the first General Faculty meeting of the term, College President
Nancy Dye expressed the need for the College to give greater attention
to the politics, history, traditions and religion of the Middle
East and the wider Muslim world.
The need for more factual information concerning U.S.-Middle
Eastern relations is still obvious, Sarah LeBaron von Baeyer,
a first year from Canada, said. She was one of many who attended
the 4-part series of College-sponsored lectures and discussions
that took place the week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In
her opinion, the series was useful in articulating various perspectives
but was limited on several subjects, including discussions U.S.
foreign policies that might have caused negative sentiment, the
Taliban regime and previous events that might have culminated in
the Sept. 11 attack.
As an international student, I would definitely be interested
in taking such courses, as I find the media lacking and sources
of information regarding these issues limited, LeBaron von
Many faculty members have voiced similar sentiments.
I thought the Student Senate initiative on educating the campus
was terrific and the discussion panel successful, but there is simply
no way to compensate for the lack of courses, Dean of the
College and the Vice President of Academic Affairs Clayton Koppes
said, adding that the region is under-represented in
the Colleges curriculum.
The College is small, and because of that nature there is
a limited number of programs we can provide, he said, when
asked why a Middle East Studies program does not currently exist.
In fact, while many large universities do have such programs, few
exist at liberal arts schools in Oberlins size range.
Presently, there is a proposal for the creation of a tenure track
position in what would be defined as Middle East Studies. The position
would cover regions in North Africa, Iran and Turkey.
Despite present budgetary concerns, President Dye has made it clear
that the College needs to continue moving forward with its long-term
strategic goals. Although the prospect of a Middle East Studies
department emerging immediately is slim, the College is actiely
considering the idea and is working to develop more courses for
the spring, including plans for a new 200-level class on the contemporary
I think [the program] is absolutely critical, and we have
always known that, but through the events of Sept. 11, we realized
we could not ignore it anymore, Dean Koppes said. Recent
events sharpened our awareness. This is not an issue [thats]
here today and gone tomorrow; it is an issue that will be with us
for years to come.
Assistant Professor of Religion Anna Gade teaches most of the courses
on the study of Islam and the Muslim world offered at Oberlin.
Compared to other similar schools, the offerings of Religion
[department] actually represent a fairly comprehensive course of
study for a small liberal arts college, she said.
From the perspective of the study of religion, our present
offerings already provide a basis for exploring many of the questions
people are now asking that relate to topics such as political rhetoric
and contemporary social movements, transnational networks, piety
and, of course, Muslim readings of the Quran, she said,
Gade also noted that a course examining modes of authority in the
Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority worlds in the department of
religion could help develop frameworks everyone could understand
and apply across disciplines.
Many academics in the U.S. recognize that a good educational opportunity
Oberlin students are among those who are leading the way,
Gade said, expressing her hope that dialogue within the College
community would continue so we can use whatever opportunities
might arise at Oberlin to build on and to complement our present