Members of Oberlin College and Conservatory engage with local communities in myriad ways. The opportunity to collaborate with community partners in the town of Oberlin, Lorain County, and the greater Cleveland area, significantly enriches the experiences of Oberlin College students, staff, and faculty. We, as a College community, take seriously our commitment to pursuing meaningful, beneficial, and respectful relationships with our neighbors and having a positive impact on our local communities.

In the context of COVID-19, we have a new kind of obligation to the surrounding communities—to participate in minimizing the risks to public health. To that end, we are putting into effect the following policy regarding off-campus engagement with external partners for the fall semester and until further notice:

In an effort to safeguard the health and safety of the Oberlin community, Oberlin College has suspended in-person external student engagement in community organizations. All external student engagement for college-sponsored activities or partnerships in the surrounding community will take place on a remote basis until further notice.

This policy is the result of a collaboration among the following offices and divisions: Office of the Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary; Bonner Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Teaching, and  Research; PACE (Pedagogy, Advocacy, and Community  Engagement); Career Development Center; Office of Conservatory Professional Development; Conservatory and Arts and Sciences Deans’ offices; and Student Life.

The implications of this policy for different academic and co-curricular programming is addressed in the following FAQ.

What does this mean for integrative concentration experiential learning requirements?

Students who wish to complete the experiential requirement for integrative concentrations should work with faculty curricular committees to identify appropriate remote experiential opportunities to fulfill this requirement.

What does this mean if I am completing a portion of my studies off-campus and outside of Oberlin, Ohio?

Students not in residence in Oberlin are expected to adhere to all applicable governmental laws, orders, ordinances, and guidance in the location where they are studying, without placing themselves or others at risk.

I’m planning to participate in the experiential component of the Junior Practicum program from October to December/SOAR from February to April. My internship is in California and I’ll be working in an office that is adhering to local public health guidelines. Am I allowed to do this internship?

While not in residence in Oberlin, students participating in Oberlin-sponsored programs are expected to adhere to all applicable governmental laws, orders, ordinances, and guidance wherever they are in residence, without placing themselves or others at risk.

Will this policy be in place for the entire 2020-2021 academic year?

This policy will be in effect for at least the fall semester and will remain in effect until explicitly altered.

Will I be allowed to volunteer in the Oberlin, Lorain, or Cleveland communities?

Yes, provided it is virtual.  Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to seek virtual volunteer opportunities that respond to community-expressed needs.

My federal work-study job is through the Community-Based Work-Study Program (CBWSP) [e,g, America Reads]. Will I still be able to work with that employer?

The Bonner Center encourages CBWSP partner organizations to share safe, virtual employment opportunities for students, such as conducting policy research, remote data collection, developing social media campaigns, and online mentorship. In-person, direct service is suspended at this time. Depending upon each partner’s capacity to supervise student workers remotely, the Bonner Center will post positions on serve.oberlin.edu as they become available.

What if I will be able to complete my opportunity and still maintain physical distancing and wear a mask? How is that different from my experience on campus?

In the interest of minimizing health risks to the campus and broader community, only virtual programming that promotes and ensures appropriate social distancing and follows all current and applicable public health guidance will be permitted until further notice.

If I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and recover, can I be exempt from this policy?

While students are studying at Oberlin, off-campus in-person college-sponsored activities are not permitted for at least the fall semester.

Health experts have not yet determined whether someone who has been infected with COVID-19 has immunity upon recovery. In order to maintain the Community Agreement and minimize the possibility of exposure in the broader community, exceptions will not be permitted.

If I or my guardian/parent signs a waiver, will I be able to participate more fully in off-campus programs?

While students are studying at Oberlin, off-campus in-person college-sponsored activities are not permitted for at least the fall semester.

What does this mean for the registered student organization(s) that work with community partners?

Oberlin-sponsored student organizations are encouraged to stay connected to the community through virtual opportunities, such as conducting policy research, remote data collection, developing social media campaigns, and online engagement.

Am I allowed to visit local businesses and restaurants or go to Cleveland?

Yes.  Students are still expected, even for non-Oberlin-sponsored events, to adhere to all applicable governmental laws, orders, ordinances, and guidance, without placing themselves or others at risk.

Will my Community-Based Learning class be able to work directly with community partners? 

It is important that we continue to facilitate community engagement and engaged scholarship – safely and remotely – with students, faculty, and community partners. Faculty are encouraged to work with community partners to develop remote engagement opportunities. The Bonner Center is available to support faculty in developing online community-based learning and research opportunities that respond to community-expressed needs and meet course learning goals.

How does this impact any research with human participants? 

Per Oberlin’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), effective immediately and until further notice, ALL research involving face-to-face contact with participants should be performed remotely (e.g. by phone, Zoom, or other means). Exception: Course-based student research involving interviews/oral histories which may be done “in-person” if the participant is currently in residence with the researcher, and the researcher practices appropriate physical distancing and health practices (refer to federal government guidelines), and adheres to any state or local ordinances regarding COVID-19.

I am a faculty member teaching a class this fall and had planned a field trip to visit a non-profit organization in Cleveland. How does this policy impact these plans?

Faculty are encouraged to work with community partners to develop remote engagement opportunities, such as virtual site visits. The Bonner Center is available to support faculty in seeking alternative, remote modes of Community-Based Learning & Research.

I direct a co-curricular program that organizes student volunteer projects in the Oberlin community. Will we still be allowed to participate in local engagement if the activities are hosted outside or with appropriate PPE and physical distancing?

While students are studying at Oberlin, off-campus in-person college-sponsored activities are not permitted for at least the fall semester. Programs are encouraged to stay connected to the community through virtual opportunities, such as conducting policy research, remote data collection, developing social media campaigns, and online engagement, that respond to community-expressed needs.