Oberlin Blogs

Departing the Blogs (3): 10 Things I Could Have Done Without

June 3, 2011

Patrick Doherty ’11

Here is part three of my farewell to the Oberlin blogs! There first two parts can be found here and here. These topics range from the frivolous things I could have done without to more serious topics. I believe it is necessary to preface this post with a disclaimer: I love Oberlin with all my heart and soul. Oberlin is not without its flaws and I wanted to take this final opportunity to be completely honest about my college experience.


Ten Things I Could Have Done Without


Thing I Could Have Done Without #1: Snow
Ah, yes. As a Californian, snow is my favorite cop-out answer to my least favorite thing about Oberlin. Any true New Englander or Midwesterner will tell you that Oberlin's snowfall is rather mild. Four years of living with snow has not changed my opinion on snowfall. I hate it. It's cold, wet, and miserable. If I could airlift Oberlin and put it into rural California, I would. When someone invents this technology, give me a call and we'll make it happen.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #2: Being accosted for my voting decisions
For the last four years, I have voted absentee in California. Because Ohio is a swing state, I was forced to constantly defend my decision to my friends and the members of OC Dems who accosted me about whether or not I was registered to vote in Ohio. I chose to vote in California for several reasons and I have become weary of having to constantly articulate those reasons. Suffice it to say that, in 2008, I considered my vote to be important when it came to several of the state-wide propositions that were on the ballot. Many people still refuse to understand why I chose to vote in California. That's fine, but constantly harassing me about it isn't very much fun for me.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #3: Humidity
Yes, another weather-related complaint. I am from California. I enjoy my mild, dry weather. I spent two summers in Ohio, and giving tours in 90+ degree weather with lots of humidity is not exactly what I would call a party. The one aspect of Ohio weather that I love is thunderstorms. They are awesome.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #4: Starter Friends
Ah, yes. Starter friends. Those people you meet during the first couple weeks and eventually realize that you don't actually have anything in common. Except that "eventually" took me about three years. I went through a rather difficult and stressful experience with my starter friends in which I realized that they were pretty much treating me like crap. That was fun. This means that I made the vast majority of my friends in the least year or so. I'm totally okay with that, though, cause they're freaking awesome. I just wish I hadn't been stuck with my starter friends for so long. I can't really explain why it took me so long to realize that they weren't good friends, but I figured it out eventually.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #5: Finals
Finals suck. I know very few college students that would disagree with this point. Finals are the two times of the year when I can't spread my work out in order to remain relatively sane.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #6: Senate drama
On 14 November 2010 I posted my resignation on Student Senate's website and emailed my resignation letter to the other student senators. Over the last several weeks I had become increasingly frustrated with the body, its inefficiencies, and the apparent unwillingness of many of the members to do anything other than promote their personal agendas. Initially, resigning was a relief. I thought I was done, though I knew my resignation letter would not be liked by several of the current senators. Within hours I was contacted by Fearless and Loathing with an interview request. I allowed them to ask me questions and I answered to the best of my ability. Fearless and Loathing then proceeded to show up at that evening's plenary session and ask the current senators what they thought about my resignation. 

I had not anticipated that anyone would actually care about my resignation because, on the whole, Oberlin students don't tend to care about student senate. I became the focus of a media frenzy for the following week or so. People wrote terrible, terrible things on Oberlin's now-defunct anonymous confessional site, ObieTalk. On Friday, The Oberlin Review, Oberlin's paper of record, featured several articles and editorials about my resignation. There was a news article about my resignation, my actual resignation letter, an editorial I wrote upon request from the commentary editor, an update from Senate's new liaison, an editorial from the editorial board, an editorial from another student, and an editorial from another senator.

It's quite fun being slandered in print, really (please note the overwhelming sarcasm in this sentence). Granted, I had the support of my wonderful friends, several administrators who went out of their way to reach out to me, and, of course, my family. It was still an incredibly difficult week. I had never intended for my letter to lead to a campus media frenzy, but the frenzy happened. I will let you make your own judgments about the event (which is why I have included links to all the relevant articles). It soon became clear that nearly every time there was an article about student senate, the article would include a quote from my letter. Joy.

It's hard not to still be bitter about the reaction to my letter, for many of the critics who were the most scathing and vocal either resigned from senate, were forcibly removed, or left their criticisms to be posted anonymously so their authors could not be traced. Still, the entire event has been a learning experience, and I can't help but hope that it may lead to improvements on the part of student senate.

As a side note, The Oberlin Review publishes a retrospective edition for commencement weekend every year and this year's edition included several of the articles that I have linked to in this post. I was not expecting this and actually had no idea about it until my friend Jamie told me about it the morning of commencement.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #7: ResEd
Nearly every college student will complain about their school's ResEd/ResLife office at some point. Oberlin is no exception. I will just say that, though I was ultimately satisfied with my housing options, it took many carefully-written emails to get the office to uphold its own policies and not renege on their written agreements. Find me sometime. I'll tell you some fun stories.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #8: Self-proclaimed "open-minded" liberals who are, in fact, more closed-minded than they would like to admit
Oberlin students pride themselves on being "open-minded" and "tolerant." While this is largely true, there are many people who actually proclaim themselves to be open-minded but actually are the opposite. I've particularly enjoyed being called a fascist by some of my peers because my beliefs were not liberal enough for them. To all current and future Obies, I hope you will actually listen to those with whom you disagree and have intelligent arguments, rather than resulting to name-calling and character assassination in order to win an argument or debate.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #9: Bureaucratic nonsense
Coming from the perspective of having a leadership position in more than one student organization, the bureaucracy at Oberlin can get a tad ridiculous at times. Apparently it takes five people to check to make sure a display doesn't violate fire codes. Also, you can sign out part of one building from one place, but you have to go to some other random person to sign out the part of the building that is right next to it. In what world does that ever make sense? To say that I found navigating bureaucracy frustrating would be a gross understatement.

Thing I Could Have Done Without #10: Mono
Sometime in the spring of my junior year I contracted mono. The reason my timing is not more specific is that I didn't actually find out I had mono until after I came home. This was because I refuse to acknowledge when I am sick and that I did not want to have to deal with student health telling me I just had a cold. I'm pretty sure that I contracted mono in April, which meant that I finished the last month or so of my semester while seriously ill. The most terrible thing about getting mono was that it meant I couldn't do anything. I am a person who thrives on being busy and scheduled and, for a month, I was stuck at home and unable to do anything other than lie in bed and watch a whole bunch of tv shows and movies on Netflix. You may think that sounds awesome, but to me it is complete hell.

Quote time!

"So, my fellow students, I ask you to consider the future of your student government. While doing so, I encourage you all to become involved in and/or found activist student organizations that address your concerns. There are numerous activist organizations doing great work on this campus. Join them, support them, go to their events. If nothing changes in Oberlin, the real power for change will continue to lie in ability of organizations and students to effectively navigate the bureaucracy of Oberlin College without the assistance of an effective student government." 

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