Once again...the bloody chinned, despot shewolf, Dean Charlene Cole-Newkirk, with the help of her club footed, but very capable, SLC gang is attempting to maim student life as we know it. Sounds threatening, reactionary and oppositional - the way we like it. But it just ain't so. Cole-Newkirk is hearing it from hordes of folk in the community about her deletion of a rule in the student handbook. The rule regarded the handling and disposal of illegal substances found on campus during legal searches or found in plain view in room inspections. Cole-Newkirk says she talked with the college lawyer before changing the rule. She acknowledges that she did not go through the right channels. But there was no precedence for the right channels since the previous Dean added the rule with unchecked autonomy.
It's reprehensible, yet understandable that many charge Cole-Newkirk's office with totalitarianism - especially with all the crusty War on Drugs and co-ed room residue from last year and the jagged assumption of Cole-Newkirk as a newly appointed fibbing drug czar attempting to metamorphosize Oberlin into a place where federal rules have to be followed a wee bit. This, coupled with the expulsion of that keeper of peace, Matt Holford, led many to question Cole-Newkirk's motivations. But the issue is much more lucid and whole than that. At worst, Cole-Newkirk has a hard time following rules and regulations that aren't laid out anywhere in the College. She's trying to rewrite Oberlin's laws with no foundation as to how this rewriting should take place. But she admitted that.
The SLC and College are and have been in complete disarray and no one, including Cole-Newkirk, really knows what or how to do things procedurally because there has never been a fixed followed procedure. Cole-Newkirk is basically the inherited figure-head of a raggedy burning shack where no one knows they should know how to turn on the water. The shack has been burning for so long that it seems fine to people inside. Many of the folk outside, us students, don't see the flames until we get a little hot ... then we find a neat little safe place to claim oppression, and subsequently feel a malicious flame-thrower in Cole-Newkirk infringing on our prized student rights. Why? That's probably another essay. But really, it's imperative that we look deeper; that we voice discontent with what seems like the definitive answers to our sometimes imagined student plight; that we become critical enough to see the flaws in the system of governance, unchecked autonomy, spoiled finger pointing and warped procedure. But more than that, it's imperative we see both the good intention and the contradictions of a second year Dean trying to make this place better.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 14; February 14,1997
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