The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Commentary September 29, 2006

Oberlin’s Fearless Failings, other letters

To the Editors:

Having gone to the forum with Mark Edwards of the “Fearless” campaign, I came away feeling angry and disappointed. First, he gave a presentation on the process that brought us to “Fearless.” This included feedback from focus groups on what they found positive or negative about Oberlin; “transgender” and “social justice” were considered by prospective students to be “negative” and “unappealing,” respectively. We need to compete in the market, yes, but if Oberlin is willing to hide its emphasis on social justice and equality, I am at the wrong school.

There were also inconsistencies in the explanation of our target audience. First he said that our goal is to spin things people already know about Oberlin in a positive way, and to clarify who we are. But he also talked about the central goal as creating prestige, spreading knowledge of Oberlin to people who have never heard of it so that they can feel supported by their communities in coming here. The second group is, in my experience, a function of geography (and to an extent, class). People who go to school in New York or the Bay Area seem to have, at least anecdotally, had friends and communities who knew all about Oberlin and supported them in coming here. People from Virginia (other than the close-in D.C. suburbs) or Texas seem, in general, not to have had the same experience. Again, I have no hard data on this, but at least anecdotally, people who went to private schools had friends and families who were more likely to know about Oberlin, thus suggesting a class element. To create the “Fearless” campaign, focus groups of high school students who were already in Oberlin’s prospective student pool were used. That is hardly useful in working on expanding recruitment of students who have never heard of us.

I’m also concerned that many intelligent high school students might find the viewbook insulting. If someone sent my seventeen-year-old brother a garish neon picture book, he’d feel like they didn’t respect his ability to read or think. The book lacks any descriptions or actual photos of student life (and even of campus other than the one of the AJLC). In addition, there was some imbalance in the student organizations listed. Oberlin Pro-Life Union of Students was represented, for example, but Students United for Reproductive Freedom was not. Likewise, the Review was in and the Grape was out. In terms of design, it’s just sloppy. There is almost no text (and that which is there is unreadable), the central images are unrecognizable and all of the sidebars are taken directly from the alumni magazine. I can’t believe we paid someone to do this. In addition, I hardly think trippy images in psychedelic colors are going to help our academic reputation, although maybe the focus groups rated “drug school” positively. If you think I’m being overly critical, go over to Admissions and ask to see it for yourself. To me, it seems very likely that we’re going to see a decline in both the number and quality of applicants.

Fundamentally, I think Mark Edwards doesn’t understand Oberlin. He suggested that people outside Oberlin saw “weird” as the “cake” and “academic excellence” as the “icing,” and that his job is to represent what he sees as the reality of an “academic excellence” “cake” with “weird” “icing.” No. “Weird” at Oberlin, is an essential ingredient in the “academic excellence” “cake.” “Fearless” is a rotten egg that will spoil the batter.

–Cecilia Hayford
College senior

To the Editors:

Ohio has an obtuse relationship with democracy. In 2004, students were forced to wait up to six hours to vote. Now, the Republican-controlled Ohio Legislature has adopted stringent voter ID requirements that are difficult or impossible for most Oberlin students to satisfy. Fortunately, Ohio now allows voters to vote absentee. Absentee ballots are not subject to those same voter ID requirements (you need only write in the last four digits of your Social Security number).

I strongly urge all students voting in Ohio to request an absentee ballot. They are among the first ballots counted on Election Day. And you vote early, thereby avoiding the possibility of a long line.

Next week, you’ll receive a pre-printed voter registration form and absentee ballot request form in your OCMR. Please read through the enclosed information, check the forms and turn them in to a table in the mailroom, Wilder info desk, the Science Library or the Oberlin Public Library. There’s a tremendous coalition of students and groups (including Ohio PIRG, OC Dems, OC ACLU, Roosevelt Institution and People for the American Way) who are working hard to protect your right to vote, no matter who you vote for. If you’re eligible to vote, we’ll do all that we can to make sure you’re able to vote.

If you have any questions or confusions, please e-mail

–Colin Koffel
College junior
November Committee

To the Editors:

Readers of Prof. Bruce Richards’ Letter to the Editor (Sept. 22, 2006), which refers to the Katharine Wright Haskell Fountain located in front of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, may be interested to know that work has just begun to repair this beautiful marble fountain. Although the museum is not directly responsible for the care and maintenance of the impressive fountain, we share concern for its preservation. So we are delighted that last Friday — the same day Prof. Richards’ letter was published — internationally-recognized sculptor Nicholas Fairplay and a colleague began dismantling the fountain and removing it to Fairplay’s Oberlin stonecarving workshop.

