Something revolutionary took place Thursday evening in a little room in Wilder. Something long unseen on Oberlin's campus. Something extraordinary. Students showed up at a class trustee meeting.
Twenty students voiced to College trustees evening concerns about diversifying Oberlin's curriculum, upgrading Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA) facilities, and improving communication between students, Trustees and the administration. Student attendance at the meeting was up 400 percent from last year.
Class Trustees Hannah Richman, OC '95, and Jessica Darcy, OC '97, conducted the two-hour meeting. Trustees Robert Lemle, OC '75, Leo Romero, OC '65, and Roberta Maneker, OC '57, also attended the session.
Students took the opportunity to alert Trustees that the Board may not clearly hear their positions on campus issues.
Richman said, "There definitely is a weakness right now in terms of regular contact. The Board is trying to play a more active role in [College] affairs."
Richman pointed specifically to the Board's plan to create an ad hoc committee to study the issue of retention. She said trustees would talk with students. Trustees would also work with the College community to research ways for Oberlin to improve its retention rate.
Senior Kirti Baranwal said the College can do more to diversify the curriculum, especially by establishing an Asian Studies and Latino Studies program. "I think a lot of lip service has been given to it. It's really been a struggle and we haven't had support from the College," she said.
The Board is conducting its quarterly meetings this weekend. Maneker said the Trustees will begin planning Oberlin's Capital Campaign. They will discuss general guidelines on how much money to raise and how the funds should be spent, including on hiring new faculty.
Darcy said she hopes to bring student concerns to the attention of the Board of Trustees. "I know and sympathize with the frustrations of students. I've been there." She added, "I wouldn't be here unless I hoped for change. I believe in change. I can't stop fighting until there is change."
OSCA representatives attended the session to lobby Trustees to approve allocating Capital Improvement Funds to improve Co-op accommodations. They said that many OSCA kitchen facilities are not in compliance with Lorain County health standards. OSCA President Jen Carter said that floors and countertops have been judged hazardous to diners. "Health Inspector Dorothy Kloos is getting really tired of these health code violations. We're really tired of being told, 'We don't have the money.'"
OSCA treasurer Dan Spalding fought back tears while pleading OSCA's case. "We pay $1 million to rent facilities from the College and we are eating in a situation that is not safe. The College can find money for a new food court in Dascomb or channel money from an anonymous donor to fund a new Science Center. But we have to eat unsafe food. We're obviously not being taken seriously."
Some students said more regular communication should be established between students, trustees and the College. Attendees suggested routine correspondence would help students clarify issues such as how financial aid packages are awarded and to continue to participate in Oberlin's long-range planning process.
Senior Micha Josephy said students can become frustrated by the lack of clear communication with the College. "I know students who left Oberlin - two this semester - just because they kept being being fed lines. They couldn't deal with it."
Bridging the gap: Class Trustees met with current students to discuss issues of diversity in the campus and curriculum. (photo by John Matney)
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 11, December 5, 1997
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