Affirmative action debated at speak-out

Nov. 21 speak-out draws 100

by Abby Person

About 100 students gathered on the steps of Wilder to speak out about affirmative action at Oberlin. On Friday, November 21, Oberlin students clashed in response to a letter published in the Review. The letter, written by Professor of Biology Yolanda Cruz, suggested that diversity is irrelevant with respect to academic preparedness.

During the speak-out students voiced a range of opinions. Much of the debate centered on issues of affirmative action. Some students supported the thesis of Cruz's letter and others were outraged at their perceived assault on affirmative action throughout the country.

After one hour, the debate heated up and a line was started to return some semblance of order to the speak out.

"That people be admitted solely on minority status is a ridiculous notion," one student said. He served as the primary speaker in opposition to affirmative action.

Another student said diversity is important in any place where people are expected to learn and live. "I went to another school before Oberlin. No school based on any one criteria would be a place someone would want to live," he said.

Other students were neither strongly against or supportive of affirmative action, but felt it has relevance and importance in our society.

"It is the only theory the government has come up with to help the situation," another student said.

"There are complex systems that are working to create systems that are unfair and unjust like institutions like this," another student said. "Unless we're talking about a revolution, it's going to be slow. Affirmative action is a compromise," she said.

For two hours, the crowd's numbers held steady as students passing by watched and then joined in. But by 1:30, people were questioning what issue exactly was being discussed.

One student voiced his feelings on the lack of the speak out's focus. He said, "We haven't defined the issue. So far we've been bringing up affirmative action and classism. This is a complex issue. My feelings are I wish affirmative action wasn't there. The most important thing is to fundamentally create a common playing ground."

"What can Oberlin do?" he continued. "Maybe bring a city here. It's not just why can't we bring inner city students, the reason is, is Oberlin is pretty damn boring."

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Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 11, December 5, 1997

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