The summer of 2020 has seen a rush toward diversity and inclusion across the country. At Oberlin, recent events have compelled us to build upon a tradition of leadership in social justice. Our efforts are designed to support, to teach, and to lay the foundations for lasting change at Oberlin and across the nation.
Here are some of the highlights of the ongoing change underway:
Intensive examination of Conservatory curriculum, programs, culture, and more
Conservatory faculty and staff have a held a series of meetings, conversations, and listening sessions with student and alumni leaders and others to consider all aspects of the Conservatory—curriculum, teaching, programming, personnel, student support, community engagement, and more—as we intensify our efforts to create an ever more equitable, diverse school environment. These conversations, coupled with extensive meetings by the Conservatory Faculty Council, Conservatory Educational Policies Committee and individual departments and divisions, led to a series of formal, wide-ranging recommendations for anti-racist actions and policy changes focused around equity, diversity and belonging. Following approval by the Conservatory Faculty Council and the Conservatory Educational Policy Committee in August, the Racial Equity & Diversity Action Plan was approved by the Conservatory Faculty on September 8, 2020.
Newly focused workshops
At this year’s Junior Practicum Career Readiness & Skill-Building Summit, workshops and panels will explore the intersections between racial identity, systemic oppression, and workplace culture.
This year’s New Student Orientation in the Conservatory featured a new Racial and Social Justice in Music module as a key element of orientation. Conservatory faculty are developing a series of workshops regarding anti-racist pedagogies in conservatory education, and will convene a faculty-led working group on this topic.
New “Roots in STEM” Residential Learning Community
The “Roots in STEM” living and learning community seeks to address diversity and inclusion in STEM fields by promoting a sense of belonging and community in STEM among underrepresented students. The “Roots in STEM” program house will offer students a space where they can identify as scientists without losing their connection to their communities and identities. This year’s speaker series was configured to feature scientists who can serve as role models and give formal scientific lectures as well as informal discussions on their career trajectories.
Refocused local partnerships
The Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, & Research, in partnership with the Gertrude B. Lemle Teaching Center; Professor Clovis White's Sociology course Race & Ethnic Relations, and Tania Boster's First-Year Seminar Know Your Place: Civic Humanism & Community Engagement, have designed a series of facilitated Zoom conversations with regional community leaders to help identify opportunities for Oberlin College and Conservatory faculty, staff, and students to partner with these agencies and organizations in addressing racial injustice.
Tapping national expertise for faculty education workshops to elevate awareness
In collaboration with the Gertrude B. Lemle Teaching Center, the Rhetoric and Composition department has arranged for Asao Inoue, professor and the associate dean for Academic Affairs, Equity, and Inclusion in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at Arizona State University and a recognized leader in writing assessment, race, and racism, to host two Zoom workshops for faculty to examine the power of language in White Supremacy and other forms of racism.
New Orientation track on inclusive excellence
Orientation 2020 offered a series of programs designed to introduce students to Oberlin's commitment to inclusive excellence, an approach that demonstrates that work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical to the achievement of institutional goals for academic and artistic excellence. One highlight of the track was a bystander intervention workshop, which helped students develop the skills to respond effectively when incidents of bias, harassment, or discrimination occur, whether they experience them directly or want to be effective anti-racist allies.
Collaboration on student of color mental health
“How the Health are You?” is a collaborative project of the Multicultural Resource Center, the Counseling Center, and Health Promotion for Students. Through resources and programs, this initiative takes aim at the ways in which mental health challenges are shaped by structural racism and inequality and seeks to promote individual and community-wellbeing within a vision of political, social, and educational transformation.
Wide-ranging, collaborative conversations for change in athletics
Inspired by the voices, actions, and activism of Oberlin College student-athletes, the Department of Athletics and Physical Education has met with Black student-athletes, alumni, community members, and colleagues across the nation to rethink the role and responsibilities of an athletics department in a time of social change. Initial actions and plans, identified in collaboration with Black student-athletes, are underway and include: Ally with Athletes for Change; listening sessions with individual teams, the Black Student-Athlete Group, and alumni; ongoing readings and discussions with local and national figures in athletics.
Additional training for coaches and athletics staff
In collaboration with Black student-athletes, the Athletics Department has identified a series of programmatic and cultural changes, including: implicit bias/anti-bias/micro-aggression training for all students, coaches, and staff members; creation of the Yeo-Vote Athletics Initiative to support nonpartisan voter registration and voter participation; expanded promotion of the achievements of Black student-athletes and alumni; create a diversity and inclusion designation within the Department of Athletics.
Enhanced diversity and inclusion within the athletics community
The Athletics Department committed to improving diversity efforts within its administration and coaching staff, and among the Heisman Board; begin mentorship in local schools; develop social justice promotional events; and encourage the North Coast Athletic Conference to implement The Russell Rule, which would require diversity among finalists for senior athletics positions.
Examination of diversity and equity in STEM
Through support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Grant, the HHMI campus leadership team engaged the IDEAL Center of the Science Museum of Minnesota to lead a workshop for STEM faculty that examined the ways in which prejudice, practice, and policies are related, and explored skills to begin to address as well as dismantle inequalities in STEM. The Student Leadership Committee, through HHMI support, facilitated a student-faculty listening session and conducted student interviews to also help identify barriers in STEM.