The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News February 10, 2006

Off the Cuff: Adina Langer and Ben Seibel

This week’s biannual ExCo Fair marked the beginning of a fresh semester of offbeat, creative, student-and-community-run classes. For this week’s Off the Cuff, the Review sat down with the two people responsible for organizing this semester’s Experimental College: Adina Langer and Ben Seibel. As co-chairs, the seniors have led the ExCo committee for two years (sometimes as its only members) organizing registration, collecting applications and putting together the course catalog.

What first compelled you guys to get involved with the ExCo committee?
Adina: I knew the chair of the committee at the time, and I found out through her that there was an organization. I didn’t know anything about the Experimental College at the time, but I got sucked in pretty quickly.
Ben: As a freshman, I knew a senior who was chair of the ExCo committee. The Experimental College was one of the great selling points of the school for me, so I got involved right away.

What are some classes that have been offered pretty consistently?
Ben: Well, Aikido has been offered since the 1970s. [Oberlin’s Experimental College started in 1968.] Swing dance and steel drum are also really old. There are some classes that literally never die.
Adina: And, more recently, the SexCo and Women’s Health have repeatedly showed up.

Have you ever had to reject an application due to its content?
Ben: Absolutely. There are one or two every semester that are just ridiculous. When we’re choosing classes, we have to remember that people are getting credit for this and it’s going on their transcripts. We can accept a lot of pretty crazy things, but there are some that we’re just not going to allow.

Is it a lot of work to organize the Experimental College?
Ben: The hard part is that ExCos crunch times are the same as academic crunch times. During add/drop, we’re organizing the ExCo fair and registration, during midterms we’re collecting applications and at finals we’re putting together course lists and grading the teachers. Registration is always pretty crazy. We’re basically the middlemen in a three-way chain of sharing and transferring information between students and the registrar. We wouldn’t be able to do this without the registrar, though. Seriously, Sheila Harley [an administrative assistant at the Registrar’s office] is a goddess.

Have any ExCos ever ended in disaster?
Adina: There was a cooking ExCo. It was taught by someone who called himself a “traveling chef,” and I guess he really was because he disappeared off the face of the earth halfway through the semester.
Ben: After having a heart attack.
Adina: And he had already collected fees from thirty students, and most of them needed the credit to graduate, so they all came panicked to us.
Ben: It was a big headache.

What are the worst and most rewarding aspects of organizing the ExCo fair?
Adina: The worst part is probably the intensity of the time commitment at the same time that there are so many other things to do. The best aspect is being so closely tied to what’s going on at Oberlin. ExCo is one of the most unique things we do here, and it’s certainly made my experience here more interesting.
Ben: The most difficult part is that it’s very stressful, especially for me as the Presto Person [Ben organizes registration for all ExCo classes]. Add/drop is a week, and I can’t put it off and go to quarter beers like I could with reading or something like that, you know? There’s no wiggle room, because you’ve got people’s credit issues in your hands. The good part is that you get to meet a great swath of people on campus — people from every year and every background. Working with the administration, you also get a sense of how much work it is to make these kinds of things happen. I think ExCo continues to be one of the selling points of the school. The classes often fill a void. This semester we have creative writing and art ExCos, two of the hardest classes to get into at Oberlin. Also, the classes are very relaxed, chilled out, very open. When we read course evaluations, we often get comments like “this has been one of the best classes I’ve ever taken at Oberlin.”


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