More Letters to the Editors
Ninde Tutors Making a Difference
To the Editors:
Do you remember November of your senior year of high school? This is the time of year when high school seniors are polishing their college essays, finalizing their list of schools, and perhaps taking the SAT one last time. Here in Oberlin a small group of OC students meet weekly with the Ninde Scholars at Oberlin High school, helping them to make sense of the application game.
These high school students will be the first in their families to attend college, and many of the OC tutors are also the first in their families. These tutors know what it’s like to face the uncertainties of applying to college without someone in the family to give them an idea what to expect. Where should I go to college? How will I pay for it? What do I do with all of these forms? These are tough questions, and the tutors are there to help.
This year the Ninde tutors are sophomore Jerome Goings, junior Kira Rivera and seniors Amy Caes, Jessica Hicks and Amanda VanAllen. In addition, senior Alex Daar and Elizabeth Meyers, OC ’06, have worked with the Ninde Scholars this year.
The Ninde Scholars program is part of a collaborative between Oberlin College, The Lorain County Urban League and the Oberlin City School System. Dick and Nan Ninde provided the initial financial backing to set up a program to improve college access for Oberlin’s young people. Their personal generosity became a community-wide movement to encourage Oberlin students to participate in education beyond high school.
This year’s seniors are anxious but excited about their futures. They feel fortunate to have a mentor and friend to help guide them through this intimidating process. The tutors are making a real difference here at Oberlin – helping the Ninde Scholars choose a school that fits: a place where they can really succeed. Good luck seniors – way to go tutors!
Director, Ninde Scholars Program
SCA May Not Be as Green as It Seems
To the Editors:
In a letter published in last week’s coupon-laden arthritic cipher, Sustainable Community Associates’ environmental consultant John Pardee, an Oberlin News-Tribune columnist, characterized the cogent, lucid opposition to SCA’s eggshell-thin economic Hindenburg as “environmental terrorism.” Mr. Pardee lamented the protracted, costly, 15-month regulatory “debacle” that “tarnished their [SCA’s] reputation and nearly killed their project.” To ascertain the inconvenient truth, let’s peer under the panglossian hood and conduct a forensic autopsy.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act closure is not synonymous with RCRA clearance. Absent credible amelioration, temporary RCRA mollification is RCRA circumvention: the functional equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. No reported soil or groundwater remediation has occurred at the highly contaminated former Buick dealership site since December 2004. No accurate, accountable groundwater monitoring timeline — a critical barometer — has been officially tendered. At the September 17, 2007, Oberlin City Council meeting, SCA spokesman Ben Ezinga touted SCA’s commitment to obtain a coveted Covenant Not to Sue under Ohio EPA’s anemic Voluntary Action Program. According to recently retained SCA attorney Robert Karl’s revealing October 9, 2007, dispatch to Ohio EPA Hazardous Waste counsel Todd Anderson, obtained under Ohio’s Public Records Act, that vaunted pledge is unlikely to be consummated:
“The fee associated with NFA letters and requests for Covenants Not to Sue that include Phase I and Phase II assessments could be several tens of thousands of dollars (OAC 3745-300-03.) This fee is one reason that may prevent SCA from requesting a Covenant Not to Sue for the VAP work performed at its property. SCA does desire to obtain a Covenant Not to Sue for the VAP work performed at its property, but SCA’s ability to obtain the Covenant Not to Sue will depend on whether SCA has the available financing.”
In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article, Chris Trepal, co-director of the Earth Day Coalition in Northeast Ohio, lambasted the enabling VAP legislation as “one of the poorest public policy measures I’ve ever seen.” Richard Sahi, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council, echoed his sentiment in the May 26, 1994, Cincinnati Post: “We do predict there will be a lot of shoddy cleanups under this bill the state will never catch.”…
A 152-page 2001 Gund Foundation funded study by the Green Environmental Council confirmed the critics’ predictions. A dearth of agency resources to provide meaningful regulatory oversight combined with the lack of a credible, established enforcement mechanism has rendered the feckless, industry aligned program toothless. “It’s a broken program — it doesn’t work,” declared the council’s Bruce Cornett in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer….“This is the governor’s attempt to whitewash his EPA,” charged Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental projects director for Ohio Citizen Action.
