Campus News

Crossing the Line

February 20, 2013
Marvin Krislov
Photo credit: John Seyfried

In my Public Education class this semester, we have been discussing desegregation, busing, and ongoing policy debates about public schools in America. Our public schools have been viewed as the foundation for democratic dialogue and preparation for citizenship. During this semester, we have already debated single-gender schools and whether our Constitution guarantees an “adequate education” for all.

Discussions of categories like race, class, religion, gender, and sexuality run through many classes and disciplines here. Many Oberlin faculty members consider such topics central to their research, scholarship, and teaching. In their daily lives, many Oberlin students often discuss these issues with their friends and peers.

Most members of our community take pride in the fact that we talk about race, class, religion, gender, and sexuality at Oberlin. Those conversations are a vital aspect of our heritage and an important part of Oberlin’s contemporary life. We believe in diversity and inclusion, and we believe in learning from our differences through respectful discussion. That conversation began here in 1833, and I hope it never ends.

Even at Oberlin, discussing these topics is not easy or comfortable. In fact, they can be extremely difficult and contentious. That is why it is critically important that we remember the educational value of learning about our histories and identities.

We must be able to speak freely about such topics. And we must all understand that there is a line between free speech and harassment and threats. I believe the recent, repeated instances of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti, notes, and tweets have crossed the line.

I am angered and saddened by these shocking incidents, which are being investigated. They injure us deeply as individuals and as a community. They are antithetical to Oberlin’s values and traditions. Anyone with information about these incidents should contact Director of Safety and Security Marj Burton at 440-775-5782 or Dean of Students Eric Estes at 440-775-8462.

Disturbing as the incidents are, Oberlin’s response to them has shown that we are and will continue to be a strong community dedicated to education and, when warranted, to having difficult conversations. The hate has been met in true Oberlin fashion by a series of campus conversations that have included students, faculty, staff, and local citizens, as well as several large gatherings to show our community’s solidarity in condemning hateful speech and actions.

That response, grounded in the work that goes on every day here at Oberlin, has highlighted the strength and diversity of our community and our commitment to education, inclusion, and discussing difference and different points of view.

As a residential learning community, we do this not only in class, but also in the residence halls, the dining halls, the practice rooms, the laboratories, the gym, and across the campus. In the classroom context, our faculty plays a crucial role in framing these discussions, which, after all, go to the heart of this country’s governance and our values. That is why we treat them with the seriousness they merit.

So I ask our faculty, staff, students, and fellow Oberlin citizens to keep having the tough but necessary conversations, and to not allow hatred to obscure the myriad good works that go on here every day.

Excellence in Teaching Awards

As always, Oberlin’s most important work is carried out by outstanding teacher-scholars. They carry forward our tradition of great teaching. In recognition of their efforts, I am happy to announce the recipients of this year’s Excellence in Teaching Awards.

Recipients from the College of Arts and Sciences are Patricia deWinstanley, professor of psychology; Kirk Ormand, professor of classics; and Taylor Allen, associate professor and chair of biology. From the Conservatory of Music, awardees are: Mike Rosen, director of the division of woodwinds, brass and percussion and professor of percussion; Marlene Rosen, professor of singing; and Jan Miyake, associate professor of music theory.

Please join me in congratulating these outstanding Oberlin professors who embody our belief in the power of teaching and learning.

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