THE BLOG

Oberlin College Responds

03/05/2013 03:43 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2013

As many alumni and the country at large have been made aware, Oberlin College cancelled classes on Monday 3/4 in order to hold a "Day of Solidarity" in response to a month of hateful vandalism on campus targeting black, LGBTQ and Jewish communities.

The irony and shock about this string of incidents is that Oberlin has long been a symbol of, and a haven for, progressive liberal politics. From its groundbreaking race- and gender-blind admission policy in 1835 and the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of 1858, to the Oberlin Action for Civil Rights in 1969 and protests against racism, war, and international top-down capitalism through the 2000's, the college and its students have continually proven their dedication to racial, gender-based, economic and socio-political equality.

Thus, the student and administrative outcry against this recent series of racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic vandalism has been loud, and thorough. Truly, Oberlin's response, rather than the incidents themselves, should be the focus of the story:

•First, students organized a March of Solidarity on February 13 that drew over 450 attendees.

•Then, Oberlin's administration scheduled a convocation for March 6th in response to the messages.

•Next, the administration pushed the convocation up to Monday afternoon March 4th, announcing the suspension of all formal classes and non-essential activities and the gathering of the community for "a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks," including a Teach-in at Afrikan Heritage House, a Demonstration of Solidarity and a Rally Against Hate on Wilder Bowl, and a Community Convocation at Finney Chapel. All students, faculty and staff were asked to participate.

•Finally, both administration and students continued plans and activities associated with the Peace Week that had already been planned in response to the hate speech and vandalism on campus.

The message from administration was loud and clear: "We hope today will allow the entire community...to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: Inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual. Indeed, the strength of Oberlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all, and enhances the educational mission at its core."

Hence, while the upset and distress over the month's unfortunate acts of hate speech and vandalism have obviously been immense, it is paramount to note the speed, organization, clarity of intention and inclusivity with which the Oberlin administration and student population have responded. That is the Oberlin I know and love.