Oberlin Alumni Magazine: Summer 2001 Vol.97 No.1
Feature Stories
When Worlds Meet
Visions of Oberlin
Safety Man
[cover story] Caught in the Act
Round Robin Takes Flight
Message from the President
Around Tappan Square

Oberlin Alumni Magazine welcomes mail from readers. Please address your comments to Oberlin Alumni Magazine, 145 W. Lorain St., Oberlin, OH 44074-1023, e-mail: alum.mag@oberlin.edu,
P: 440.775.8182, F: 440.775.6575. The editor reserves the right to edit for clarity and space. Additional letters may be printed on OAM's website at www.oberlin.edu/~alummag/alum_mag.html.

I was struck recently by an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled "Colleges Struggle to Keep a Male-Female Balance," which featured Oberlin as a liberal arts college facing the "problem" of a student body that is 59 percent female. Aside from the obvious question of whether anyone fretted about all this when the majority of college students were men (they did not), the discussion raised other issues of concern. According to the article, Oberlin's admissions staff is faced with the challenge of "how to keep men interested in the school." Short of hanging a "Men Wanted" sign (which, a high school guidance counselor claimed, would result in a "backlash from women's groups"), the school revised a science brochure that "seemed too feminine;" gives men "a second look" in borderline admissions cases; and sets an enrollment goal of no more than 60 percent women. Boys, it seems, must be given a little extra help because they "develop more slowly than girls and may lack the high grades and SAT scores" that apparently give girls an edge. As an educator, a parent, and a newspaper reader, I agree that there is a problem with boys in our society and our schools. But I doubt that the solution lies in a more aggressive affirmative action program for white boys at the nation's academically excellent liberal arts colleges. Implicit in the article was a problem similar to that faced by Swarthmore College in its decision to end its football program: admitting larger numbers of men (or football players) would lower academic and social standards in a way that would change the character of the college. As a professor of women's studies at a large, football- and fraternity-dominated state school who teaches students about the negative social impact of particular male-dominated settings, among other things, I suggest that schools like Oberlin consider closely the cost of admitting more men as such. When people, including high school students looking at colleges, ask me to describe my experiences as a feminist at Oberlin, I often note that the men I met there were, and still are, the gentlest and most feminist I've known. Those of us who loved Oberlin's coeducational culture, where men did not seem threatened or embarrassed by the high-powered intellectual women around them, hope that Oberlin will take care in instituting affirmative action for men and continue to accept those men and women who wish to share Oberlin's traditions of artistic expression, political involvement, academic achievement, and just being different.

Lori Ginzberg '78
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
On rare occasions, when I was living in Asia House in my first year of college, house council meetings would transpire into interesting discussions on the politics of culture. One such occasion introduced me to Jonathan Rackoff, a junior and professor Norman Care's teaching assistant. That conversation brought me into a close relationship with Jonathan and Mr. Care. Our discussion on politics and states, nationalism and fanaticism, dissolved into that perfect solution for Jonathan: a class with Mr. Care. I took "Philosophy and Values," an introductory level course, with Mr. Care the following semester. And my whole experience at Oberlin was transformed in that decision. In my three years at Oberlin I took all five of my philosophy classes with Mr. Care, whose belief in and love for his subject drove my own passion.

I will not forget the first day I walked into his class. Jonathan was sitting in as the TA, and after class he encouraged me to introduce myself to Mr. Care. But for the first couple of weeks I remained terrified of my professor. He would walk in the classroom, jot down his agenda for that class on the blackboard, and delve into Descartes and Hume, Kantian and Utilitarian philosophies with clarity and well-studied detail.

"Well, go introduce yourself to him," Jonathan would insist after every class.

"What shall I say to him? Hello, I'm Sonya and I'm in your philosophy class?"


Jonathan's confidence finally assured me, and I went trembling into Mr. Care's office one day after class and introduced myself. Contrary to my every expectation our conversation was light and relaxing, and he made me feel welcome. In the following class he noted
my presence.

My visits to Mr. Care's office increased in semesters to come. Discussions in class became food for thought long after the clock had sent us all out. I wound up with questions and ideas that could not be covered within class. In my last semester I took two classes with him. I was seeing Mr. Care five times a week, and in that last semester, when I was conscious of how excellent an opportunity I had received, these classes had special significance.

If I were to find an analogy for Mr. Care's teaching, I would say that every class was like a symphony. When a particular point proved or determined an issue, his voice would suddenly come to life and his operatic solo would mesmerize the class. My greatest regret by May 1998 was that I could no longer be a participant in his classes. I cannot help feeling that Oberlin will be a little lost without his classes in its course book. He has been a faithful member of Oberlin's faculty for 36 years, and it was my good fortune to be a part of the Care experience.
Sonya Fatah '98
Sindh, Pakistan
Three letters in past issues alluded to Charles G. Finney and suggested that the current Oberlin represents a repudiation of Finney's legacy. The ethos of the current Oberlin, however, springs inevitably from Finney's teachings concerning the capabilities of the human will. Finney is the father of modern evangelistic technique and modern Pelagian apostasy, which share and act upon the assumption that man has the natural moral ability to make proper moral choices. An excellent synopsis of Finney's teaching on free will is in the chapter on Finney in Willing to Believe--The Controversy Over Free Will by R.C. Sproul. The illusion shared by fundamentalists and secularists that humans have the innate ability to make appropriate moral choices is the antithesis of Biblical teaching. The great theologians of the church and the confessions of the Protestant Reformation have proclaimed the reality that natural man is in bondage to sin, and that only through God's free, unmerited grace can man be delivered from this bondage.
Douglas E. Freeman '71

Knoxville, Tennessee

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