Welcome back! I hope everyone had a good spring break.
Even as the Class of 2015 is getting ready for the sprint to Commencement and life after Oberlin, our admissions staff has been busily working to create our Class of 2019! Acceptance letters were sent out at the end of last week.
Putting together great classes for the college and the conservatory is always a monumental task. It was even more so this year because, for the first time in Oberlin history, we had more than 7,000 applicants. That represents a 22 percent increase over last year and is well above the previous record for applications to the College of Arts and Sciences! While the increase was due in part to our decision to join other selective midwestern competitors by eliminating the application fee this year, the increase also reflects strong interest in Oberlin among high school seniors from across the country and around the world.
Now we begin the next phase: the annual “All Roads Lead to Oberlin,” events in which admitted students and their families come to visit the college and the conservatory. These visits are critical in helping them decide if Oberlin is the place where they will spend the coming four years or five in the case of double-degree students. You may already have seen or met some admitted students and their families who are visiting campus.
Deciding where to go to college is a big decision. While getting to know professors, programs, facilities, and campus culture and traditions is important, the people you meet, their enthusiasm for their school, and their willingness to welcome new people to campus are crucially important.
It’s often the students, faculty, staff, and alumni you encounter during your visit. It really makes a difference if they smile, say hello, offer directions when needed, or take a few minutes for a chat even if it’s a random encounter.
As I’ve said before, Oberlin’s people are very welcoming. So many parents of prospective students, as well as other visitors, have told me how friendly and helpful our students, faculty, and staff are. I’m proud that we greet admitted students and their families as if they were members of our Oberlin family. That’s a huge factor in helping those trying to decide whether Oberlin is the college and/or conservatory and the community where they will live, study, work, play, and thrive starting this coming fall.
So, once again, I thank all of you in advance for being a welcoming, caring, and engaged community. And I’m looking forward to meeting the students and families who will form Oberlin’s Class of 2019!
VOTING IN OHIO
A few days ago, the Ohio legislature passed a biennial transportation bill H.B. 53 that includes a provision—slipped into the lengthy bill at the last minute—altering the obligations of out-of-state persons—including college students—who register to vote in Ohio. The bill was sent to Governor John Kasich.
Under H.B. 53, formerly out-of-state residents who register to vote in Ohio must also within 30 days obtain an Ohio driver’s license if they plan to drive in Ohio and register cars owned by the voter and operated in Ohio. Notably, both provisions have “strict liability” language, meaning that lack of knowledge about the requirement will not be an excuse. Violation of the new requirement would be a “minor misdemeanor.”
Obviously, this bill had serious implications for Oberlin and for Ohio's many college students who come from out of state. Oberlin’s Student Senate moved quickly to lobby Governor Kasich to veto the restrictive provisions. I also wrote to Governor Kasich expressing my concerns and spoke to State Senator Gayle Manning about the issue.
I’m happy to report that Governor Kasich used his line-item veto power to delete the proposed obligations on Wednesday. While they could be reinstated by the Ohio legislature, where the Republican party has a supermajority in both houses, that seems unlikely. I appreciate the governor’s action and senator Manning’s attention to his matter. And I commend Oberlin’s student senate for its fast action.
My primary concern was that these students and other groups, including active duty military, who exercise their constitutional right to vote in Ohio but are not in possession of an Ohio driver’s license might be charged with a misdemeanor, even if they were unaware of the new law. This misdemeanor would be included on the individual’s criminal record and could possibly disrupt future education or employment opportunities.
In my testimony before Congress on this issue in September 2008, I noted that the right to vote is a core principle of our vibrant democracy and that the exercise of this right must be upheld by our elected officials as one of our most important American values. Studies show that men and women who begin voting as young people continue to vote throughout their lives. It is incumbent upon all of us to encourage and welcome the civic engagement of every American citizen and to do our best to remove any and every obstacle that undermines this engagement.
CELEBRATING RELIGIOUS LIFE AT OBERLIN
This Friday kicks off the Religious Life at Oberlin celebration sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life. The events are open to the public and to people of all faiths. You can find more information online.
CAREER ADVICE FOR SENIORS
A reminder: I am willing to meet with any graduating senior to brainstorm about career plans and jobs. All you have to do is speak with the staff at our Career Services office, fine tune your résumé, and prepare a brief description of your career goals.
I can’t promise anyone a job. But I will do all I can to help members of the Class of 2015 think about life after college and to connect them with people who can offer career and job-specific advice, counsel, and, in some cases, opportunities.
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