Angry RA Upset About OC Cutting Fall Break Meals

To the Editors:

When our first Convocation speaker Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot spoke, I asked her about being respectful and honest at the same time with administrations such as say…Oberlin College. She gave me and the audience and very heartfelt and personal response to my question. My question was along the lines of, “what does one do if one feels like he/she is being as respectful as possible but no one is listening?” It is in her response that I write to you now. I simply ask that you listen to me and answer my questions.
I have had a lot of issues with Reslife, but it really incensed me most last week at our weekly meeting when we received this notice: “Fall Break Only RAs (on CDS) that are covering DUTY will be compensated for meals ($25 a day). These dates need to be decided so checks can get cut. The last meal looks to be dinner 18th and reopen 27th. Decafe MAY be open for Flex??” This translates, as “RAs will only get feed for the NIGHT they do duty.”
First, the obvious! Since I’ve been here all students on board got meals BUILT into their meal plan over Fall and Spring Break. RAs were guaranteed meals because all students got them, but especially because RAs working during break were under the agreement that they would be feed. I see it as though NO RA should stay for fall break because it was not in our contract to stay here without food.
The second problem is that NO ONE was aware of this VERY big change. I understand that this news should currently be published in this Review. If not by now, then shame on them. None of my friends knew of this change. I am not going to discuss how this school should go about saving money, however if it is going to save money by not feeding us then they NEED to tell us more than three weeks in advance that something as basic as food will not be provided. They need to tell us…a year ago! Many students stay here at school because they cannot afford to go home. And, why should students go home if, as of today, they were under the impression that they could eat on campus? And why should they have thought otherwise? Not only does the college expect us to eat off campus, but also the kitchen facilities are really not capable of people trying to cook in them on a regular basis. I will testify to that because our facilities at French House are way below standard for any meal. But, that is another issue.
There is currently NO plan for RA’s on OSCA to be compensated for their time spent working during these breaks. There is actually one more drawback, and that is that “Decafe MAY be open.” In addition to lowering our flex dollars, we are expected to buy food from “DeCafe when it MAY be open”? So, even the most frugal student at Oberlin MAY have to pull money out of his/her pocket to eat during Fall Break.
There are many students on financial aid on campus. Many of us are on the tightest of a tight budget. Not only do we work to pay our monthly bills, but also we have to buy books etc. Now, if we were expecting to eat essentially for free then there is actually very little space in our budget. Now, again, it is OK for the College to save money. On the other hand, it’s outlandish that the college has waited so long to notify the student body of such an important decision. I could foresee the College delaying its announcement until the DAY of fall break when some student is starving and has no checks…no money to go to Gibson’s. This is a extremely problematic situation In fact, I see it as almost contractually immoral not to provide meals for students over fall/ spring break. There is nothing in any literature published this year regarding this change. Winter Term meal plan is VERY VERY clear. And students expect NOT to be able to eat. However, there was no warning at all about Fall/Spring Breaks. I personally am disgusted by the fact that Reslife, my employer, BUT equally my EMPLOYEE, would dare make such a move. I feel that The College legally has NO right to deny us entry in to the Dining Halls for Fall/ Spring Break. How can we have confidence in a school that targets international and low-income students? There better be plans for these specific students who will be most affected.
The point? Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot was invited here by Oberlin College. Her definition of RESPECT was that of reciprocity. Not only does she mention reciprocity, but communication and dialogue. The college has obviously failed at both. I feel that Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot would be very disappointed at Oberlin College right now. So, I ask you, student of Oberlin College to protest now. Demand compensation for your meals over Fall Break. We have no idea of the other “surprises” the colleges has in store for us. Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot told me personally that one must eventually put his foot down with tears swelling in the back of your eyes and say, “Excuse me, but I have asked you a question, and I am demanding that you answer it, now!”

–Reginald Patterson
Double Degree Junior
RA Bailey House

September 27
October 4

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