Katharine Wright Haskell (OC 1898; OC Trustee, 1924-29), the younger sister of Orville and Wilbur Wright, was a high school Latin teacher and women’s suffragist in Dayton, Ohio. She gave her brothers much help behind the scenes as they worked to build and test the Wright Flyer, and then helped them to cope with their worldwide fame, often accompanying them on trips abroad. In 1926, late in her life, Katharine married her longtime friend Henry J. Haskell (OC 1896), an editor at the Kansas City Star. Sadly, Katharine died of pneumonia just three years later, and a bereft Henry sent the fountain to Oberlin in her memory in 1931.

When restoration work is completed early next summer, the Katharine Wright Haskell Fountain will be returned to its former glory. Made of hand-cut Italian marble, the fountain is topped by a bronze figure of an angel playing with a dolphin, a replica of the ca. 1470 sculpture by the master Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488) atop the fountain in the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

The Oberlin fountain’s restoration is being funded by many generous donors, including friends and family members, particularly Katharine Wright Chaffee (OC 1944), Marianne Hudec and the Wright Family Foundation in Dayton. The College Facilities budget will pay to make the fountain’s plumbing operable again.

Soon we will all be able to enjoy once more this beautiful memorial to an illustrious Oberlin alumna.

–Stephanie Wiles
Allen Memorial Art Museum

To Matthew Kaplan #2:

In the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Three, I was astonished to find that there was a “new” Matthew Kaplan on campus (henceforth referred to only as “#2”). However, we managed to live in harmony, a feat thus far unimaginable.

As the end of your freshman year approached, you had clearly realized the strength of our name on campus, and you capitalized on the legacy that I had built to get yourself elected to the Student Senate. Through a network of on campus informants, I now know that you also used my name, my legacy, to get yourself elected Senior Class President.

In the most recent transgression you participated in the most egregious type of identity theft when you allowed yourself to be mis-introduced on the stage of a packed Finny Chapel convocation speech (on the same stage as Paul Krugman) as Matthew Kaplan, President of the Oberlin College Democrats. As far as I am aware, you never even attended a College Democrats meeting, let alone served as the College Democrats President!

I am writing today from beyond the bubble of Oberlin College, to demand redress for the misuse of my name. In February of 2005 (see you agreed to donate your salary to the Oberlin College Democrats. Not only have you never followed up on this promise, but you are still using my name for your own personal gain. If you continue to misrepresent my name in public then I will be forced to file a slander suit in Ohio district court.

On behalf of my disenfranchised friends that accidentally voted for you, on behalf of millions that find their Democratic Party ideals misrepresented and most importantly for justice delayed but not denied, I demand redress!

–Matthew “The Legend” Kaplan #1
OC ’03

To the Members of the Oberlin College Community:

This next year will be among the most important in Oberlin’s distinguished history.  It will be a year where faculty, staff, students and alumni — working together with President Dye and the Board — will ensure that the transition to new leadership is smooth, and truly begins another era of momentum, progress and achievement for Oberlin College, and a fitting conclusion of President Dye’s presidency.

We are still in the early stages of implementing our strategic plan and planning for a new capital campaign. President Dye’s decision to retire after 13 years provides a natural transition time to select new leadership and meet Oberlin’s important future challenges head-on. A new president will have the wonderful opportunity to build on the powerful legacy of accomplishment of President Dye. President Dye’s decision to retire in June will bring to a close a remarkably successful presidency. Nancy is an outstanding leader, and I have truly enjoyed working closely with her. Oberlin has, by any measure, made enormous progress during these past 12 years. Because of her, Oberlin has been doing well and is poised for continued success.

I would like to highlight some of the significant accomplishments of her presidency: First, and most importantly, strengthening the student body, especially in terms of selectivity, yield, retention and financial aid policies to meet the full financial need of each student in both the College and Conservatory. Next, demonstrating a keen understanding of the importance of financial sustainability at Oberlin, President Dye led the largest capital campaign in the College’s history, exceeding by $10 million the $165 million goal and strengthening the endowment by a great measure. Next, recognizing the vital nature of Oberlin’s “bricks and mortar,” greatly enhancing physical facilities, including a state of the art science center, environmental studies center, modern student housing and a restored Allen Memorial Art Museum.

In addition, understanding the interconnection between the success of the City of Oberlin and the success of the College, she fostered innovative approaches to improving town and gown relations, which included leading the efforts to save the hospital, creating scholarships for graduates of Oberlin High School and establishing the new master’s teacher education program. And, through her tireless and fearless leadership of the Strategic and Financial Plan, providing the College with a clear mission, goals and directions.

