E D I T O R I A L S:

Forum gives hope
Professor, speak thyself

Forum gives hope

Last night's class trustee open forum was well-attended in comparison to past forums. Students put down their books for over two hours to discuss with class trustees their concerns about various topics including diversity, tenure track positions, OSCA and retention of administrators, faculty and staff members. The forum was a success in many respects because students were able to communicate with class trustees the many issues that have been stirring up all semester.

Although the number of students attending the forum grew substantially, more students should be making the effort to attend these forums and voice their opinions about the College itself. In a school where over 2,700 students attend, it is impossible for a group of approximately 30 students to represent the concerns of the entire student body. Students need to recognize that class trustees are representative of the younger generation of alumni. These class trustees want to be in touch with the current student body, and they have great influence, on the same level as trustees, in producing changes at Oberlin. The students who did attend the forum should be commended for actively caring about Oberlin.

Professor, speak thyself

Two weeks ago, Professor Yolanda Cruz wrote a stinging essay questioning the relevance of diversity in academic preparedness. About a week before that, in a panel discussion with Asian-American female professors, Cruz let her colleagues and attending students know that she was definitely not a proponent of affirmative action.

Since then, Professor Cruz and her supposed ideas have been dissected in a campus speak out, throughout the Commentary pages of the Review, and in conversations around campus. All of this because a Biology professor inked a dense letter commenting on the downside of diversity for diversity's sake? We'd like to thank you, Professor Cruz, not so much for the content of your letter, but for taking the initiative to write it.

Learning environments are created and reinforced with shared love and respect, not wobbly fear and nonunderstanding. Before these mushy things can be placed and thrust into motion, whole humanity must be recognized. In student/teacher relationships, for example, this recognition can only take place if students and teachers step out of safety zones. This, in no way infers that students can't function and flourish without professors' written or mass input ... we can and will. The truth is that professorial voice, like student voice, is sometimes ignorant, sometimes insightful, sometimes blistering, yet always needed. It's the absence of this needed professorial voice that needs examination.

Professors at Oberlin rarely openly add anything to campus conflicts or campus-wide conversation. Their reasons are probably valid. Say the wrong thing and your chance at tenure is jeopardized, right? Why write or speak to the community at large when you have your own smaller, more personal classrooms with which to do so? Who has the time?

Every once in a while, some professor builds an essay on the back page of the Oberlin Observer or a national magazine. For example, long before Professor Cruz wrote her essay in the Review, she expressed similar ideas in a piece published in the New Republic. But none of us knew until she voiced her opinions in one of our forums, the Review. There is much to be said for professors widening their audience and publicly directing their thoughts to the student body and the entire Oberlin community. Professors talk about developing critical minds and varying modes of thought, yet many of our instructors are reluctant to step outside of predetermined older academic audiences, or outside of the classroom of where their expertise is assumed.

Academics writing to and for other academics are not worthless. But it takes a different kind of initiative and risk to expose yourself to a student majority community, especially a small student community where your opinions will be mulled over by students and faculty you see everyday. More directly, here we are in the midst of a student push for Coalition and administrative improvement, and virtually no professors have shared their views with the campus in the Review, the Voice, Tha Cypher, speak-outs or campus forums.

Many professors are blessed with longevity and tenure. These professors have seen years of change and stagnation. They've seen years of student protest come and go. What do they have to say about today's Oberlin? We're not asking for direction, just opinions, commentary and experience ... itsy bitsy pieces of yourself.

Professor Yolanda Cruz recently set it off. She's been condemned for it, but look at the larger picture. At least we're talking, acting and thinking about the real and imaginary logistics of something as important as admissions, affirmative action and education. Professor X, what are you afraid of?


Editorials in this box are the responsibility of the editor-in-chief, managing editor and commentary editor, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the Review.

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T H E   O B E R L I N   R E V I E W

Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 11, December 5, 1997

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