MRC Staff Changes Unacceptable

To the Editors:

It has taken me several days to sit down and write this letter because I have gone through such a range of reactions and emotions since learning that the four MRC community coordinators’ positions were to be discontinued and replaced with two non-community-specific professional staff.
I can only describe my general experiences with the administration of Oberlin as increasingly predictable and disappointing. Why does a school that touts its commitment to multi-racialism, integration, multi-culturalism, and progressive politics eliminate almost half the staff of the only department in the school that has institutional backing and support for students of color and queer students? Why does a school whose history celebrates community and struggle, whose campus-culture of co-ops, collectives, and consensus encourage community building, show such willingness to put more and more of the burden of support and protection on already-marginalized faculty and students who have other jobs and are unable to adequately fill this role?
I sometimes think that because so many people use words like ‘support’ and ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘marginalization’ on this campus that they have come to be seen as a series of buzzwords, thrown around by privileged kids who came here and took a couple classes on the patriarchy. I can tell you that this is not what I mean when I use these words. I grew up in a conservative town. I was out as queer in high school and received death threats, was followed home from school, and received constant verbal harassment. When I speak of the importance of having ‘support’ for my community and for other communities, when I speak of being ‘marginalized’ I am not using words that I learned in “Intro to Women’s Studies” in the Fall of 2000. I am talking about my life: the fact that I could be beaten or killed here or anywhere, today or any other day; the fact that you can drive 10 miles in any direction from Oberlin and find a house with a Confederate flag flying; the fact that every Saturday the religious right visits our campus, which has huge populations of queer people, Jews and non-xtians and holds signs telling us we are going to burn in hell. I am talking about the fact that many students here have been racially profiled and harassed since 9/11; that many students here have family members and loved ones who are the targets of violence here and abroad because of their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, or religion.
I am talking about the fact that the elevator in North dorm has “Fags Suck” in grafitti on the door. I am talking about the fact of four rapes last semester and not one rapist found and held accountable. I am talking about the revolving door of faculty of color, and yes, I am talking about the virtual elimination of the MRC.
This is not about the budget, it is about budgeting priorities. This is not about ‘eliminating positions, not people,’ it is about systematically eliminating resources for communities that already have scarce amounts of time and energy. This is not about asking program houses and student organizations to take more responsibility, it is about the administration openly abandoning its own responsibility.
This is not acceptable. Not because we’re Oberlin and we’re supposed to be better, or because we think one person can change the world, but because this is simply unacceptable. The MRC must not be downsized in any way shape or form. If anything, professional positions should be considered as an addition to the staff of the MRC, not a replacement.
Now is the time for the entire campus to say that this is unacceptable, to say it as loudly and forcefully as it takes to reverse this decision.

–Jesse Carr
College sophomore

April 19
April 26

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