Responding to recent racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic incidents on campus, a coalition of Oberlin College students presented written proposals today to the administration that seek to make the college and conservatory more diverse and inclusive.
The coalition consists of student working groups formed at the Day of Solidarity teach-in on March 4. That day of teaching, discussion, dialogue, and reflection was organized by Oberlin’s Africana studies students and faculty.
President Krislov and the senior staff extend their thanks to the students who devoted so much time, energy, and thought to our shared commitment to diversity and inclusion at Oberlin. We also thank the faculty and staff members who offered advice and counsel to the student working groups.
We hope the students’ proposals will open up constructive, substantive discussions. We are proud that our students and faculty—in keeping with Oberlin’s educational mission—have used the recent incidents to spark teaching and discussion of a wide range of issues relating to diversity and inclusion at Oberlin and in the wider world.
We will carefully study the document the students have submitted. A more detailed response will be forthcoming after spring break. Meanwhile, some of the students’ ideas are already being implemented, such as changes to new student and new faculty orientation.
We will also seriously consider the longer-term structural issues the document raises. It is worth noting that Oberlin is already engaged—with some success—in a long-term, comprehensive effort to improve faculty diversity. These efforts include recruiting, retention, bringing recent PhDs to campus as postdoctoral fellows through the Consortium for Faculty Diversity at Liberal Arts Colleges, and requiring that all departments consult with the associate dean of academic diversity and director of the Multicultural Resource Center about their faculty position proposals before submitting them.
Responding to the events leading up to the Day of Solidarity, the college immediately initiated additional security measures to ensure the continued safety of all current and future students.
We also launched an investigation into the bias incidents. We can now confirm that our investigation has led to the identification of two students who may be responsible. Both have been removed from campus. We will pursue all appropriate avenues to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. The college is working closely with law enforcement officials in this matter. Because of federal privacy laws, and the fact that the investigation is ongoing, we are precluded from saying any more at this time.
The bias incidents are hateful and hurtful. But the response from our students, faculty, staff, and fellow citizens highlights our educational mission and the strength and vitality of our community. The incidents have sparked ongoing and varied teaching, discussions, and actions and we commend the many Oberlin students who have been instrumental in leading efforts to make Oberlin an even more diverse and inclusive place. Oberlin has faced many challenges since its founding in 1833, and has always emerged a stronger institution. We, as an institution, are committed to doing this work. It reaffirms Oberlin’s long-standing values of inclusion, respect for others, and abiding faith in the worth of every individual.