Interns Retained, Future Staffing In Discussion
by Ariella Cohen

An armada of students, armed with stickers and petitions, applauded members of the Standing Committee On Pluralism and Equality (SCOPE) Thursday morning as administrators, faculty members and student representatives made their way into the office of the Dean of Students. The third in a series of hastily called meetings concerning the fate of the College Multicultural Resource Center, yesterday’s conversation focused on establishing the process through which to negotiate the center’s future.
In the past week, campus discussion of the MRC has caused one college decision to be reversed and brought others into question.
Last Tuesday, the College announced a cut to all intern positions, a budget slash affecting the Athletics department, the library and most notably, the MRC, an administrative office staffed with four interns and one assistant Dean of Students and director, Rachel Beverly. Over a long-distance phone call Sunday, Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith and College President Nancy Dye decided to retain the MRC intern position for at least one more year.
“The decision to end all intern positions was precipitated by budgetary concerns but it was quickly apparent that there needs to be discussion on the structures of the MRC, and with three weeks until the end of the semester there is nowhere near enough time,” Goldsmith said.
At this point, the conversation has shifted into a discussion of the Center’s role on campus and the model of staffing to best achieve this. SCOPE’s Thursday meeting focused on mapping out a series of listening sessions and forums that would bring more voices into the decision-making process.
“One thing that is in the front of my brain is how to include people from all the commnities we serve and even those who want to contribute to the discussion but are not directly involved in any of our four communities,” Beverly said.
Many students have voiced concerns that the final decisions on how to restructure or staff the MRC will be made in the summer or at other points when students are not present.
“We demonstrated to show that just because they decided not to fire interns doesn’t mean they can now decide on their own what will happen with the MRC. We want to have a voice in deciding what the MRC will look like. We want to make sure the restructuring doesn’t mean downsizing,” sophomore Vida Vasquez said.
While differing administrative visions, budgetary concerns and high turnover of administrators and staff has led to some variation in the number of interns and adminstrors at the center, its basic structure has remained the same since 1993, when community-specific interns began staffing the center. These new college graduates are contracted for one or two years to represent Asian-Pacific, Africana, Latina and LGBTU communites. In the past, the non-professional nature of the MRC staff has come under examaination from both students and administrators, albeit for different reasons. “One of the problems is turnover of interns. It is a young staff, fresh out of college, who, while doing a tremendous job, also struggle to find balance between dealing with students and acting in the best interest of the College, the institution itself,” Goldsmith said.
“One critique that I have heard from students is that the intern position doesn’t allow for continuity. Its not unusual for a student to work with two or three different coordinators,” he added.
In the Improving Work Environment section in the January 2001 report of the Special Committee on Faculty Roles, Responsibilities and Rewards, observations and recommendations were made regarding the interplay between the MRC and students and faculty of color.
The report noted that, “Some people feel additional pressure due to the under-representation of people of color and other minority groups in administrative and professional staff positions critical to student life.” The faculty committee, made up of some of the same faculy members that still stand on SCOPE, requested that “senior staff identify and vigorously seek to hire and retain appropriately diverse personnell, demographically consistent with Oberlin’s present and future needs. The MRC in particular must be structured and staffed with more professionals in addition to its interns so as to ensure its maximum effectiveness; otherwise student pressure on faculty of color for support and advice becomes unmanageable.”
While students, faculty and administrators are aware of these recommendations, no formal efforts have been made to enact them.
“There is a film called Shattering the Silence addressing the problems facing faculty of color…while problems are specific and local on one level, on another they are systemic and national in scope,” Professor of Sociology Antionette Charfauros-McDaniel said. Charfauros-McDaniel’s contract was not renewed this past fall when she failed to complete her Ph.D. thesis by a deadline set by the College.
Next weekend the assistant professor will attend a conference at the University of Minnesota focusing on the recruitment and retaiment of faculty and students of color. Charfauros was invited to sit on the conference panel, “Negogiating the Chilly Climate.” In this instance, the chilly climate refers to a study done in the 1970s that argued that the academy as a “chilly” or unreceptive environement for female faculty and students.
Administrators emphasize that the MRC was never intended to be the only source of support for underrepresented communities, pointing to the Office of Academic Affairs, The Bonner Scholars Program and other federal programs as supports for these communties. Faculty and students emphasized that student’s needs are met through informal faculty or MRC advising.
“Its clear that for too long we have been spread too thin. Yes there are institutions of support, but primarily the support is informal. The question is: When OC will prioritize its resources,” senior and SCOPE representative Christine Harley said.
Currently, however, the college is in financial deficit and has put a freeze on hiring any new staff members. While Goldsmith stated that the budget for student life (the jursdiction under which the MRC falls) would not grow, he did say that “strategic exceptions” to the hiring freeze were a possibility.

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