Suggested Format for Obie Protests

The “No Layoffs” protest on Thursday was based on good intentions and in accord with what Oberlin College stands for — progressive politics and a willingness to stand up for what’s right. These good intentions, though, were poorly directed, as the inaccuracy of information passed out on fliers at the rally attests. This misinformation extends beyond erroneously reporting that “there was a $70,000 party to open the new Science Center.” Relevent administrators are often not known by protestors.

These inaccuracies, though, underscore a more general lack of information in Oberlin. No one, aside from the Administration, has all of the information as to why such cuts are being made. This closed door policy with regards to budget information effectively treats the student body as children.

While conducting an uniformed protest is childish (and possibly more counter-productive than mere complacency), for the student body to be truly and effectively mobilized it must be properly informed. Instead of banging drums during classtime in King, students should respectfully but persistently demand the facts. This means meeting with President Nance Dye or Vice Presiden of Finances Andrew Evans and asking (tactfully, if possible) why budget information that effects so many people is not being disclosed. And it means not taking silence for an answer.

Ironically, such strategies of negotiation to gain information are being taught in some of those classes the protesters sought to disrupt. A standard three three-point strategy to create a more productive protest proceeds through the stages of analysis, advocacy and finally action. The analysis consists of focusing on attaining actual budget information thus deeming the excuse of “budget trouble” unacceptable. The advocacy expresses a controlled but passionate demand for support from the Oberlin community and for the Administration to cooperate in a time of financial trouble — an active persistance that respects the unspoken rules of how to attain leverage in a corporate world. Lastly, action, a component students here are well versed in, means mobilizing people under the banner of fact, and demanding changes in our community.

We agree that the silence from the Administration should rightly be an outrage to the students. But while there may be a rebellious appeal in disrupting the system and challenging the structure of institutions, effective action relies on more than passion for results.

The Administration’s unwillingness to go to the activist groups with better information is deplorable. Students have no other way of knowing the basis or judging the validity of administrative action. The powers that be must realize that “Budget trouble,” without further explanation, can sound like very fuzzy logic.

Protestors, on the other hand, must make a rudimentary effort to learn relevant names and roles of those who control the budget, particularly Dye and Evans — and to make sure they know those numbers that are available. The information gained leads to analysis. Before the drums come out we must, as students and advocates, equip ourselves with better information — part of which the administration is obliged to supply. Let’s follow through with a combination punch of analysis, advocacy and action and make our professors and parents proud.

November 8
November 15

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