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Go to the previous page in Perspectives Go to the next page in Perspectives L E T T E R S  T O  T H E  E D I T O R :

Zeke Boys Defend Community
Election Outcome in History's Court
Smith Defends Self
Purchasing Committee Clarifies Sweatshop Policy
Honor Violations Recorded
Attention Delights Columnist
Oberwomb College: A Case of Freedom From Speech

Zeke Boys Defend Community

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the recent articles and talk regarding the proposal to open Zechiel Hall to female students. After reading the front page article two weeks ago, the Zeke community was concerned to say the least. I am writing with the purpose of enlightening the readers and those of you who are so scared to even step into the lounge of our home. First, a response to the alleged fact that only 17 students requested to live in Zeke. Zeke resident Michael McClendon and I stayed in Oberlin this last summer and were employed by administrators to work out of Peters Hall and within Residential Life and Services. We were informed many a time (and with much surprise and excitement) that Zechiel Hall had filled up even before the incoming freshmen housing requests were processed. So, either the facts you have received are wrong, or someone has been lying to us.

Secondly, people must understand that it is true that many a past student has chosen Zeke simply because he could room in a big single or super quad. It is unfair for these students to chastise the Zeke community after they have willfully opted to live there. To the allegations of a lax sense of community, I invite any accuser to visit us in our lounge Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings and witness virtually our entire dorm watching football games, listening to music, playing pool and eating. Perhaps you accusers of poor community could have dropped by two weekends ago when Kevin Wahl, a Dascomb resident who we all consider a member of our Zeke community, brought over an entire pig from his farm in Pandora, OH. Spontaneously and unplanned we had an all-day pig roast in our lounge. We apologize if our sense of community does not mirror that which Res Life would have us enact.

Thirdly, we object to the all-too-frequent usage of the term "jock" to describe the Zeke community. If we strolled around campus throwing the words "fag, dyke, wop, kike, nerd" as nonchalantly as you have been referring to us as jocks, we would be expelled before the words escaped our lips. Zeke is home to athlete and non-athlete alike. We are all members of the Zeke community, so show us respect. My neighbor Phil was quoted two weeks ago as "knowing what [he] was getting into" when he chose to live in Zeke. We do things a little differently in our house and that is what makes us unique and special.

The Review used the word "tradition" several times in the last article. Believe it. Zechiel Hall is the last shred of true college campus tradition left at this institution. A place where guys can speak unreserved without the ever present danger of offending some socialist who may be around the corner. A place where we can party a little later without Security breaking it up because someone next door phoned in a noise complaint (hell, in Zeke, chances are your neighbor is partying in your room with you).

So to Res Life, Acting President Koppes, the athletic director, the head football coach, and whoever else may be involved in this decision to make Zechiel Hall co-ed, I implore you to pause and think what you are disbanding. We are not a motley crew of beer-guzzling "jocks" with no sense of community. We are a uniquely diverse group of gentlemen. We represent you both in the classroom and on the athletic fields, and are all proudly bound to each other by the strong tradition exemplified by those privileged enough to have been called "Zeke Boys."

--Ryan Catignani, College Senior
--Michael McClendon, College Sophomore
On behalf of the Zeke Community

Election Outcome in History's Court

To the Editor:

We are called the United States of America because in spite of what has happened in the 2000 Presidential election, we will all unite in obeying the U.S. Supreme Court decision that awards the presidency to Governor Bush. Even though Bush himself and his followers believe, as evidenced by their tenacious efforts to prevent the counting of all the votes in Florida, that Vice President Gore garnered the most votes in Florida, as he did indeed win the popular nationwide vote on Nov. 7.

Though deeply divided, five to four, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in last Friday and stopped the vote counting in Florida, overturning a Florida Supreme Court decision that had ordered that the recounting be undertaken. Had the count continued, America would have known by now who indeed had won Florida's 25 electoral votes, and there would have been no cloud of suspicion over our next president, as there surely will be over Bush's presidency.

The sadly splintered U.S. Supreme Court had the option to allow the counting to be completed and to decide shortly thereafter the status of the undercounted votes. The way it chose to proceed was somewhat the reverse, namely, to stop the counting first then to issue an opinion that theoretically might have allowed for the counting to be undertaken were there enough time. However, the Court knew that issuing its opinion at 10 p.m. left just two hours before midnight on Dec. 12 for the Democrats to search for a miracle. The Court's action was at once disingenuous and transparently politically motivated. But it succeeded.