For six years after the Voluntary Action Program’s 1996 implementation, the U.S. EPA refused to extend program participants federal immunity and threatened to decertify the Ohio EPA due to the VAP’s expansive, inhibiting secrecy provisions and tangible lack of transparency. In a brokered, bifurcated modification to the Ohio VAP that “frankly doesn’t make sense at all,” according to Ohio Public Interest Research Group director Amy Simpson (Akron Beacon Journal, February 24, 2001), an alternative “memorandum of agreement” VAP track with enhanced public access was crafted. Companies that elect the original, opaque, “classic” option, which conceals under an embargo the extent and nature of contamination, will not be afforded U.S. EPA liability insulation. “Why Ohio would want a two-headed monster is beyond me,” quipped the Ohio Environmental Council’s Jack Shaner. In SCA’s case, the jaundiced, green and incompliant wants to hide what you can’t see.
Campaign Successful Despite Mistakes
To the Editors:
In the last Review, Kate Riley correctly asserted that activists must educate themselves before they act. Let me add that activists must also expect mistakes and learn to overcome them.
This semester, I’ve served as both Greenpeace and Energy Justice Network Coordinator on campus. Subsequently I was appointed Campaign Manager to Councilmen David Ashenhurst, Jack Baumann, Charles Peterson and David Sonner, each of them staunch opponents of the 40-year contract with AMP-OH’s proposed coal plant. In my one-woman, time sensitive endeavor, I made mistakes for which my credibility undoubtedly paid a price. I’d like to at this time thank those who stuck with me throughout and helped this campaign reach the victory it did. The Councilmen would be first to say they couldn’t have done it without you.
Making mistakes now spares the larger world our mistakes later. I gained valuable lessons during this campaign. First, check my sources, no matter how credible my original source. Second, coordinate my steps with my allies. At one point, I unwittingly stepped on the toes of a group I supported and jeopardized our relationship before we’d even formed one. To any of those affected by these two mistakes in my campaign, I offer my most sincere apologies for any confusion I caused. It was always my intent to make things easier for you, never harder.
Despite these errors in process, the campaign was a great success. Students strongly opposed to the plant were informed as to how to put their opposition into action, which threatened candidates supporting the plant. For the first time, candidates who usually dismissed the College were spotted campaigning on campus. In the end, all four candidates who vowed to revoke the AMP-OH contract were elected to Council, gaining the majority. The City of Oberlin now has the most progressive Council in years and prospects for a cleaner energy future.
Ms. Riley’s comment that Oberlin can sell its share of the contract at any time was correct, but rather irrelevant. She also defended the proposed plant as “cleaner” and cheaper. It appears she failed to consider the following points: 1) Selling our share would not reduce CO2 emissions. 2) Once the city realizes it doesn’t want coal, who’s to say others will want our share either? 3) Oberlin has five more years before its current contract with AMP-OH’s Gorsuch plant expires, during which time Oberlin can continue to study viable alternatives. 4) Saying this coal plant will be less dirty is as unimaginative and beside the point as the next war being less deadly. 5) The estimated construction cost of the AMP-OH plant has already shot from $1.2 billion to $2.912 billion in only two years. Customers will pay these costs, regardless of whether the plant is ever operable. Carbon taxes are soon to hit the coal industry hard. No one yet knows the most financially beneficial choice for Oberlin. (For more info, visit http://www.ohiocitizen.org/campaigns/coal/amp_ohio.html.)
Finally, I must humbly submit that while criticism is welcome, certainly encouraged during these campaign periods, we must not overlook that only select individuals truly stepped up and brought awareness to campus. Most opposed to our tactics were absent when it came to Candidates Night or City Council meetings. Their emails or OCon responses were often ill-informed, sometimes nasty and personal. They also did not serve to mend the College-community divide, which learning about local issues helps students to do. I’m afraid of the sort of atmosphere this creates for campus activists, of which we always need more.
