Foreign Student Dismissed, Friends Protest
Safety and Security officers visited Conservatory sophomore and international student Zoran Stanishich on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 5:40 a.m. to inform him of his permanent dismissal from Oberlin College. The officers also told Stanishich that he had to take a 10 a.m. flight back to his home country of Macedonia. His case has created a controversy among some students, leading to Stanishich’s former roommate, College sophomore Sam Jewler, to initiate an informal student campain on his behalf.
A letter shown to the Review addressed to Stanishich from the Community Board stated that he had been charged and found responsible for unauthorized use of Conservatory facilities, abuse of College property, failure to comply with the Conservatory Associate Dean and disregarding policies of Residential Education. The Board issued a sanction for those violations, which included counseling, community service, a reflective paper and suspension until Spring 2009. On Monday, Oct. 15, Stanishich appealed to the Board.
The College later changed this sanction to a final dismissal after an incident on Friday, Oct. 12 in Harkness, when Stanishich invited town residents to be his guests in the co-op, knowing that they were on Oberlin’s no-trespass list. The Community Board has also reviewed the dismissal.
According to the College’s student handbook detailing regulations, policies and procedures, “The College reserves the right to dismiss any student who…poses a direct threat to the health and safety of self and other members of the College community.” This decision is at the discretion of the president of the College, the dean of students and the dean of the College.
“Sometimes those decisions are very difficult, and this was one of those. It’s an unfortunate thing,” said Dean of Students Linda Gates. “Nobody feels good about this. Nobody wanted this to happen.”
“Having reviewed the decision, I believe Dean Gates acted appropriately in the matter,” said David H. Stull, Dean of the Conservatory. “It is difficult for all of us. We never want to see a situation where a student is not able to succeed at Oberlin.”
According to Associate Dean of Students Kimberly Jackson Davidson, many problems are handled locally on campus, but “when a student starts pushing the boundary, it comes [to the Dean of Students office].” She stressed that if a situation reaches that point, many lines have already been crossed.
Once a student is charged with an offense, he or she is assigned a hearing officer that will accompany the student through the process. For all cases heard by the Honor Committee, Judicial Board and Community Board, members must first determine whether the student is responsible for the charges. If so, then the student’s disciplinary record will become available so that the committees can determine an appropriate sanction.
“We’re an educational institution. People can learn, and are not defined by one bad choice that they make,” Davidson said.
“[Oberlin] is generally a tolerant community that gives students many opportunities to learn from their mistakes,” said Gates.
However, “[some] people don’t demonstrate an understanding of what they’ve done,” Davidson said of students with multiple offenses. “In such situations, more severe consequences may be necessary.”
It was these “more severe consequences” that inspired a response from students protesting the College’s decision. Led by Jewler, some students plan to circulate a petition, flood President Marvin Krislov and Dean Gates with e-mails, and do all they can to bring Stanishich back to campus.
Jewler is critical of the College’s treatment of Stanishich: “It seems really immoral to come into somebody’s room with police officers at a time when they’re obviously asleep and tell him, ‘You can’t say goodbye to any of your friends, you’ll never see any of them again. You have a half hour to choose what to pack.’ It was really unprofessional.”
The 309 members of the “Free Zolki” Facebook group agree. Both on that site and on the Oberlin Confessional, a fierce debate rages over whether or not the punishment fits the crimes. Rumors of dealing with drugs, sexual offenses, and worse offenses not disclosed by the College due to protection of Stanishich’s privacy are circulating. Countering such rumors are many voices vouching for Stanishich’s innocence. Gates has received over 100 e-mails asking the College to rethink its choice.
Jewler does agree with the administration that Stanishich deserves some punishment for his repeated rule-breaking. “I think a suspension is warranted,” he said. “A year would be fair. That way, he can come back knowing that you have to follow the rules. All I’m saying is he deserves a second chance. If he messes up then, sure, expel him.”
Jewler plans to help Stanishich draft a letter of appeal to President Krislov.
In the past, students’ sanctions have not always elicited such a passionate response. Not all decisions by the College, Honor Committee, Judicial and Community Boards are reviewed and discussed so publicly on campus.
“Ordinarily, you wouldn’t think that the decision regarding an individual student’s academic or other future at a college would be a subject of public discussion. It’s his or her business,” Krislov said. “This is an unusual situation because of the kind of attention it’s gotten.”
Jewler hopes that his efforts will not only bring his roommate back, but also bring more attention to certain College policies, such as the power granted to the dean of students, dean of the College and the president to expel a student, and the fact that the “no-trespassing list” is not public.
This past Monday, Jewler presented his case to Oberlin’s ACLU chapter, who is now assisting him in petitioning the president for Stanishich’s return. While tabling in Wilder, Jewler and his supporters got over 150 student signatures. Their goal is 280, 10 percent of the school.
Describing his decision-making process, Krislov said, “At the moment, my focus is to look at this appeal and try to figure it out. The challenge for [students] is that there are going to be things about his record that you are not going to be able to know. I’m going to do what I think is the right thing. I’m not going to take a straw poll of the students because the truth is the students’ information in this is limited and we’ve got to be very fair to all sides.”