Protest Job Cuts; Dye Charges Facts Skewed
members of the Oberlin community took part in a demonstration outside
the Cox building Thursday afternoon to protest the College’s
decision to eliminate 11 staff positions. Displaying signs and chanting
“stop the layoffs,” the demonstrators expressed anger
with the Administration’s decision, announced last week, to
ease the College’s financial burdens with staff cuts.
“We consider this a mini-Enron,” Socialist Alternative
member Jyo Bhatt, who helped organize the event, said.
College President Nancy Dye returned fire in an interview Thursday
afternoon, calling the protesters’ numbers “utterly
and completely inaccurate.”
“Both the leaflet and the e-mail about the protest had serious
factual errors,” Assistant to the President Diana Roose added.
The protesters, consisting primarily of College students and employees,
numbered around 40 at its peak. Some expressed frustration with
low turnout, and as time went on, students decided to drum up more
support for their cause by marching to spread their message across
The group marched into Cox, which houses several administrative
offices, to protest outside the office of the President. They then
marched outside Wilder Hall, Mudd Library and eventually into the
King building, entering a lecture hall to spread the message to
a bewildered group of psychology students.
Along the way, students passed out flyers to passersby, hoping to
spread awareness of the layoffs before they are finalized on Nov.
“We’d like the College to change its position, but it
depends on how much support there is,” and Socialist Alternative
member Ted Virdone OC ’02 said.
The College announced last week that it would eliminate 11 positions
from among the Administrative and Professional Staff and OCOPE staff.
As reported in the Review last week, the College projects it will
save $430,000 by eliminating these positions.
Many of the demonstrators expressed frustration with the College’s
financial planning and emphasized that money could be saved without
ousting staff members. “There’s going to be a financial
crisis no matter what, but a crisis doesn’t have to mean layoffs.
It might mean having fewer $70,000 parties,” Virdone said,
in reference to the Science Center dedication.
Dye’s office said the Science Center dedication cost at most
$20,000, mostly for speakers’ fees. Vice President for College
Relations Al Moran asserted that the union’s figure for the
annual holiday party, of $75,000, added an extra zero. The actual
cost was $7,500, he said.
Others questioned the decision to eliminate jobs rather than make
cuts in other areas. “Labor is not a liability,” College
junior Will Miller said.
College employees in attendance also questioned the College’s
financial decisions. Wearing black armbands in support for staff
members who are being laid off, some staff members perceive the
Administration’s cost-cutting decisions as hypocritical.
One staff member cited the recent remodeling of the second floor
of Peters, the location of the Office of the Dean of Studies, as
a questionable expense.
“If we’re having such a crisis, why are we remodeling
a building that was just remodeled five years ago?” the staff
member, who chose to remain nameless, said.
Another staff member commented that the College’s choices
on allocating funds are irresponsible and seem to favor the well-connected.
“It’s who you know, not what you are,” the employee,
The question of which expenses are justified in light of the financial
troubles has been hotly debated among students and staff regarding
the decision to make staff cuts. Debate on the issue is limited,
because the College’s financial decisions and figures are
The College has been forced to lay off workers in the past to ease
financial burdens, most recently in 1996.
However, this round of staff cuts may hit workers harder, according
to staff members present at the demonstration.
Some of the staff laid off in 1996 were able to move into comparable
positions within the College. This may not be the case, however,
for those staff members who lose their positions later this month.
“This time around, there aren’t good jobs to place into,”
one staff member said. “All the open positions are for lower
pay, and only two are full time.”
With few large employers in the area, being laid off from the College
may mean significant challenges and changes for those who have to
find employment at another establishment. In light of this, OCOPE
members scheduled a demonstration for Friday, to show their displeasure
with the College’s choice to eliminate positions.
Demonstrators expressed disappointment with Oberlin’s decision
to cut staff as a way to ease financial burdens.
“It’s sad that Oberlin has always stood for being catalysts
for change… financial problems are a reality for every institution…
Oberlin is supposed to have more integrity and character than is
currently being displayed,” Executive Assistant to the Secretary
Kristen Jones, one of the recently terminated employees, said.
The demonstration was sponsored by several student groups, including
the Student Labor Action Coalition and Peace Activists League.
These groups plan to take further action in opposition to the staff
cuts in the coming weeks.
“[Today’s demonstration] turned into a campus-wide thing,
and we hope we can turn it into a town-wide thing,” Bhatt
President Dye said she was out of her office when the protest happened,
and declined to comment. “I frankly wasn’t here,”