Feeling the Squeeze
Space is so rare at Oberlin youıd think thereıd be prospectors.
Walk around South and look at the rooms that were once lounges. How can students feel at home when theyıre stuffed in a room whose only assurance of privacy is a plywood board stuck into the space in the door where panes of glass once were?
In addition to residential problems, students also face a lack of studio, performance and rehearsal space. Simultaneously, faculty members are dealing with shared offices and extremely high competition between different departments for space and resources.
The problems involved are distressing, as many of the students currently at Oberlin will not have the rich learning experience they expect and deserve at Oberlin, especially considering the price of an education here. Space issues also deprive some faculty of the opportunity to contribute as fully as they would like to expanding the knowledge and wisdom of their pupils.
Southıs former dining hall is one glaringly unused area. Why canıt this be used as rehearsal space for those involved with Theater and Dance at Oberlin? One of the biggest issues facing these programs is the lack of appropriate rehearsal and performance space available for use by student organizations. This does not even take into account many problems the Theater and Dance department is facing regarding space, such as sharing a building that wasnıt originally intended for the use of either discilpline. It can be quite a problem when students reciting monologues must contend with pounding feet above them.
Just recently, the Conservatory made plans to create new offices in the second floor of the bookstore building in order to ease a situation in which members of the Conıs administration had been forced to double-up in offices with each other.
The new offices may be a victory for the Conservatory, but how can its problems be considered resolved with the current situation of the Jazz department, which resides many blocks away from the Con in Hales Gymnasium? This raises questions of where priorities lie. While the bookstoreıs space probably couldnıt be used for jazz practices, one must wonder why the Jazz department appears to be passed over time and again when it comes to the concerns of the Con as a whole. From an observerıs point of view, it seems the department is given far too little attention considering the extreme importance of Jazz music in contemporary society, as well as its popularity among students. These are only a handful of programs vying for access to campus space. It is likely that every department needs more resources. Hopefully, interested members of the community will become involved in the process of dealing with these problems as much as possible, or there will continue to be an imbalance in where resources are directed, and what is done with them.
Activists vs. Activists
A common disappointment for students who are first arriving at Oberlin, not to mention those who have been here for a considerable amount of time, is the lack of activism rooted in deep concern for the issues involved. Instead, activism is too often an (egotistical) concern with being concerned enough, dedicated enough, ideological enough, or sacrificial enough. Too often extremely intelligent, energetic, and creative students are turned off by so-called activists. These students are scolded for not being liberal enough, socialist enough, green enough, post-modern enough, etc.
Political desensitization at Oberlin is also the result of the ³bubble² syndrome. It seems too many groups spend too much of their time preaching to the converted, trying to convince the campus community of the need to take action, when it could be spent in the outside world, in efforts to inform the general public of important issues.
Thus, the four students who are facing trial as a result of their protests at the Republican National Convention should be commended for their work and their willingness to stay committed to their cause in the face of criminal charges and a criminal record. These individuals, and all the individuals who took part in recent actions such as those at the Democratic convention and those against the World Trade Organization, are impressive for their willingness to keep the society at large aware of what they feel are immediate concerns for the publicıs well-being.
Of course, one doesnıt have to be amongst crowds of demonstrators for their activism to be valid. Itıs simply a question of motives. Those who would pride themselves for their ideological firmness while steadfastly rejecting those who take different approaches to further the common good should rethink their actions; while those who welcome diverse ideas and do not limit their efforts to the Oberlin community should expect success.
Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Contact us with your comments and suggestions.