Leading a search for a new president is a specific responsibility and, certainly, the most important work of the Board of Trustees this year. We will begin this work at our October Board meeting. I expect at this time that we will appoint a search committee that will be led by trustees and include representatives of the faculty, staff, alumni and students. Our goal will be to select a new president by July 1.

When it comes to recruiting a college President, there is a short supply of talented, qualified, eligible people. Even though Oberlin offers one of the most important College presidency experiences in American higher education, we can expect the candidates to study and explore Oberlin, its culture and its challenges with as much diligence as we will be examining candidate credentials.

Consequently, the campus community needs to begin assessing now how we will present ourselves to the candidates. After our Board meeting in early October, where we will begin work on the presidential search, I will be back in touch with you.

–Robert S. Lemle
Chair, Board of Trustees

To the Editors:

The Lorain County Rape Crisis Center offers the following resources to anyone in need of sexual assault support services. Ask for rape crisis on-call advocate 24-hour hotline response (1-800-888-6161). Please be aware that the 800 number (toll free) cannot be accessed from a cell phone with a long-distance area code. Students will need to use a land phone or use the local number: (440)-204-4145.

They provide: Sexual Assault Care Unit – collection of evidence, legal Advocacy, child Advocacy, one-on-one support and education to survivors of sexual assault/abuse, one-on-one support and education to significant others of survivors, curriculum based support and education group and community education.

All services provided at Lorain County Rape Crisis follow the rape crisis model of support and education and the belief and focus that all sexual abuse is about power and control, therefore, examined first and foremost as a crime of violence. Furthermore, services are free and anonymous.

The Lorain Rape Crisis Center also trains and utilizes volunteers both for community education and to answer the hotline. Hotline volunteers include Oberlin College students, Lorain County residents, people of color, people interested in the justice system, bi-lingual people and LGBT persons.

 If you would like to receive training for hotline services or have any questions about the Lorain County Rape Crisis Services, please email Carletta McCoy at If you would like to be part of Oberlin College’s Campus/Community Coalition for the Prevention of Sexualized Violence, please email

For complete information about sexual assault and campus resources, please see

–Lori K. Morgan Flood
Assistant Dean/Director of the
Center for Leadership in Health Promotion

To the Editors:

As members of The Oberlin Dialogue Center, we are honored to have been identified as among the accomplishments of Nancy Dye’s presidency and we wish to provide some inside information on her commitment to our organization.

Nancy Dye’s tenure as president of Oberlin College has allowed multicultural relations and marginalized voices to flourish on campus. Communities and organizations that traditionally would have to fight to legitimize their existence have consistently received the ideological, emotional and financial support of President Dye. This support has simultaneously validated and perpetuated the existence of organizations such as the Multicultural Resource Center and Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgendered Persons, while also maintaining necessary positions such as the Asian-American faculty position in the new Comparative American Studies Program. The Oberlin College Dialogue Center (OCDC) has been fortunate enough to receive the same unconditional support from President Dye, and we wonder what the implications of her retirement will mean for our organization.

Since its inception five years ago, OCDC has promoted change and community building through conflict transformation, mediation, educational workshops and facilitated dialogue. The president’s support of OCDC has benefited the campus as a community and institutionalized the Social Justice Institute, a weekend-long workshop for incoming first-years from all walks of life that provides a venue to engage in constructive dialogues around issues of privilege and oppression, sexism, classism, heterosexism and racism. With President Dye’s support, encouragement and independence, OCDC has been able to challenge the status quo by encouraging dialogue across lines of difference. Through every step of the way, she has been an advocate for “multi-partiality” and the social justice model that is essential to OCDC’s work.

To quote a letter written by President Dye to the 65 participants of this year’s Social Justice Institute: “OCDC acts as an advocate for all parties. It ensures that all voices can be heard and that individuals in conflict will gain a clearer understanding of each other’s wants and needs. OCDC becomes a space where thoughts and feelings can be freely expressed and validated.”  (Sept. 8, 2006)

Oberlin College’s Dialogue Center has been at the forefront of social justice mediation. No other school has embraced an approach to mediation that empowers all sides involved in conflict and no other president would be brave enough to actively support the program the way President Dye has.

For the 54 current and alumni members of OCDC, news of President Dye’s retirement has been met with reflection; not only for the institutional and personal support she has shown us, but also for how easily we have taken for granted her presence and advocacy on campus. We can only hope that a future president will be as devoted to and supportive of our organization and the ideals it reflects: social justice and social consciousness, constructive dialogue, multi-partiality and the advancement of positive change in Oberlin and beyond.

–The Oberlin Dialogue Center


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