Retained, Future Staffing In Discussion
by Ariella Cohen
An armada of students, armed with stickers and petitions, applauded
members of the Standing Committee On Pluralism and Equality (SCOPE)
Thursday morning as administrators, faculty members and student representatives
made their way into the office of the Dean of Students. The third
in a series of hastily called meetings concerning the fate of the
College Multicultural Resource Center, yesterdays conversation
focused on establishing the process through which to negotiate the
In the past week, campus discussion of the MRC has caused one college
decision to be reversed and brought others into question.
Last Tuesday, the College announced a cut to all intern positions,
a budget slash affecting the Athletics department, the library and
most notably, the MRC, an administrative office staffed with four
interns and one assistant Dean of Students and director, Rachel Beverly.
Over a long-distance phone call Sunday, Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith
and College President Nancy Dye decided to retain the MRC intern position
for at least one more year.
The decision to end all intern positions was precipitated by
budgetary concerns but it was quickly apparent that there needs to
be discussion on the structures of the MRC, and with three weeks until
the end of the semester there is nowhere near enough time, Goldsmith
At this point, the conversation has shifted into a discussion of the
Centers role on campus and the model of staffing to best achieve
this. SCOPEs Thursday meeting focused on mapping out a series
of listening sessions and forums that would bring more voices into
the decision-making process.
One thing that is in the front of my brain is how to include
people from all the commnities we serve and even those who want to
contribute to the discussion but are not directly involved in any
of our four communities, Beverly said.
Many students have voiced concerns that the final decisions on how
to restructure or staff the MRC will be made in the summer or at other
points when students are not present.
We demonstrated to show that just because they decided not to
fire interns doesnt mean they can now decide on their own what
will happen with the MRC. We want to have a voice in deciding what
the MRC will look like. We want to make sure the restructuring doesnt
mean downsizing, sophomore Vida Vasquez said.
While differing administrative visions, budgetary concerns and high
turnover of administrators and staff has led to some variation in
the number of interns and adminstrors at the center, its basic structure
has remained the same since 1993, when community-specific interns
began staffing the center. These new college graduates are contracted
for one or two years to represent Asian-Pacific, Africana, Latina
and LGBTU communites. In the past, the non-professional nature of
the MRC staff has come under examaination from both students and administrators,
albeit for different reasons. One of the problems is turnover
of interns. It is a young staff, fresh out of college, who, while
doing a tremendous job, also struggle to find balance between dealing
with students and acting in the best interest of the College, the
institution itself, Goldsmith said.
One critique that I have heard from students is that the intern
position doesnt allow for continuity. Its not unusual for a
student to work with two or three different coordinators, he
In the Improving Work Environment section in the January 2001 report
of the Special Committee on Faculty Roles, Responsibilities and Rewards,
observations and recommendations were made regarding the interplay
between the MRC and students and faculty of color.
The report noted that, Some people feel additional pressure
due to the under-representation of people of color and other minority
groups in administrative and professional staff positions critical
to student life. The faculty committee, made up of some of the
same faculy members that still stand on SCOPE, requested that senior
staff identify and vigorously seek to hire and retain appropriately
diverse personnell, demographically consistent with Oberlins
present and future needs. The MRC in particular must be structured
and staffed with more professionals in addition to its interns so
as to ensure its maximum effectiveness; otherwise student pressure
on faculty of color for support and advice becomes unmanageable.
While students, faculty and administrators are aware of these recommendations,
no formal efforts have been made to enact them.
There is a film called Shattering the Silence addressing the
problems facing faculty of color
while problems are specific
and local on one level, on another they are systemic and national
in scope, Professor of Sociology Antionette Charfauros-McDaniel
said. Charfauros-McDaniels contract was not renewed this past
fall when she failed to complete her Ph.D. thesis by a deadline set
by the College.
Next weekend the assistant professor will attend a conference at the
University of Minnesota focusing on the recruitment and retaiment
of faculty and students of color. Charfauros was invited to sit on
the conference panel, Negogiating the Chilly Climate.
In this instance, the chilly climate refers to a study done in the
1970s that argued that the academy as a chilly or unreceptive
environement for female faculty and students.
Administrators emphasize that the MRC was never intended to be the
only source of support for underrepresented communities, pointing
to the Office of Academic Affairs, The Bonner Scholars Program and
other federal programs as supports for these communties. Faculty and
students emphasized that students needs are met through informal
faculty or MRC advising.
Its clear that for too long we have been spread too thin. Yes
there are institutions of support, but primarily the support is informal.
The question is: When OC will prioritize its resources, senior
and SCOPE representative Christine Harley said.
Currently, however, the college is in financial deficit and has put
a freeze on hiring any new staff members. While Goldsmith stated that
the budget for student life (the jursdiction under which the MRC falls)
would not grow, he did say that strategic exceptions to
the hiring freeze were a possibility.