This is your prototypical Oberlin apathy edit.
The year is 2006. Little clusters of mostly Asian-American students, with yellowish brown cloth tied to their book bags, are pouting, calling themselves diasporic, and speaking out about the truth beneath the dreaded model-minority-myth. During the pout-out, many also address the lack of an Asian-American Studies department. A few weeks later, an amped cluster of mostly Queer students with pink cloth tied to their book bags are demanding Queer Studies and an end to the homophobic essays written on the wall behind the newly remodeled Crib o'Queer. A month later, an even more amped cluster of mostly black students with black cloth tied to their book bags are protesting the admittance of only 14 black students in the first year class and two black students in the graduating class. This protest also marks the fifth anniversary of the dismantling of the Black Studies department. Yesterday, the Co-op bookstore, once in dire need of outside funding, expanded to 12 floors since it started manufacturing and patenting the Call Me Oppressed and Resisting Cloth, which can be customized to the customer's given oppression.
Why all this protesting stuff? Because 10 years earlier, every one was reactionary. People refused to get at the structural roots of personal problems, until it was exceedingly too late. For example, basically no one, not even the professed revolutionary folks on campus, came to the discussion groups on something called Long Range Planning or the question and answer sessions for candidates of the Dean of the College position.
It's really not a question or proclamation of apathy. Apathy, in some form at least, presupposes a knowledge of issues. Most students back then didn't know and probably didn't care what Long Range Planning was or what the Dean of the College actually did. The reasons for this were manifold and there was enough blanketed blame to go around, but an ample amount should be placed on the lame tactics of Senate and the administration. Both failed to use effective or creative ways to widen the student body's gaze of Long Range Planning or explain why the Dean of College was significant to students. Student mailings and emphasis on focus groups proved pretty much self-defeating. Announcing these forums, or holding these forums in the dining halls and Co-ops would have ensured more input. But that's really secondary.
Surprisingly, it seems that there were students who yipped and yelled about curriculum, retention rates, food service, assault policy, unsafeness and whatever else. But even these students weren't flooding these forums or holding proactive forums of their own. Why did they wait until academic Armageddon set in before making those moves to improve Oberlin? And why was their concern with these issues like a passing fad? Was it a cloth thing? Perhaps they didn't understand that the cloth would be there, even if they stopped being completely reactionarily revolutionary and made moves to right the possible wrongs of the future. Oh well ... what's done is done. Let's not make the same mistakes. President Holtzman will be speaking on these and other issues in Finney Chapel this Sunday.
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 8; November 8, 1996
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