In conclusion, education is necessary among both critics and activists. We can’t afford to be discouraged by mistakes, or intimidated by the possibility of making them. All of us, in our various pursuits of a better world, carry the responsibility of fighting with diligence and passion, but most of all: humility.
Like the Arb? Help Take Care of It
To the Editors:
Some call it the Morgan St. Res, some the College Arboretum. The green space bounded by Johnson House at Professor St., the bike path, the Golf Club and Morgan St. is affectionately known among me and mine as the Arb. The Arb is our community’s nearest available retreat into the woods. You can sit up in the spruces and watch the world, you can cross the natural bridges which fallen trees have created over the creek, you can roll down the hill or go sledding, or you can just find a piece of earth which is all yours for a few minutes. It is one of Oberlin’s real treasures.
But the Arb is in decline. Now I don’t mean to cause anybody to panic; it’s only that lately there’s been an awful lot of trash left there. Along the banks of Plum Creek there are countless beer cans and plastic bags. The path by the campfire circle has become a bed of glass shards. It doesn’t look very good, it’s unsafe and, I’ll admit, it looks like a lot of rubbish. But if we all work together to clean up this beautiful space, even just for an hour, an afternoon, it suddenly won’t seem like so awfully much, it will be safe for our children and animals, and we’ll be able to enjoy it again as we used to.
This Sunday, Bike for Democracy invites you to join us to clean up the Arb. Bike for Democracy is an Oberlin-based non-profit organization planning a cross-country bike tour to promote environmental service and justice. We feel that there has never before been a better chance for town/gown collaboration as there is now, so let’s start Sunday and work together to improve this community from the ground up, one piece at a time. Meeting time is 3 p.m. behind the water tower on Morgan St. Tea and snacks provided, but bring your own trash bags.
Bike for Democracy
Evolution, Atheism Not Inseparable
To the Editors:
On Wednesday, November 14, John Sanford addressed the Oberlin community on the topic of “Why Evolution Fails.” Professor Sanford made a number of errors in his presentation, several of which were pointed out by audience members. One dramatic error, however, was not.
Dr. Sanford claimed, and I paraphrase, that the American Atheist Affiliation stated in a prominent location on their web site that mutation and selection alone explained all aspects of life and that this was support for the atheist position. First, there is no such thing as “the American Atheist Affiliation.” The only organization I could locate containing both “American” and “Atheist” in the title was one called “American Atheists.”
Second, while this organization maintains an extensive web site, a simple search reveals that it mentions mutation and selection only casually and does not claim that these phenomena explain all aspects of life nor that this supports atheism. The National Center for Science Education maintains a collection of statements in support of evolution from the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran World Federation, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the American Jewish Congress, the Roman Catholic Church and others. The misconception that atheism and evolution march hand in hand is utterly false.
Schiffer Professor of Physics
In Defense of a Student Senator
To the Editors:
The Oberlin community ought to thank a number of individuals whose tireless campaigning for reasonable, progressive causes laid the foundation for the outcome of the November 6th elections. One individual deserving highest praise is College Senior and Student Senator Colin Koffel.
In an article published in the Review’s Commentary section on November 9th, Copy Editor Ralph Lewis accused Koffel of launching a “one-sided, last-minute” political attack against recently unseated City Councilman Tony Mealy prior to the election. Lewis implicitly alleged in his comments that Koffel had behaved inappropriately by sending an e-mail drawing attention to Mealy’s unsavory record just before last week’s election. Though equivocal and half-hearted, Lewis’s accusation indirectly called into question Koffel’s sense of propriety and ethics.
As an intimate personal friend of Koffel’s I’m writing to respond to
Lewis’s poorly executed attack. Lewis framed his comments as a defense of the “facts, logic and room for discussion” that structure public political discourse. My response to Lewis is that Koffel’s e-mail, which was factually accurate and distributed through perfectly legitimate means, is a fine example of the type of communication that constitutes this discourse.