We Americans in the 50 states will not revolt because we respect the rule of law and the Supreme Court. Additionally, most of us will suffer no immediate adverse effects from this very tarnished presidential election. If, however, this decision meant an immediate loss of our jobs, property, and savings, many of us would probably not respect, let alone accept, this U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Last week, many Republicans denounced the Florida Supreme Court, which is controlled by the Democrats, for having ordered a recount. History will forever record that it was the U.S. Supreme Court, which is controlled by the Republicans, that stopped the recount so that Bush would be assured the presidency. It is in the interest of Democrats, Republicans and others to ensure that in all future elections every vote that can reasonably be counted will be counted no matter whose quest for the presidency might be thwarted or who sits on the Supreme Court.

--Booker Peek, Professor of African American Studies

Smith Defends Self

To the Editor:

My writing has been the subject of some controversy over the last few years: it doesn't bear easy interpretation for some of the peanut-brains who call themselves Obies. However, we have a certified genius of a literary critic in one Mr. Ross Golowicz, junior in the College. He has made the brilliant assertion that my letter of two weeks ago ("A Call to Dog-Raping Democrats," Nov. 17) is a pointless, if extremely witty, attempt at humor. Is this assertion well-founded? Is his the final word? Or is he a numbskull? "Let's try to figure it out."

Well, Mr. Golowicz seems to be very perceptive. He's absolutely right about the pointlessness of that letter. Where he is incorrect is in his assumption that I was trying to make a point at all. My only reasons for writing that piece were (a) to extract a laugh or two from the few people at this school with a sense of humor, and (b) to watch the rest of the campus flail in self-righteous anger at being the butt of the joke. Both of my purposes, I might add, were generously fulfilled. Mr. Golowicz, of course, falls into the latter of the two categories, as do a number of the Nader and Gore supporters whom I satirized. Yes, I'm being mean to them, and yes, I'm abusing the Perspectives page for my own selfish and downright pig-headed purposes, but so what? Four years in a mental institution like this might make anyone a little sarcastic.

So Mr. Golowicz is both right and wrong about the nature of the letter in question. If he thinks I'm an asshole, well, it looks as though he's right there, too.

--S. Andrew Smith, Conservatory Senior

Purchasing Committee Clarifies Sweatshop Policy

To the Editor:

In May of 1999, after two years of lobbying by students, Oberlin College adopted a Sweatshop-Free Apparel Code of Purchasing. The Code makes a pledge "to never knowingly purchase apparel produced under sweatshop conditions at any stage of the production process." It requires manufacturers to certify standards of fair labor, such as the provision of safe work environments, no forced or child labor and acknowledgment of employees' right to unionize. The Code also gives preference to "sweat-free" firms with well-developed monitoring policies, and those who sign disclosure agreements with the College, taking into account competitive price, quality and style.

The Code's implementation mechanism is a Purchasing Committee, which consists of two faculty members, Marc Blecher and Chris Howell; a representative from the Athletics Department, Mike Muska, Director; two administrators from the purchasing department, Kris Fannin and Gary Koepp; two student representatives, David Jessop and Katherine Blauvelt; and a representative from the college bookstore, Jennifer Galt, Bookstore Manager. If you are interested in serving on the Committee, contact for further information.

In addition, a student research assistant is hired to research the apparel manufacturers from which Oberlin College's various departments and college bookstore purchase, and to help identify alternative suppliers when strong evidence is found that manufacturers are not in compliance with our Purchasing Code and have not made efforts to improve the conditions which led to the violations.

The Purchasing Committee's main objective for this year is to compile a list of approved manufacturers, toward which it can direct all Oberlin College purchases. Unlike larger universities, Oberlin does not contract apparel purchases to a single company. Therefore, the Committee must consider manufacturers on a case-by-case basis. The research assistant, working with administrators in the Purchasing department, gathers information about various manufacturers by writing directly to companies, informing them of our Code's requirements, and asking for a statement about their employment practices regarding the issues addressed in the employment standards section of Oberlin's Purchasing Code. Information about specific apparel manufacturers is also gathered from sources such as the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), apparel industry newsletters and general news sources. The Purchasing Committee makes decisions about apparel manufacturers based on this information. It is also the responsibility of the Committee to review information on companies brought by third party sources.

