Oberlin College strongly embraces civic engagement as part of its mission and a core element of a liberal arts education.
Oberlin has pursued democratic engagement in a wide range of arenas—through student internships with elected officials, through participation in community-based organizations, through academic courses about democracy with applied learning components, and through cocurricular participation and programming about democratic engagement.
Oberlin is in the first phases of developing a stronger academic and applied learning presence in Cleveland. This includes implementing a new orientation program titled Community: 101, and an orientation program that takes all students to Cleveland titled Connect Cleveland. We’ve also applied for a designation as a voter-friendly campus because of our previous and future initiatives.
The Voter Friendly Campus initiative helps higher education institutions develop strategies to better coordinate activities and involvement around civic engagement. Oberlin would join eight other Ohio campuses that have this designation.
Oberlin College has identified the following democratic goals for engagement:
- Coordination of campus efforts to maximize participation in electoral politics with the outcome of significantly improving rates of voter participation.
- Improvement of the relationship with the local community by demonstrating deep campus engagement in local political issues, from schools to the opioid crisis.
- Increased enthusiasm and understanding of the ways in which the electoral and political process can be a site of positive change and promote conversations across differences of opinion, countering cynicism, and retreat to zones of like-mindedness.
Oberlin College has made the following progress on its Voter Friendly Campus initiative:
- Developed a message for faculty to use in their course syllabus with an information handout about election-elated dates and issues.
- Worked with the Office of Government and Community Relations to coordinate distribution of utility bills for student voting.
- Initiated new outreach efforts to off-campus students about voter documentation and polling locations.