Demanding at Oberlin

It turns out that my several unreturned calls to Oberlin College officials earlier this week may have given the administration a heads-up on the madness at their door. In a long, sympathetic account, the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram’s Lisa Robertson reports on what must be the zaniest set of demands ever to be served up on a college campus. Robertson’s story opens:

OBERLIN — Students in Oberlin College’s Black Student Union have issued an extensive list of demands to the college administration — seeking policy changes to address what it says are underlying racial tensions on campus that have black students fearing for their safety.

Demands by Oberlin College’s Black Student Union include upgrades to Lord-Saunders house, also called the Afrikan Heritage House, shown Wednesday on campus.

The document was reportedly hand-delivered to the offices of President Marvin Krislov and Eric Estes, vice president and dean of students. It was also addressed to the college’s board of trustees.

It was signed by more than 700 people, including hundreds of students, alumni and supporters, said Jasmine Adams, a senior sociology major.

Adams said she is one of eight co-authors and a member of the Black Student Union, which goes by ABUSUA on campus.

College spokesman Scott Wargo confirmed the document was officially presented to the administration Wednesday afternoon. College administrators were unavailable Wednesday, he said.

Wargo said the college will need time to evaluate the document.

In regards to questions about diversity and inclusion on campus, Wargo said the college is 18 months into a strategic planning process.

“And it has been clear from the start that inclusion and diversity will be a primary focus. However, it won’t be complete until March,” he said in an email.

The missive did not include a timeline for which it sought college action. But it did not mince words in explaining the student group’s perception of the college or how the organizations thinks Oberlin treats its black students and what changes those students are demanding should take place.

It starts by calling Oberlin College and Conservatory an “unethical institution” and ends with a warning.

“These are demands and not suggestions,” reads the last line. “If these demands are not taken seriously, immediate action from the Africana community will follow.”

Contained between those two sentences are more than 50 demands that, while extensive, speak to what life is like on campus for black students, said Adams, 21.

“We are no longer asking politely,” Adams said. “We are demanding change because no student, regardless of color, should be afraid to walk on campus in the early afternoon like is the case right now at Oberlin College.”

Rest of the story here after you fight your way through an obnoxious questionnaire.

Favorite Demand: “We DEMAND the development of a Bridge program for recently released prisoners from Grafton 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.”


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