The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Commentary November 4, 2005

Do we all have to get along?

It may be hard to remember now, but at this time last year Oberlin College was still reeling from a long and contentious labor dispute, the College was announcing staff cuts in response to budgetary shortfalls, debates over strategic planning were calling the institution’s values into question and the cancellation, then reinstatement, of the beloved Oberlin-in-London program was just around the corner.

In short, the College was a mess and the News staff of The Oberlin Review was racing to keep up with it all. In contrast to all that, this year has been disappointingly quiet, composed and frankly somewhat boring. We’ve suddenly become less PCU and more Charlotte Simmons. This leads us to wonder: Where have all the conflict and mayhem gone?

Most of the controversy this year has been focused outward on town politics and the great big box that is poised to descend on our fair burg like an alien spacecraft. In contrast, the strategic planning process, once the source of so much consternation and hand-wringing, has transformed into just another massive and mostly harmless bureaucratic undertaking for Oberlin’s administration.

The only recipient, fairly or unfairly, of unrestrained Obie wrath this year has been the newly rechristened Department of Residential Education. Unfinished housing on Union Street and uncleaned sewage in Afrikan Heritage House have both helped to transform the fledgling department into this year’s student enemy number one, a position previously occupied by such bodies as CIT, the Strategic Planning Committee and the President’s Office.

When Lord Saunders residents marched earlier this year for the quite reasonable right to live in a dorm that doesn’t smell of feces, one couldn’t help but feel a wave of nostalgia for the days when it wasn’t such a rare occurrence for students to let the administration know when they were pissed. Some of us can still remember the days when the closing of a small North Campus computer lab was enough to ignite protests at trustees meetings and in President Nancy Dye’s office.

This is not to say that we are in favor of the administration continuing to cut popular programs and facilities just to get us riled up. Nor are we in favor of students and staff taking drastic measures to protest every minor annoyance.

We would just like to see a little more of that iconoclastic, rebellious and often highly irritating Oberlin College spirit a little more often, for old time’s sake if nothing else. It keeps the powers-that-be on their toes, trains us to be better advocates and policy makers in the real world and perhaps most importantly for us jaded college journalists, it keeps things entertaining.


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