Students Neglected in MRC Reorganization

This past week the campus has seen a major uproar in regards to the proposed cutting of the intern positions in the Multicultural Resource Center. The Administration has backpedaled a little by saying that the positions will not be cut for at least another year, but this move further highlights the problems of the original decision.

To be sure, the College is facing a very dire financial situation, as noted in this week’s issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and some measures must be taken to remedy the situation. However, the postponement of the dissolution of the MRC intern positions reveals that the move was more of a choice of priority rather than necessity. There is probably no physical list of actual priorities of the Administration, but if there were, one wonders where fostering multicultural communities would be placed on that list. Would it be given a level of priority based on what the College says about their devotion to the issue, or a priority more in line with the decisions they make that actually affect multiculturalism on this campus?

Or perhaps the Administration was simply bowing to student pressure when it delayed cutting the intern positions from the MRC. The College has to make structural changes to streamline finances in order to try to deal with the multi million dollar deficit, and indeed getting rid of interns is probably good in several ways since their short stay at Oberlin could potentially sidetrack the continuity of planning and resources. However, the interns — especially in the MRC — cannot simply be cut. New positions must be created to fill the roles that the interns did, and these roles cannot be fulfilled by adding a new position or two in their places. The four MRC interns serve a unique position as facilitators of Africana, Asian-Pacific, Latino and LGBT communities respectively, and to assume that one person could effectively serve more than one of these communities simultaneously shows a misunderstanding of what these positions are designed to accomplish and who they are designed to serve. The students that rely on the MRC for support should be involved in the planning discussions for what is to come next.

Although sometimes regarded as weak and ineffectual, in a letter to this week’s Review, Student Senate (see page 11) points out the harm caused by excluding students from such processes and asserts the right of the student body to have representatives at future meetings on this issue. The letter from Senate begins by focusing on the MRC and the specific lack of queer students and students of color in the discussion about the staffing changes at the MRC, and continues to comment on some of the groups affected by the budget cuts that have seemingly been ignored, such as the athletics department.

The reality of the situation at hand is that the College is facing greater financial troubles than it has in the past five years, and that in order to control the growing deficit, cuts are going to have to be made that affect all students on this campus. The MRC may be disproportionately affected, as it is staffed mainly by interns, but calls for additions of more staff in addition to the retention of the intern positions are simply unrealistic, and other affected areas must not be overlooked. Losses caused by budget cuts will be hard pills to swallow, and the Administration is not sugar coating the situation at the moment. Once again a situation has presented itself where basic communication with students prior to the decision-making had taken place, the Administration could have saved itself some serious headache.

But perhaps the most disturbing point in the whole situation is that the director of the MRC — Rachel Beverly, an Assistant Dean — was not consulted in the staffing decision, and learned of the situation second-hand from students. First and foremost, before the College can even think about beginning a campus dialogue on multicultualism (or anything else for that matter) it must get its own communication and decision-making systems in order.

April 19
April 26

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