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This is Not Your Parents' Oberlin
Molly Mercer Dise's letter appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of OAM.

I found myself both bemused and irritated by the letters from the alumnae from the '30s and '40s who wrote to complain about the music being produced and embraced by Oberlin's younger alumni (summer 2003). I think back to my tenure at Oberlin in the late '60s and early '70s and am struck by the fact that not once do I remember my grandfather (Class of 1911) or my father (Class of 1940) criticizing the actions of my classmates in those tumultuous times. They recognized that the truly enduring Oberlin values--creativity, intellectual curiosity, and a willingness to question the status quo--mean that each generation of Oberlin students forges a path that looks different from its own. My son (Class of 2001) and I may not share the same taste in music, but we both chose to attend Oberlin for the same reasons. If today's students merely replicated the culture of the generations that preceded them, no matter how comforting that is to their parents or grandparents, the College would not be doing its job.
Margaret Metcalf Dawson '72
Brentwood, N.H.

I am writing in response to a letter sent in by Molly Mercer Dise '43 (summer 2003), in which she expressed a repugnant disgust at the liberalism of Oberlin. Ms. Dise, I am a sophomore at an incredibly conservative liberal arts college (which sounds more like an oxymoron) in southwestern Virginia. In fact, our school was recently voted "Most Nostalgic for Ronald Reagan." The joke in itself comes from the fact that students at this school were not even alive when President Reagan was in power. While you ridicule and beguile the students at Oberlin for their liberal-thinking ways, there are students at other schools who have not yet had the distinct advatage of entering college with their eyes wide open, but who rather follow in the footsteps and live in the shadows of their parents. Be happy that students at Oberlin are open-minded and free-thinking. Be proud that they share your love and passion for Oberlin, one of the nation's foremost liberal arts colleges.
Ethan Jameson
Washington and Lee University

Molly Mercer Dise bemoaned the "cattle-like stampede of the many graduates [at the 2003 graduation ceremony] who refused to walk through the arch in memory of the past Oberlinians who lost their lives during the Boxer Rebellion." Dise noted that "some of my classmates who could well afford to support the College in a generous fashion will not do so because of the obvious liberalness of the institution and lack of consideration shown toward other points of view." As one of those many graduates, I would like to respond to Dise's comments. Oberlin's Memorial Arch honors 19 Oberlin missionaries and family members who lost their lives during the 1900 uprising of Chinese peasants that occurred in response to domestic unrest and Western imperialism. Contrary to what the arch might lead one to believe, victims of the Boxer Rebellion included not only Western missionaries, but thousands of Chinese people as well. The arch glosses over these deaths in favor of honoring the missionaries whose own governments helped provoke the Boxer Rebellion and whose armies participated in violently subduing the rebels. By walking around the arch, I and many other graduates hoped to call attention to the versions of history that the Memorial Arch ignores. I find it especially ironic that Dise criticizes Oberlin graduates' lack of consideration toward other points of view, when that was in fact the goal of marching around the arch. Instead of blindly accepting the established history that the Memorial Arch commemorates, many graduates walked around the arch to raise awareness about another side of this monumentalized history.
Adrian Anagnost '03
Wilmington, N.C

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