In the spring of 2000, President Dye chose to accept the Purchasing Committee's recommendation that Oberlin affiliate with the Workers Rights Consortium, a national organization of universities and colleges, making Oberlin the fifth college in the nation to join. Currently, there are 66 college and university affiliates, including Brown University and the University of Michigan. The WRC seeks to ensure access for independent workplace monitors in the multi-billion dollar collegiate apparel industry. In addition to colleges and universities, the WRC collaborates with workers and non-governmental organizations to improve workers' conditions around the world in that industry.

As a member of the Worker's Rights Consortium, Oberlin College is also required to request from manufacturers full disclosure of the site locations of all their facilities, including those run by contractors or subcontractors. Early in 2001, the Purchasing Committee plans to submit information gathered about the disclosure of factory locations by various manufacturers to the WRC.

To learn more about the Oberlin College's purchasing practices, please contact the Oberlin College Purchasing Department.

--Mika Cheng, College Senior, On behalf of the Purchasing Committee

Honor Violations Recorded

To the Editor:

As per the charter of the Student Honor Committee, I am submitting a summary of cases we have heard this semester by the committee.

Two students were accused of collaborating on a take-home exam in a mathematics class. Both were found guilty, and they were each given a five-page paper, 10 hours of community service and were placed on honor probation.

A student was accused of plagiarism for an assignment. The student was found guilty and was given a penalty of a four-page paper, 10 hours of community service and was placed on honor probation.

A student was accused of plagiarism for a paper in a French class and was found guilty. The penalty given was a five-page paper, 10 hours of community service and a mandatory meeting with Dean Goldsmith and honor probation.

A student was accused of copying a score for a transcription assignment in an aural skills class and was found guilty. The penalty given was a five-page paper, 15 hours of community service and honor probation.

A student was accused of plagiarism in a Spanish class and was found guilty. The penalty given was a five-page paper, 15 hours of community service and honor probation.

Two students were accused of collaboration in an assignment in a geology class. They were found not guilty. A student was accused of plagiarism in a music history class and was found guilty. The penalty given was a five-page paper, 15 hours of community service and honor probation.

A student was accused of copying an assignment in an economics class and was found guilty. The penalty given was a five-page paper, 15 hours of community service and honor probation.

There are three more cases pending this semester that have not yet been heard.

I would also like to remind students to familiarize themselves with the honor code and how it applies specifically to their semester-end assignments and exams.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

--Lawrence Zhang, College Senior, Co-Chair, Student Honor Committee

Attention Delights Columnist

To the Editor:

I am writing to extend a heartfelt "thank you" to the Sexual Information Center for working so tirelessly to promote my column, "Sticks and Stones," which appears in the Oberlin Grape. My good friends at the SIC were apparently so moved to have received a mention in November's piece on sex in Oberlin that they took it upon themselves to write a lengthy letter to the Review in which my name and column are besmirched repeatedly.

Of course there is an old saying in the world of journalism that nothing sells papers like controversy, and the SIC staff was clearly aware of this, as they set out to turn me into a culture icon with their enthusiastic attack. Well, rest easy SIC, you succeeded! I talked to more people who went out of their way to find a copy of my column after seeing your letter than who read the column when it first came out.

But your generosity did not end there. You knew that as a relatively new writer for a relatively new paper, I could use all the promotional help I could get, so you were generous enough to run your letter again in the Dec. 8 Grape! Upon reading your scathing attacks, many an Oberlin student undoubtedly turned directly to the newest Sticks and Stones to find out just what was so scandalous about yours truly.

I personally am too modest to promote my own column so brazenly, but anyone who's been to Safer Sex Night knows that the SIC has never worried about modesty. Thank you SIC, for helping make Sticks and Stones a smashing success in its first semester.

--Jeff Harvey, College Senior

Oberwomb College: A Case of Freedom From Speech

It's been a curious week. A number of people - students as well as faculty - have questioned my willingness to defend "dissident" points of view (e.g. the "marginalized" arguments of the protesters vs. the mainstream arguments of Secretary Summers and the globalization gang). This is excruciatingly ironic - given the fact that I proudly identify myself as a democratic socialist and that I voted for Ralph Nader for President last month. In fact, I'm reasonably certain that I punched my "chad" for Nader all the way through.

