Two Important Community Updates
I’m writing to update our community on two important topics: improvements in Oberlin’s student support and mental health services and the ban on smoking tobacco on campus.
Student support and mental health are important issues at Oberlin, which is why we are committing more resources to the Counseling Center. Responding to student concerns, we created a new Counseling Center service for students in February that enables them to receive counseling by phone on evenings and weekends.
Thanks to generous gifts from our trustees totaling $700,000, we are strengthening and expanding support services for at-risk students who need additional assistance in order to succeed at Oberlin. These initiatives will significantly strengthen Oberlin's ability to work with and support students who need assistance and to help us ensure their Oberlin experience is a success.
These funds will be used to strengthen endowed funds that help students with financial need buy books at the start of each semester and who have emergency medical and other situations arise during the year.
The money will also help to strengthen two very successful peer-to-peer mentoring programs focused on supporting first-year students on campus. Peer mentors work with first generation students, and student accessibility advocates work with students who have disclosed disabilities. Additional financial support will enable both groups of mentors to return early for new student orientation to begin their work with incoming students.
Over the past several years, the number of students supported by the Office of Disability Services has more than doubled. Money from the fund will help support one of the new positions in that office to ensure students are supported. Gifts will also make it possible to establish walk-in hours at Student Health Services on Saturdays. We are piloting walk-in hours from 1 to 3 p.m. later this semester.
These initial priorities have been identified in conversations with students. Students, especially Student Senate, will be involved in discussions about future priorities.
Funded by a generous parent gift, the Oberlin College Counseling Center is now offering an after-hours telephone counseling support resource. This service will be available Monday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. and any time during the weekend. Counseling by telephone will also be available during academic breaks.
Calls provide Oberlin students with the same level of confidentiality as in-person appointments and are provided at no charge. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and/or anxious in the middle of the night, you now have another place to turn for support.
To reach this resource, call the Counseling Center at 440-775-8470 and press option 2. A professional counselor will answer your call with “Oberlin College Counseling Center On-Call, my name is __. How may I help you?”
Next year, the student health fee will help fund a 50 percent increase in appointment times with psychiatrists and greater choice between psychiatrists and doctors completing their psychiatric residencies at the Counseling Center. Appointments at the Counseling Center and Student Health Services continue to be free/no cost to students.
A working group of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Committee began to study the national trend of college and university campuses to go tobacco free more than five years ago. The general faculty voted at its December meeting that Oberlin College and Conservatory would go tobacco-free as a campus on July 1, 2016. The motion approved by the general faculty enabled me to appoint an implementation committee.
Here is the language the General Faculty approved.
“The working group of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Committee moves that Oberlin College and Conservatory adopt a tobacco-free policy as of July 1, 2016. An implementation committee whose membership will be selected by relevant representative bodies (ex. Student Senate, GFC, etc.) will be appointed by the President or his designee. This group will be charged with the implementation of policy changes between passage and July 1, 2016. Tappan Square will be exempt from the policy.”
The members of the implementation committee are: Jared Hartt, associate professor of music theory; Meghan Morean, assistant professor of psychology; Machmud Makhmudov ’16; Ehrai Adams, assistant director of wellness; Dave Bender, campus security supervisor; and Debra El-Amin, counseling psychologist at the Counseling Center. Three additional students will be nominated to the committee by Student Senate.
The implementation group will work closely with all employee groups and students—especially Student Senate—as well as offices like human resources, athletics, and admissions. We will also continue working closely with Lorain County Health and the city of Oberlin, and also Student Health Services and the Counseling Center. This group will work to implement the new policy, including educational efforts and cessation support.
The Reverend Gardner C. Taylor
The Reverend Gardner C. Taylor ’40, an Oberlin alumnus who went on to become one of America’s most important religious and civil rights leaders and one of the world’s greatest preachers, passed away this past weekend at age 96, in Durham, North Carolina.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Taylor was the grandson of emancipated slaves and the son of a preacher. Taylor came to Oberlin and earned a divinity degree in 1940. While he was still a student here, he became the pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Elyria, serving from 1938 to 1941.
He went on to be pastor of the Beulah Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, until 1943, and of his father’s former congregation, Mount Zion Baptist Church, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, until 1947. Then he became pastor of the Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, New York, where he served for 42 years before retiring in 1990.
Taylor touched so many lives through his ministry, his teaching, and his preaching. At Oberlin, we believe one person can change the world for the better. Reverend Taylor did just that. Please join me in holding his family in your thoughts and prayers.