According to the word around campus, Res. Life and Services recently evicted a student without going through the prescribed judicial process. If so (and I haven't heard too much besides rhetoric and second-hand accounts), this is absurd and unacceptable. If so, I'm glad that people are working against it. If this is an attempt to combat true oppression, I celebrate it.
But I was at Thursday's speak-out, and I have to question this reaction. Yes, many people spoke about protecting our rights and our liberty, but the focus, it seemed, was the right to smoke pot. The oppression of those who are worried about how freely they can smoke pot. In their rooms.
For one thing, in response, smoking pot in one's room is not too cool, because people don't have airtight rooms. Many people have respiratory problems and have trouble breathing, and smoke that seeps into adjacent rooms and hallways can be a true problem. This is not to mention the somewhat less severe fact that many people who have to deal with second-hand smoke simply really dislike it.
But much more importantly, if the concern here really is oppression, or complaints with Oberlin, there is a lot more far beyond whether one can get stoned in one's room. To name only a few, students have to leave or not come here every year because of the price and the lack of financial aid. Little has been done by administrators in response to the Baldwin attacks. The MRC is, to say the least, weak and not respected by many administrators and faculty, despite the fact that it is supposed to represent and support a very large percentage of the Oberlin Community.
Oberlin's investments support some of the world's biggest corporate criminals. Numerous departments cry out for new professors. We've also lost a gifted and innovative professor, Wendy Hesford, (whose position could have been made permanent for the entire seven years she was here, I'll add), and in recent years lost Camille Guerin-Gonzales, Leela Fernandes, bell hooks, and others. We talk about diversity but lag far behind other schools in having any kind of a really pluralistic curriculum. Yet people are worried about how conveniently they can smoke pot?
All of these are issues just within Oberlin. We all know that a list of issues outside of Oberlin could go on for pages. And I guess this is why it bothers me when people devote so much energy to what they see as violations of whether they can smoke pot. There are far greater forms of oppression and marginalization of different groups that go on here and elsewhere, and it seems they deserve attention more. Perhaps many of them seem foreign, as I suspect some don't affect certain people, or at least not affect them all that directly. Nonetheless, they seem to objectively call for more attention.
As for the eviction without process, I'm pessimistic enough to believe it happened, though I'd like to know more. But I don't see it as logical to say that armed Res. Life staff are going to begin attacking us. If having to find some place other than one's room to smoke pot amounts to a police state, then I would hate to know what the other issues on this campus add up to.
I honestly do respect the energy and commitment that went into organizing around this issue. But if we really want to fight oppression, let's organize around some of the issues that demand more concern.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 124, Number 18; March 15, 1996
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