Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Spring 2008 Vol. 103 No. 3 OAM Home | Oberlin Online


A Green Leader

The Fall/Winter issue of the alumni magazine is filled with terrific history, campus activities, and coverage of the presidential inauguration. Of particular interest to me is the latest movement toward environmental leadership in buildings, faculty, and research. I had already read about OC topping the Sierra Club’s “cool” schools list … very appropriate. However, when I read that the Phyllis Litoff jazz building would not only be LEED certified, but at the gold level, and would be the first music building in the world to be highly certified, I was even more thrilled. And the article “Green Chemistry Takes Root” tells me it’s all over Oberlin. I was also excited to see President Krislov focus on environmental responsibilities and actions in his inaugural speech. My only disappointment was that there was no mention in the speech about how important athletics is on our campus today. Since the start-up of the John W. Heisman Club (which I initiated in the late ’70s), athletics has come a long way, supporting both men’s and women’s athletic efforts. With athletes, musicians, dancers, environmentalists, scientists, and others crossing paths at Oberlin, the campus continues to be a place of innovation, diversification, opportunity, and health.

Martin Dugan ’73
Holland, Mich.

Editor's Note - Effective April 22, 2010: Since this article originally appeared, the Litoff Building has been renamed. Oberlin's new home for jazz studies, music history, and music theory is now the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building.

An Education in Justice

I commend your recent article about the student protest in 1967 against the military recruiters at Oberlin, and I take issue with Norman Carr’s criticism (Fall/Winter “Letters to Editor”). I knew Robert Carr, then the president of Oberlin (and Norman’s father), through my role as a student representative on a committee that was involved with campus policies. In October 1967, I had been at the College for only a month. I did not understand the full history of the Vietnam War and U.S. involvement in Indochina, and I thought that “freedom of speech” was being threatened. So I stepped over the students blocking the entrance to the room where the recruiter was stationed. I had no intention of joining the Navy; this was all about his “freedom” to speak. Over the course of the year, however, I learned what U.S. involvement in that war meant. During the summer of 1968, when I worked in a steel tubing factory in Illinois, I had long discussions with black workers, which included debates about where the Civil Rights Movement was going following Dr. King’s assassination. The workers assumed that because I was a college student, that I supported civil rights (which I did) and opposed the war (which I did half-heartedly). I came to see the strength of viewpoints: opposing segregation, economic inequality, and a war by America directed against Asians. I came to see how the civil rights and antiwar movements were linked. I also knew conservatives, through my parents, who argued that new civil rights laws took away the “freedom” of business people to serve whom they wanted in stores and restaurants. “Freedom of speech” and “freedom to choose your customers”—really these arguments applied to naval recruiters and shop owners in a way that excluded justice and reality. When a military recruiter—this time a Marine—returned to Oberlin the following year, I joined the sit-in. Back then the war was Vietnam. Sadly, now it is Iraq. I still join the antiwar protesters, but now I can use my knowledge of history and politics to inform those at protests and meetings. This wouldn’t have been possible had I not taken a position during that earlier sit-in era. Unfortunately, President Carr did not comprehend the importance of what those students were doing and how it changed lives. For me, it was an education in justice that I’ve kept to this day.

David Palmer ’71
Senior Lecturer in American Studies
Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia