<< Front page Commentary March 12, 2004


Just facts, not insensitivity

The Oberlin Review has always aspired to the highest level of journalism while acknowledging the need to serve as a teaching institution as well. Our goal, as stated in our organizational charter, is to “provide a source of news dissemination for the Oberlin College community, through a weekly publication, as well as to provide journalistic experience to organizational members and students in general.”

Nowhere does it suggest that we have a right or an obligation to temper the facts. On the contrary, we strive always to report information without bias. We hold ourselves to very high standards because the community has a right to expect them.

Recently, some individual staff members and the Review as an institution have come under fire regarding the coverage of the deaths of juniors Benjamin Caraco and Zachary Tucker. In particular, some have taken exception to our printing of the photograph of the wrecked car.

The Grape, for one, chose not to print such photographs and explained their rationale in an editorial in the March 4 issue. That is their decision and certainly one they have every right to make.

But we at the Review believe that it is wrong to determine what information is acceptable and what information is unacceptable for the College community. We believe that we have a duty to present all relevant information at our disposal and that the photograph of the accident was one such piece of information. We believe that to do anything less, to pick and choose which facts will reach the student body, would be a great disservice to ourselves, to the College community and to the victims of the accident themselves.

We did not sensationalize. We did not dominate our front page with images of wreckage. But the information was there for those who wanted the facts. As journalists, as members of the Oberlin community, we can do no less.

Vying for funds

The sweeping strategic planning process by the College has, in President Nancy Dye’s words, highlighted the “differences” in mission and structure between the Conservatory of Music and the College of Arts and Sciences. Her address last week before the Conservatory faculty, while not making any shocking revelations, certainly brought the underlying competition for institutional cash into the spotlight.

The Conservatory, as Dye pointed out, needs significant financial aid packages to woo the most sterling high school musicians to the school. The College of Arts and Sciences, on the other hand, gives immense resources to Conservatory students and gets a special cultural partnership in return. Unfortunately, this partnership is costly for the Conservatory, whose tuition exceeds even the most integrated of the other U.S. conservatories, including Northwestern and Peabody.

This problem seems to leave the College a bit at a loss. Numerous times, the administration has cited the expenses of running the Conservatory as a drain on the College’s resources. Yet at the same time, it is exactly the College’s affiliation with the Conservatory that makes the musical component so expensive, according to Dye. That seems to be part of the problem — higher tuition for the Conservatory means higher stress to the school’s financial aid money. The bigger problem seems to be that the College has not found the best way to set tuition prices for the Conservatory so that they mirror the services provided.

It is obvious that the administration isn’t sure which is the catalyst for the burgeoning tuition — set to go up five percent next year — as an institution. Is it the Conservatory’s expensive pianos or the College’s expensive art museum? Solving the riddle of the money pit will have to be the next facet of the ongoing financial survey undertaken by the recent strategic planning process.

According to Dye, the solution is to find ways to restructure the Conservatory so that it better lives up to its “mission.” That is one way to look at the picture. Hopefully, the rest of the College will keep the Conservatory in mind when proclaiming its own “mission.”

Editor-in-Chief: Douglass Dowty
Commentary Editor: Margaret Caret
Managing Editors: Eric Klopfer, Steven Kwan, Colin Smith

Editorials are the responsibility of the Review editorial board—the Editor in Chief
and Commentary Editor—and do not necessarily reflect the view of the staff
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