Poor Communication Plagues Campus

Sydney Allen, Editor-in-Chief

Using Oberlin as a case study to address issues such as free speech, anti-Semitism and institutional racism, Nathan Heller explored the mindset of the modern student activist in the May 30 issue of The New Yorker this year. His article, “The Big Uneasy,” highlights the institutional disunity between teachers, students and the administration in stark, troubling ways.

There is a difference in understanding between students and professors that is causing a rift in the relationship and disaffecting both parties. That is how articles like Edward Schlosser’s “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me” gain prominence (Vox, June 3, 2015). “Edward Schlosser” is a pseudonym for a selfdescribed liberal professor who is terrified of his liberal students because of the allegedly intolerant climate they bring to college campuses. Schlosser’s article demonized students and portrayed them as oversensitive, irrational beings with a vendetta against professors. “In this type of environment, boat-rocking isn’t just dangerous, it’s suicidal, and so teachers limit their lessons to things they know won’t upset anybody,” Schlosser wrote.

Heller presents two sides to this problem: the professors who represented the former liberalism in its glory and the “firebrand” students who want to “tear down the web of deceptions from the inside.” He asserts that this is creating cracks in the liberal left.

President Krislov openly demonstrated this when he responded to the list of ABUSUA demands by saying, “I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement. Many of its demands contravene principles of shared governance.”

This interaction caused much hurt for both sides. But at its root it shows that our students and administration are failing to effectively communicate. Students are trying to express their pain, but are doing so in a way that is difficult for other generations to hear. Instead of just insisting they listen, we should try to understand that they were educated in a way that handled free speech and sensitive material differently. Even people who graduated just a few years before us feel this way when faced with the new explosive liberalism on college campuses.

Heller picked up on this when he interviewed Megs Bautista, OC ’16, quoting them as saying “I do think that there’s something to be said about exposing yourself to ideas other than your own, but I’ve had enough of that after my fifth year.”

Bautista was “exhausted,” Heller concluded.

Bautista has every reason to be exhausted. The prospect of constantly educating others and fighting the uphill battle against ignorance that most activists face is draining. But to give up and limit yourself to a single-minded social circle is to give up the very activism you are fighting for. One of the most effective ways to change someone’s mind is to show them the truth through familiarity and friendship, and isolation inhibits this.

To many Oberlin students, opening themselves up to dialogue that could potentially include hate speech, microaggressions and prejudice is a lot to ask of their tolerance levels. However, we must learn to respectfully listen to others in our community with different experiences and perspectives.

Oberlin is an exceptional school. We have amazing students who will undoubtedly make a difference in this world, so why can’t we be an exception to the fray? There is a way to fight for what we believe in and disagree without shutting down or misunderstanding others. It comes down to how we approach others who may not understand us and whom we may not understand. If we do it from a place of caring and acceptance, we could be an example to colleges all across the U.S. that are waging a war between administration and students.