Campus Bulletin: Current Students, Faculty and Staff, Parents, Presidential Initiative

Presidential Initiative Update: Oberlin to Create New Center on Race

December 8, 2021 5:15 PM

Carmen Twillie Ambar, President

Dear Oberlin Community,

Slightly more than a year ago we paused together and took note of a national moment of anguish fed by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others. In response to those dire circumstances, we gathered our energies here at Oberlin and rededicated ourselves to a fulsome embrace of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

This effort required the courage both to evaluate how we put into practice the values we hold dear, and to measure the impacts of these practices on our students, faculty, and staff. A more complete picture of our campus and its racial climate are now coming into focus.

You will recall that to help evaluate our practices, I formed the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity and asked 21 members of our faculty, students, and staff to undertake an unvarnished review of our racial climate and how we embody our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This was a time for context as well as recommitment. I asked the Presidential Initiative to propose a set of recommendations that would acknowledge Oberlin’s historic leadership in this space while securing our position as a leading institution promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the 21st century. 

While the committee’s work proceeded, our students participated in the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates. These surveys function on a three-year cycle, surveying students the first year, staff the next year, and the third year the faculty. The cycle then repeats.

I now have a set of recommendations from the Presidential Initiative, as well as the results of our campus climate survey of students. My next steps are to analyze the survey results and review them with key members of the Presidential Initiative, the General Faculty Council, and key administrators. My expectation is that at the beginning of the spring term we will have a larger campus wide discussion about the recommendations from the Presidential Initiative and the results of the first portion of our campus climate survey. 

Meanwhile, we will move immediately to implement a Presidential Initiative recommendation that responds directly to my charge that we create opportunities for students to apply their learning to the world’s race, equity, and inclusion challenges.

To that end, I am announcing today Oberlin’s new Center for Race, Equity, and Inclusion. This new Center will ensure that Oberlin is consistently contributing to the national conversation on race. The Center will bring together academic opportunities, co-curricular experiences, career programming, mentorship, community building, and civic engagement.

While the infrastructure for the Center must be developed and funded, it will include an executive director and other support. My hope and expectation is that student fellows will be a part of the Center, engaging in funded research and internships that tackle the issues that contribute to racial inequity. Additionally, we will encourage faculty affiliations to support research and collaborations across disciplines and divisions. While key undergraduate programs and events will still be the purview of the Multi-Cultural Resource Center (MRC), the Center will work closely with both the MRC and other hubs of programming on campus to create signature events that engage the entire campus, the broader local community, and alumni.

Oberlin already has received $1.3 million in support for the Presidential Initiative, but the Center will be a central part of our next capital campaign and we will begin seeking additional support for this new resource without delay. 

I want to thank again all those who have contributed to the Presidential Initiative with their time, commitment, and creativity, especially our co-chairs, Professor Meredith Gadsby, Special Assistant to the President for Racial, Equity, and Diversity, and Bill Quillen, Dean of the Conservatory. The committee’s work goes to the heart of our mission, and I am deeply grateful for their energy. I want to acknowledge, too, that even as Oberlin absorbs the Presidential Initiative’s recommendations and the student survey results, our work as a community supporting racial equity and inclusion will continue to build upon the foundations of Oberlin’s historic values.  

I look forward to talking more in the weeks and months ahead about this important work and the momentum for our new Center.  


Carmen Twillie Ambar