The changes in the constitution of the Oberlin City Council were the product of a deliberative process that involved many townspeople and students and occurred over the course of several months. It is foolish to allege, as Lewis does, either that this process did not occur or that Koffel’s e-mail hampered it. Lewis seems to have failed to notice the ongoing debate over Mealy’s tenure on City Council; perhaps his negative response to Koffel’s rhetoric was simply his reaction to the first element of the discussion that he encountered. We should not punish Koffel for extending the domain of local political discourse to include students. We should applaud him.
I will further note that Lewis’s article, published during Parent’s Weekend, was much more of a cheap shot than any political maneuvering that Koffel has executed. I ask the Review’s readers to join me in entreating Koffel to persist in his role as one of the leading lights of institutional and town politics in Oberlin.
Politics Article Lacked Effective Structure
As a non-judgmental, friendly offering of constructive criticism, after reading “City Candidates Fire it up at First Church” in your November 3rd edition, I would like to suggest the author read “The Shipping News” by E. Annie Proulx, which contains several handy points on how to write an engaging summary of local council meetings.
To put it more bluntly — the most interesting point of the article, a shouting match with School Board President Marci Alegant, is located at the very end, with no details as to how the situation was rectified, who was involved, etc. And now I have only my meager imagination fill in the salient details. And when that happens, we all lose.
A Word from Alumni
To the Editors:
This past Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from an Oberlin student on behalf of the Oberlin Fund. When I reminded him that the word “Alumni” had recently been added to the name, the conversation became more friendly and interactive. He was, as I know most Oberlin students to be, articulate, cordial and informal, and I very much enjoyed the conversation.
That the name of this fund now incorporates the word “alumni” is important to me, and I believe it will soon become important to classmates and fellow students of the man who called me. Just now students may be working hard, possibly even struggling, with the demands of classes, exams, recitals and papers. In less than a year for some, and in less than four years for most, the relationship to the College and Conservatory will shift from that of beneficiary to steward. Indeed, some students, I understand, are becoming financial stewards by contributing to Oberlin before they become alumni.
In a related context, Wikipedia tells me, environmental stewardship is the responsibility to take care of our natural resources to ensure that they are sustainably managed for current and future generations. Stewardship of the environment can include recycling, conservation, regeneration, and restoration. Stewardship is an ethic whereby citizens participate in the careful and responsible management of air, land, water and biodiversity to ensure healthy ecosystems for present and future generations.
In parallel, stewardship of Oberlin is a primary responsibility of all members of the community, but especially of alumni. Our role is first and foremost one of caring for and about the whole Oberlin community. Individuals carry out this responsibility by interviewing prospective students, by sponsoring Winter Term projects, by informing high school students about Oberlin, by serving on the Board of Trustees, and, yes, by contributing financially to Oberlin. This last form of stewardship is pretty important since tuition and fees cover about 55% of the cost of a student’s school year at Oberlin. The other 45% comes from other sources, one of which is the Oberlin Alumni Fund.
The Alumni Association, which I am honored to serve as President, sponsors and promotes all the forms of stewardship I mentioned above and others as well. Stewardship, whether of the environment or of Oberlin, involves a complex set of tasks requiring considerable talent and flexibility. When your time as a student comes to a close, we will welcome you to the Association and our primary role as stewards of a remarkable community.
President, Oberlin College Alumni Association
Concerns and High Hopes for Democratic Process
To the Editors:
Based on Oberlin students’ involvement in the 2004 presidential election, next year is going to be busy and exciting on campus. Student response to the long lines at polling places in 2004 (some students waited in line for eight hours) was electrifying. Those students did not wait alone: Con students played concerts, OSCA cooked and served food and students distributed library books.
The weak student turnout in the past several elections is disappointing. We’re Oberlin; we can — we must — be more engaged than we are now. As an Oberlin College student, Oberlin is my home. It is incumbent upon us, citizens of this community, to actively involve ourselves in local and state politics. Going to city council meetings, reading the local paper, or even just talking with others who have been here for years are useful ways to stay connected.
