Trustee Dolan Will Listen to Dissension on Wahooby Nick Stillman and Liz Heron
Cleveland Indians owner and Oberlin Trustee Larry Dolan plans to speak with a small invitation-only group of Oberlin students Tuesday afternoon about the controversial Indians logo Chief Wahoo.
"I think [Chief Wahoo] represents the Indians very well and we expect him to stay on," Dolan told the Review on Dec. 8, but later added that he would be willing to hear more on the subject from the Oberlin community. "Maybe if this group comes to this meeting with the idea of educating me...who knows where it might go?" he said. [For full transcript of interview, see page 4].
The discussion will take place Tuesday at noon. Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith said, "Larry Dolan has asked us to provide him with an opportunity to meet with a group of students who can help him to understand the depth and complexity of the Chief Wahoo symbol controversy. Although he has not yet specified a number, we expect that he will want to meet in an informal and fairly intimate setting with a modest number of students."
The group who will speak with Dolan will include around nine students who have been outspoken on the issue and two or three faculty members, according to Vice President of College Relations Al Moran. Students not invited to attend will have an opportunity to post questions and comments for Dolan by sending an e-mail to Dialogue@oberlin.edu. The queries will then be relayed to Dolan by Laurie McMillin, professor of rhetoric and composition, who will also be moderating the event.
"This is a subject which many people feel strongly about, and we encourage a constructive exchange of views," said Acting President Clayton Koppes in a statement released in late November.
Although Dolan was originally slated to come to Oberlin today, the administration was impressed with his willingness to reschedule despite being occupied with his attempt to re-sign free agent outfielder Manny Ramirez. "On the day the Indians were scrambling to sign Manny Ramirez, in all the chaos and major business deals, [Dolan] took my call. It went straight in. [That] shows that he treats the issue seriously," Moran said.
Dolan requested that the College limit the number of people to meet with him. "A small group raises the chance of a reasonable dialogue," Moran said. "Hopefully it will be the first in a number of discussions with him where we can have a wider audience." Moran established the e-mail address as a way of including the whole Oberlin community without compromising the intimate nature of the planned discussion.
Many students at Oberlin were surprised to learn Dolan had been chosen to represent Oberlin as a Trustee, as his position on the Chief Wahoo logo seemed divergent from the majority of students' views. But Koppes was adamant in his view that personal politics do not play a role in the selection of Board members. "The Board of Trustees, much like Oberlin's students, parents and staff, is composed of people with varying political and cultural perspectives," Koppes said in his statement. "We don't impose a political test of views as a requirement for affiliation with Oberlin College, and we encourage respect for a wide diversity of opinion."
Dolan, a lawyer and entrepreneur, joined the Oberlin Board of Trustees in June of 1999, shortly before he bought the Indians for a record-breaking $320 million. He is currently the president of Thrasher, Dinsmore and Dolan, a Chardon, Ohio law firm.
Trustees are elected by other members of the Board and serve six-year terms, after which they can be elected again for a second and last term. After the age of 75, Trustees assume honorary status. Dolan does not plan to serve a second term because of his age.
"The Board seeks diversity in a number of things, including geography," said Secretary of the College Bob Haslun. According to Haslun, before Dolan joined the Board, "One thing we were a little shy of was a connection to Cleveland-based people."
"He's very prominent in the Cleveland business community," Koppes said in an interview Sunday. "He's somebody with instant name recognition and a very wide circle of connections in the area. That kind of influence can be very helpful to a college."
Koppes believed that Dolan would be open to students' ideas, but warned students against being overly optimistic. "I think he is prepared to listen with an open mind. That doesn't necessarily mean the result will be what students interested in this issue will want," Koppes said. "I think he's prepared to listen to reasonable arguments. He's willing to take time out of a heavy schedule and I don't think he would do that just for show."
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