October 13, 2017

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

Across the country, individuals are engaging in divisive activities that are intended to disrupt communities and threaten democratic engagement. On college campuses, such provocateurs often attempt to create an apparent conflict between cherished principles, such as intellectual freedom and inclusion. Oberlin has long been a beacon to demonstrate how critically interdependent these ideas can and should be, and we will continue to demonstrate our leadership now as in the past.

Examining such controversies on other campuses, a pattern becomes clear: individuals - oftentimes those who are unaffiliated with the institution - post or display language and symbols associated with historic and contemporary forms of discrimination and violence, frequently targeting particular marginalized groups. These actors are working from a predictable playbook - they want to create fear and distrust, and to exploit our energy, passion, and creativity for their own destructive ends. At Oberlin, we are simply not going to participate. We are better, stronger, and more resilient than they can imagine, and we are not going to grant them the power to shape the ways that we learn and grow together. When they seek to provoke, we will refuse them the audience they so desperately want and instead will stay focused on our educational mission, which remains one of the most critical resources to combatting this kind of small-minded bigotry and destructiveness. We have important work to do on issues of justice, inclusion, and academic and artistic integrity. We won’t be derailed from our substantive efforts by those who hope to distract, divide, and promote distrust. 

I am moved to share these thoughts with you now because of a report I received of activity on campus that is likely part of this pattern. Early this morning, Safety & Security officers discovered and promptly removed paper fliers on exteriors doors of Warner and Peters that included anti-Semitic stereotypes and referred viewers to a website well known for anti-Semitic activity. At this time, only three fliers have been identified. Such actions are not reflective of Oberlin’s demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion, nor of our proud support for the thriving and diverse Jewish community on campus.

My commitment is to cultivating a safe and inclusive learning environment. There was no overt threat of violence in the posters, which Safety & Security will continue to investigate. And please know that in the future, we will not circulate information about such postings unless there is clear evidence of an ongoing pattern or a serious threat to campus safety, which we continue to monitor vigorously and proactively. They want a microphone. Our community's goal should be to turn off their sound.

In the interim, we remind everyone to report any activity that violates a college policy or creates a threat to safety to call Safety & Security immediately at (440) 775-8911. Please report any posting that does not adhere to the college posting policy, which requires that all postings must clearly display the sponsoring department, student organization, college committee, or individual. All postings must adhere to college non-discrimination policies, which are designed to protect and promote the free exchange of ideas while prohibiting harassment or other conduct that creates a hostile learning environment.

For those who are interested, Safety & Security maintains a daily crime log that is available for review at the Safety & Security office, 159 West Lorain St., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. The information in the crime log typically includes the nature, date, time, general location, and disposition of each crime.

Please use the upcoming break for rest, adventure, and time with the people who nurture you. I look forward to the good work we’ll do together during the rest of the semester and beyond.

Carmen Twillie Ambar
President