Over the past several years, numerous campus organizations — the OC Dems, OC ACLU, OhioPIRG, the Roosevelt Institution and Student Senate — have worked to raise student awareness of elections by organizing candidate forums, writing voters’ guides and communicating with our friends. Students have benefited from the President’s Office funding non-partisan voter registration and the League of Women Voters Oberlin Area’s tireless work to raise election awareness and protect eligible voters’ right to vote.
Students cannot be dragged into the democratic progress. We must all take the initiative to be an informed, involved electorate. Otherwise, we only encourage the negative, condescending, infantilizing pandering that currently passes as campaigning.
I am encouraged by the huge success of the OC Dem’s Mock Convention last week. And the College, working with student government and organizations, has taken a renewed and active interest in ensuring that students’ right to vote is protected. I ask that students of any ideology join us: help us make voting easier for students, become involved in the lively Oberlin community discussions surrounding elections, harass your friends a little, and help us figure out how to involve and enfranchise as many people as possible.
Expulsion Coverage Thorough, but Far from Perfect
To the Editors:
While I was impressed with the depth of research and organization of your recent article “New Sources Open Up in Student Dismissal Case,” I was irked by a few factual misrepresentations and by the sensationalizing “Social Dysfunction” section. First of all, you write that I had my iPod stolen by a friend of Zoran’s. This is false. The four town residents mentioned in the article — Kyle, Brogan, Solomon, and Deante —may all have unsavory records, but they are all personally trusted by Zoran and me. This is not meant to excuse our acquiescence in hosting them in Harkness. What I’m trying to say is that the person who stole my iPod tagged along with one of them, and was unknown to us both. After that incident we agreed to only allow in the four aforementioned people, who had countless opportunities to steal from us but never did.
Secondly, my quote on how I feel better about how the situation was handled by an unspecified “them” was written wildly out of context, like a whale stumbling through the Sahara desert. I still feel like the College Administration mistreated Zoran by ignoring due process and by confronting him before dawn with a bunch of pawns who could only answer his pleas with “It wasn’t our decision.” The reason I have a better understanding of his punishment is that I recently talked to his private piano teacher, Ms. Duphil. Only then did I realize that he was dismissed primarily for failing to put any effort into his studies. My original aim in this whole endeavor was to find the missing pieces to the story, because something seemed fishy about it. I knew he was a lackadaisical student, but I thought that he was being expelled for his disciplinary violations alone. That would have been completely unjust. After several weeks of talking to administrators who made sure to step around the issue of academics so as not to violate Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act laws, I finally got the real story from his former professor. That is the only reason I feel more comfortable with the situation. I appreciate that the College did not display his academic failures on his record, but this whole ordeal would have been simplified had they simply hinted at their true motives. It also brings up another question of whether he looks worse to a potential new conservatory for disciplinary problems or for lack of motivation. But that’s another story.
I also want to say that the background story I wrote which has spread around the campus does have some misrepresentations in it. It was never my intention to give a biased account to fuel people’s passions for the sake of the protest. I had basically two sources of information — my senses and Zoki’s accounts of events. Therefore I unwittingly passed around information which was incomplete. I apologize for this, and reiterate that my main goal was and always has been simply to gain more information about what happened. When I wrote at the beginning of the account, “This is the story of the affair as accurately and neutrally as I can relate it,” I really meant that. Since then I have learned that some aspects of it were wrong or incomplete.
Lastly, I feel that the section on Zoran’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend Judith Van Der Wat was totally unnecessary — even unprofessional — and served only to sensationalize the story. In reporting on this story, you as journalists were supposed to help get to the bottom of why Zoran was expelled, what’s being done about it now and how students are responding to the situation. While his actions against Judith (if completely factual) are inexcusable, they had absolutely nothing to do with his dismissal. Relationships are complicated and his side of it was never presented (I know it’s virtually impossible to reach him now). Regardless, scandalous disclosures of personal relationships are the territory of celebrity tabloids, not The Oberlin Review. I’m disappointed that you decided to use yellow journalism and jump on the proverbial dogpile with Zoran’s reputation at the bottom.
Expulsion Coverage Thorough, but Far from Perfect