Staff Changes Unacceptable
has taken me several days to sit down and write this letter because
I have gone through such a range of reactions and emotions since
learning that the four MRC community coordinators positions
were to be discontinued and replaced with two non-community-specific
I can only describe my general experiences with the administration
of Oberlin as increasingly predictable and disappointing. Why does
a school that touts its commitment to multi-racialism, integration,
multi-culturalism, and progressive politics eliminate almost half
the staff of the only department in the school that has institutional
backing and support for students of color and queer students? Why
does a school whose history celebrates community and struggle, whose
campus-culture of co-ops, collectives, and consensus encourage community
building, show such willingness to put more and more of the burden
of support and protection on already-marginalized faculty and students
who have other jobs and are unable to adequately fill this role?
I sometimes think that because so many people use words like support
and multiculturalism and marginalization
on this campus that they have come to be seen as a series of buzzwords,
thrown around by privileged kids who came here and took a couple
classes on the patriarchy. I can tell you that this is not what
I mean when I use these words. I grew up in a conservative town.
I was out as queer in high school and received death threats, was
followed home from school, and received constant verbal harassment.
When I speak of the importance of having support for
my community and for other communities, when I speak of being marginalized
I am not using words that I learned in Intro to Womens
Studies in the Fall of 2000. I am talking about my life: the
fact that I could be beaten or killed here or anywhere, today or
any other day; the fact that you can drive 10 miles in any direction
from Oberlin and find a house with a Confederate flag flying; the
fact that every Saturday the religious right visits our campus,
which has huge populations of queer people, Jews and non-xtians
and holds signs telling us we are going to burn in hell. I am talking
about the fact that many students here have been racially profiled
and harassed since 9/11; that many students here have family members
and loved ones who are the targets of violence here and abroad because
of their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, or religion.
I am talking about the fact that the elevator in North dorm has
Fags Suck in grafitti on the door. I am talking about
the fact of four rapes last semester and not one rapist found and
held accountable. I am talking about the revolving door of faculty
of color, and yes, I am talking about the virtual elimination of
This is not about the budget, it is about budgeting priorities.
This is not about eliminating positions, not people,
it is about systematically eliminating resources for communities
that already have scarce amounts of time and energy. This is not
about asking program houses and student organizations to take more
responsibility, it is about the administration openly abandoning
its own responsibility.
This is not acceptable. Not because were Oberlin and were
supposed to be better, or because we think one person can change
the world, but because this is simply unacceptable. The MRC must
not be downsized in any way shape or form. If anything, professional
positions should be considered as an addition to the staff of the
MRC, not a replacement.
Now is the time for the entire campus to say that this is unacceptable,
to say it as loudly and forcefully as it takes to reverse this decision.