Vent to OC Trustees
By John Byrne and
more than two hours last night at a charged trustee forum, students
and trustees grilled each other on issues of the day. At times vitriolic,
at times humorous — nearly everything was on the table. Students
questioned College President Nancy Dye’s $1 million bonus,
the College’s commitment to diversity and Dye’s budget
Students, alternating between lambasting and applauding President
Dye, seemed to connect with trustees on a level rarely seen with
College administrators. More than twenty students and five trustees
agreed that the Dye administration must work to improve communication
Attendance, Trustee Judith Plows OC ’67 asserted, was record
“This is the most well attended [trustee forum] I’ve
ever seen, by a factor of at least 10,” she said.
Although Dye’s bonus seems to be on the minds of many students
these days, it was Plows who first floated the subject.
“It’s very unfortunate that the decision came on the
heels of the financial crisis,” she remarked. “The Board
spent two years looking at this trying to figure out what to do.”
The College’s pressing budget problems, Plows said, made Dye’s
presence an imperative.
“I know how you feel, and I would be feeling the same way
if I were in your shoes,” Plow said. “But she is in
my mind the strongest president I’ve seen at the College since
back when I was a student.
“We look at it as an investment,” she added. “We
want that leadership.”
The students, though, weren’t quite so sure.
“Would she have gone somewhere else if she hadn’t gotten
that money?” one asked.
“It was not a desperate kind of move,” Plows replied.
“She’s not at the top of her peer group [in terms of
salary]. …As a college we ought to be competitive with other
schools. We use them as a benchmark.”
The endowment, from which Dye’s bonus comes directly, was
another hot topic.
“I’m on the Student Union Board,” one student
said, “and they asked us to cut 20 percent of our programs.
We did cut 20 percent, and they came back to us and they cut more.”
“What is their goal?” asked senior Kat Fernandez. “What
are they cutting exactly? That is what we desire to know.”
“Because we’re looking at a moving target right now,”
Plows answered. “We really don’t know how much we’ll
have to cut. The investment banks in New York City have gone through
three rounds of layoffs. It’s very hard for us. Some schools
are going through tougher times, much tougher times than we are.”
“We lost under three percent,” Plows continued. “Given
that the market lost 20 percent, we are very, very proud.”
If budget cuts aren’t made, “We’re irresponsible
as a board,” Plows said.
Students gave specific examples of how cost cutting is undermining
their trust in the administration.
One student told the trustees she counts on work study for her financial
aid, but when she went to apply for a job she was turned away due
to the hiring freeze.
“I get the feeling that they’re scared,” she said.
“The image is that there is an administration that is something
like Watergate. I wish they would act like they’re on the
same level [as the students].”
The trustees nodded and took notes.
“Over time, I felt like the administration has not talked
to us enough,” senior Donavan Williams said. “And I
think this campus is at a high right now, and I think it’s
about to explode. It would be really helpful to have our deans come
talk to us to make this more of a community.”
Last year’s battle over the Multicultural Resource Center
interns was a recurring theme, as was the College’s claims
The College, students noted, has yet to deliver a new plan for the
MRC. Unless revisited, the intern positions will expire this year.
“The administration has yet to come back to us and say what
this plan is,” Fernandez said. “They like to send out
the Bill Cosby tape... Don’t sell yourself on an image that
you guys don’t care about.”
Others voiced concern that the College is quietly phasing out multicultural
support, counting on student turnover to keep the story under wraps.
“They’re looking for more academic students,”
sophomore Desiree Pipkins said. “The students are becoming
more white and they’re becoming more rich.”
The administration, students said, isn’t doing enough to reach
out to students.
“What you’re seeing is a student body responding to
a more conservative administration,” senior Camille Newman
said. “Are the people in this administration servicing our
liberal history? We are not being serviced for our money, for $35,000
of our education. We do complain, because students give our lives
to these things.”
“The dining hall sucks,” she declared. “Today
we were in Dascomb and there was a maggot crawling by the condiments.”
Environmentalism is another area in which the College doesn’t
match up to its image, students stated.
“Oberlin sells itself on one thing and is another,”
senior Claire Jahns said. “We have no environmental policies
whatsoever. It’s really just this building.
“Our mission is to work with the administration to try to
get Oberlin to be a climate neutral campus,” she said. “We
realize it could take 20 years for this to happen.”
Trustees thanked students and stressed the usefulness of the meeting.”
“I think what you’ve shared with us has been enormously
helpful,” Plows said. Trustee Amie Ely OC ’99 added
that students should relentlessly follow up on their goals for the
betterment of Oberlin.
“Do what you’ve got to do, use whatever you need to,
to have your voice heard,” she said.