes to institutional decisions,” stated Jon Harmatz in a similar message. “I hope that even if I don’t win, the goals that ROSS set out to accomplish such as making Student Senate more visible to the student population and [more] diverse in general will be accomplished.”
ROSS has created a website and a group on Facebook. The ROSS webpage, www.rossatoberlin.org, urges readers to “Bring in Brogden” and features a ten-point campaign platform which calls for the compilation of a complete list of all active committees, making the Senate’s minutes available in a timely matter, a resolution in support of safe spaces, the creation of a transgender non-discrimination policy and more gender-neutral bathrooms.
“I think ROSS makes some excellent points. The Senate hasn’t posted minutes on its website. This is a problem, though I am not sure it is a problem with the whole Senate,” wrote third-year and Student Senator Ben Klebanoff in an e-mail interview “As to ROSS’s other claims about the issues surrounding committees, I think ROSS is operating with insufficient knowledge of actual events. The Senate has made many attempts over the past academic year to get information regarding on-campus committees…The actions of the Senate have been talked about more over the past year than at almost any other time in recent memory. Additionally the Senate has held its own members more accountable, even removing inactive senators last year.”
ROSS is not the first organization formed to influence student government. It joins a long list, which includes such campus political parties as the Progressive Student League, SCOPE, VOICE and SLATE, which were active in the 1960s and produced noted activist alumni such as Rennie Davis, one of the Chicago Seven, a group of peace campaigners charged with inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Oberlin Community Re-Enacts Slave Rescue
In the pre-dawn haze of this past Saturday, Oberlin students and community members engaged in a reenactment of the famed Oberlin–Wellington rescue. Participants walked the route traveled by abolitionists and rescuers in what is sometimes considered one the most important events leading up to the Civil War.
On Sept. 13th, 1858, a group of Oberlin College students and professors and Oberlin residents aided John Price, a runaway slave who was seeking refuge in Oberlin. Under the Fugitive Slave Law, Price was recaptured by a US Marshal and transported to nearby Wellington as a waypoint in his return to enslavement in Kentucky.
Upon hearing this, members of the College community stormed the hotel where he was being held and liberated him. Price was housed for some time in former Oberlin president James Fairchild’s house before being transported to Canada. Thirty-seven of these protesters were arrested.
“This walk represented the rich heritage of equality and support that this college and town has cultivated over the generations, and I wanted to show my full appreciation thereof,” said Jamal Dunston, a College senior who participated in the event.
The reenactment is a declaration of the community’s lasting interest in equality and its activist legacy. For Associate Professor Booker Peek of the African-American Studies department, “the reenactment serves to remind the older generation and to introduce to the new [one] a glimpse into what took place by ordinary men undertaking extraordinary actions…We surely can hope that [the reenactment] will be done again for future generations.”
Mathematician Peter Lax Speaks in Craig Auditorium
On Wednesday, Sept. 19, Abel Prize winner and mathematician Peter Lax spoke to a filled Craig Auditorium about the life and times of John von Neumann. The lecture, intended for a general audience, sought to illuminates the work of a mathematician whose contributions to economics, quantum physics and computational mathematics were not fully acknowledged until after his death.
Lax, a professor at New York University, began the talk by speaking of von Neumann’s character and the importance of his achievements, noting that he would have earned a Nobel Prize in either mathematics or economics if Nobel Prizes existed for those fields. Mathematics awards the Abel Prize in place of a Nobel Prize.
Von Neumann, who like Lax hails from Hungary, was one of the first mathematicians to create axioms for set theory. He also attempted to align the newly developed quantum mechanics with mathematics, collaborating with famous German physicist Werner Heisenberg. With the onset of World War II, von Neumann joined physicists and engineers at Los Alamos in designing the Atomic bomb. When the war was over, he channeled his experience into developing computational mathematics to help solve engineering problems, laying the foundations for the beginnings of computer science. In 1957, he succumbed to cancer likely caused by his exposure to radiation at Los Alamos.
Lax’s best moments came with his anecdotes about von Neumann, some more based in fact than others. When asked what percentage of mathematics one person might seek to understand in a lifetime, von Neumann is said to have paused for a moment and answered, “28 percent.”
Peter Lax is best known for his work with partial differential equations and scattering theory and is one of the creators of modern computational mathematics. He gave another lecture at Oberlin on Tuesday, Sept. 18, entitled “The Speed of Sound.”