A reader draws our attention to the 14-page set of demands served by Oberlin College’s Black Student Union (ABASUA) on the college’s trustees, officers, “and all other appropriate Governing Bodies.” Absurd as they are, the demands are backed by a threat sounding like a threat of force and prefaced with this statement:
Oberlin College and Conservatory is an unethical institution. From capitalizing on massive labor exploitation across campus, to the Conservatory of Music treating Black and other students of color as less than through its everyday running, Oberlin College unapologetically acts as unethical institution, antithetical to its historical vision. In the 1830s, this school claimed a legacy of supporting its Black students. However, that legacy has amounted to nothing more than a public relations campaign initiated to benefit the image of the institution and not the Africana people it was set out for. Along the same lines stated by UNC Chapel Hill students in their 2015 document “A Collective Response to Anti-Blackness,” you include Black and other students of color in the institution and mark them with the words “equity, inclusion and diversity,” when in fact this institution functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy. Oberlin College and Conservatory uses the limited number of Black and Brown students to color in its brochures, but then erases us from student life on this campus. You profit off of our accomplishments and invisible labor, yet You expect us to produce personal solutions to institutional incompetencies. We as a College-defined “high risk,” “low income,” “disadvantaged” community should not have to carry the burden of deconstructing the white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist system that we took no part in creating, yet is so deeply embedded in the soil upon which this institution was built.
In admissions material, Oberlin proudly broadcasts the statement “Think one person can change the world? So do we.” With this spurious rhetoric in mind, the time for direct and immediate action reforming higher education is long overdue. We will not be silenced; we will not be attending any more forums, speak outs, teach ins, convocations, working groups, committees, etc. in lieu of our liberation.
Our larger goals are to see:
1. An increase in Black and students of color represented in the institution from the Americas, including the Caribbean and Africa
2. An increase in Black administrators and faculty across departments and governing bodies
3. The divestment from all prisons and Israel
4. Exclusive Black safe spaces on campus
5. The active elimination of institutional complacency that allows violence against Black students to thrive and persist
6. The eradication of hegemony in the curriculum across the College and Conservatory
7. The end of Oberlin College functioning as a gentrifying institution
8. An end to the erasure of Black contributions on this campus
Many of these demands have been issued before and subsequently ignored by administration, faculty and students. This was never acceptable, and will no longer be tolerated.
As you will see these are not polite requests, but concrete and unmalleable demands. Failure to meet them will result in a full and forceful response from the community you fail to support. Our demands are as follows…
The document is full of highlights, but none is higher than DEMAND number 11 under WORKERS: ACADEMIC & NON-ACADEMIC. This will certainly give the college a novel selling point to attract students:
We DEMAND the development of a Bridge program for recently released prisoners from Grafton [Correctional Institution] to enroll as undergraduate students at Oberlin College. Seeing as how we know that the Prison Industrial Complex sends disproportionate numbers of Black men to prison, this Bridge program will reflect this college’s commitment to social justice initiatives for Africana peoples.
I wouldn’t want you to miss this one either:
We DEMAND a $10,000 book fund for the Afrikana House Library. It is important for students of our community to stay educated and well versed in the issues plaguing their communities, and books are one of the many tools to do so.
Yes, these students need books, and the Oberlin College Library clearly isn’t cutting it for them.
Like Frost’s neighbor in “Mending Wall,” the students “like having thought of it so well” they repeat their threat: “These are demands and not suggestions. If these demands are not taken seriously, immediate action from the Africana community will follow.”
There is nothing missing from this stunning document other the classic bumper sticker demand: “Support mental health or I’ll kill you.”
UPDATE: Is it possible this thing isn’t for real? I can’t find a reference to it anywhere online beyond the document posted on Google. Readers who can shed any light are requested to email us at [email protected]
Our reader advises me that he received a copy of the document indirectly from Oberlin students. I have made four calls to Oberlin — one to the student group, two to the president’s office, and one to the college’s director of media relations — to verify the authenticity of this document. I am awaiting a response. In the meantime, I would like to acknowledge that I shouldn’t have posted this without authenticating the document first.
JOHN adds: These people are both crazy and illiterate. From the perspective of Oberlin’s administration, they represent admissions mistakes. If the administrators have any sense at all, they will cut down on such mistakes in the future.
SCOTT adds: I follow up on this post here.