This is another way of saying that I share many of the protesters' criticisms of Clinton administration policy regarding the World Bank (for which Summers previously worked), the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. Indeed, when I arrived at Finney for Summers' lecture, I was delighted to see a fairly large group of protesters outside the chapel. As a matter of fact, I would have welcomed an act of non-violent civil disobedience designed to attract the attention of local news media. For example, if the protesters had literally laid their bodies on the line and tried to prevent people from entering Finney, that would have been fine with me - providing (and this is a major proviso) that they would then have allowed Oberlin security officers to carry them away and charge them with violating College policies. A willingness to take the legal consequences - to really make a sacrifice for one's beliefs - is an essential part of this equation. (And one that greatly enhances the symbolic power of civil disobedience).'s not the idea of disruptive protest per se that bothered me, but rather the specific nature of this particular protest - which I regard in retrospect as infantile, cowardly and philosophically flawed. As a First Amendment absolutist, I believe it's not just unwise, but downright immoral to attempt to drown out public speech - whether mainstream or dissident. And make no mistake about it, Larry Summers was, for all practical purposes, "drowned out." The disruptions were so loud and so frequent that it would have required superhuman powers of concentration to follow his argument.

Still, I must confess that I'm not nearly as disappointed with the protesters as I am with the College administration. After the events in Seattle last year (and the demonstrations that have erupted in every city in which WTO meetings have taken place), the administration must surely have anticipated the likelihood of disruptive protest. Thus it was very wise of Acting President Koppes to begin the event by reading the Faculty Statement on Freedom of Speech and Expression. This policy (which is printed in the "regs" book in everyone's copy of the College Directory) makes it unambiguously clear that Oberlin College will not tolerate fundamental violations to freedom of speech. But it was then very cowardly of the acting president to sit on the stage ineffectually while poor Secretary Summers - and those in the audience who wanted to hear him - struggled to concentrate amidst the deafening din of catcalls, chanting and kazoo playing.

So, what should Koppes have done? In my view, he should have delivered a stern warning advising the demonstrators that if their interruptions persisted, they would be subject to judicial action. At a minimum, members of the dean of students' staff should have requested that the demonstrators display their Oberlin identification cards. The names of those students who openly flaunted College regulations should have been collected for purposes of judicial action. No doubt, many of the protestors would have refused to show their IDs; and if the demonstrators continued their disruptive tactics after that point, security officers should have removed them in as gentle a way as possible. No jackboot tactics. No pepper spray or electric cattle prods. Just enforced compliance with clearly stated College policy.

It could even be argued that by not physically removing the protesters, the College was denying them the right to make a powerful symbolic statement in the time-honored tradition of non-violent civil disobedience. Of course, it may be that the College didn't want to turn the demonstrators into martyrs, the focal point of future protests etc, etc. But my fear is that the College administration is being guided less by principle than by PR, the fear that the event would turn into a "public relations" disaster. If that's the case, then the College is about as principled as your average multi-national corporation. For me, the bottom line is: What's the point of formulating a policy about freedom of speech on campus - and of articulating it at the very beginning of a public event - unless someone in authority is willing to enforce it?

Alas, my deepest fear is that the College administration is so averse to controversy of any sort that Oberlin will simply stop inviting speakers to campus who might prove the least bit provocative. Not that Oberlin is any sort of haven for free speech to begin with: far from it. Summers, after all, is utterly mainstream. When was the last time that someone really controversial spoke on this campus - say ,for example, a critic of Afro-Centrism or for that matter, a black conservative or - heaven forbid - a critic of the effect(s) of radical feminism on academia? We don't believe in freedom of speech. We believe in freedom from speech.

Last year, the College faculty refused to charter a student organization whose express purpose was to explore the literature of sado-masochism and bondage. "Content-based restrictions" of this sort are fundamentally inimical to the First Amendment. Similarly, several weeks ago an idiotic editorial appeared in The Oberlin Review chastising a Christian Fellowship Group for having had the temerity to bring an evangelist into the public space of Wilder Bowl. The editorial writers wanted him exiled to a more private room somewhere so that no one would be accidentally subjected to his sermonizing. Oh, these poor delicate Obies who fear that they might stumble across a form of speech they don't already agree with!

Perhaps we should simply change our name to Oberwomb College and forget about real freedom of expression. In closing, let me propose an intellectual exercise: sit a group of Oberlin students down for a few days in front of a television set broadcasting C-SPAN, and they'll encounter more genuine political and intellectual diversity than they'll come across at Oberlin over the course of four years. This is very sad, for it makes a mockery of the traditional meaning of a liberal arts education.

--Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

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Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 12, December 15, 2000

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