Oberlin’s Student Clubs and Organizations Stay Connected

May 8, 2020
Kyra McConnell ’22
People standing in grassy area.
A walkout for climate justice was organized by the Oberlin Sunrise movement in September 2019. Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones

The transition to remote learning in March has brought challenges to the Oberlin community, but also many triumphs. What seemed like a threat to the active and engaged environments of Oberlin’s student clubs and organizations has turned out to be, for many, a way of developing leadership skills and remaining connected despite the unforeseen circumstances. 

As part of an effort to engage with prospective students and the Class of 2024, many clubs have created remote videos, giving a look into their missions, events, and members, and conducted meetings via Zoom. Still more have continued to tackle environmental issues, be a voice as the student government, and publish student journalism.

Oberlin Student Senate

The Oberlin Student Senate, the central governance organization representing the student body, has been holding its weekly meetings open to the student body via Zoom and working on multiple projects since remote learning began.

In an email, Senate Communications Director Ilana Foggle ’21 says that Student Senate’s “number-one priority has been finding ways that we can best support students during this really challenging and unprecedented time.”

To accomplish this, according to Foggle, Student Senate has worked with the college's Educational Plans and Policies Committee and the conservatory's Educational Policy Committee to create policy recommendations for faculty regarding academic support for students, and made efforts to ensure the safety and security of students still on campus.

“All of our worlds have truly been flipped upside down, some more than others,” says Foggle, who also praises the work of her fellow Student Senators. “Student Senate is here to make sure that despite all of the craziness throughout the country, world, and in our own lives, student voices will always be represented and heard at Oberlin.”

Two Groves Review

Two Groves Review, Oberlin’s online journal for student poetry, literary criticism, fiction, and other forms of “writing about writing,” has been holding Zoom meetings weekly with its board members and is working on the upcoming publication of its fourth issue. Members have been receiving writing submissions from students and transitioned to a remote editorial process.

Two Groves board member Miranda Purcell ’20 explained how the role of student publications as an accessible entryway for writers to share their ideas and discoveries with a wider audience lends itself well to remote learning.

“It’s important to have a space for people to submit their writing about crisis in times of crisis so that their work is heard,” says Purcell. She also notes that her personal experience as a writer, that of working towards a tangible goal, has inspired her as a board member of Two Groves.

According to Purcell, Two Groves is an ideal “space for both writers and editors to work collaboratively towards a goal and a finished product.”

International Student Organization 

Oberlin’s International Student Organization (ISO) has been meeting via Zoom and brainstorming ways to welcome the Class of 2024.

ISO Chair Ryo Adachi ’22 calls regular meetings “a bit of a challenge” considering ISO membership spans the globe, but the group has managed to maintain a sense of community, also with the help of their faculty advisor, Josh Whitson.

ISO collaborated with Oberlin’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Program to host a movie night, and members have also been in contact with international students from the Class of 2024, who are uncertain as to the details of their arrival to Oberlin in the future. Adachi and others served on an international student panel and attended virtual hangouts for admitted students.

Adachi has enjoyed remote ISO meetings—which she calls “low-stress”—because she feels connected despite vast geographical distances. “We were laughing all the time,” says Adachi, who also sees meetings as an opportunity to learn how COVID-19 has affected different parts of the world.

“It’s nice that we got to connect even though we’re in different parts of the world, because we also got to know how different countries are doing things differently.” 

Sunrise Oberlin

The Oberlin College and Community chapter of the national Sunrise Movement has been actively working for the past two months to combat climate change, fight for worker justice, and raise awareness about environmental issues remotely.

According to Communications Director Rachel Serna-Brown ’22, “it took some time to adjust,” but Sunrise Oberlin quickly got to work on organizing Zoom events for Earth Week in April, hosting teach-in information sessions. One session, titled “The Green Noodle,” provided a space to discuss the Green New Deal, and another session focused on the mission of People’s Bailout and COVID-19 relief plans.

Bookkeeper Anna Silverman ’22 describes the transition to remote meetings as an opportunity to develop event-planning and organizational skills to build a sense of community within Sunrise remotely, especially during the summer. “We didn’t stop now, so we don’t ever need to stop,” said Silverman.

Both Serna-Brown and Silverman discuss why it is important for groups that support environmental causes, such as Sunrise Oberlin, to remain engaged during a time of crisis. 

“Environmentalism is always the thing that gets pushed back, and it disappears from peoples’ minds,” says Silverman, “and even with COVID relief packages, it’s still relevant to environmentalism.”

Serna-Brown emphasizes the importance of togetherness in the group: “Even though we all are from such different parts of the country, it’s still important to have some kind of involvement [in order to] mobilize within the Oberlin community” from a distance.

View a Flickr gallery of Oberlin's student clubs and organizations.

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