College Newspapers Best Illustrate Campus Life

Editorial Board

Oberlin students are often presented as coddled, spoiled and so obsessed with political correctness that we have lost touch with reality, choosing to embrace a liberal utopia instead of facing the “real world.” If four years working at The Oberlin Review have taught us anything, it is that this portrayal could not be further from the truth.

Stories like alleged cultural appropriation in dining halls have been lifted by national media outlets in a way that grossly misrepresents reality on campus. Major news organizations would have most believe that protests wildly erupted in food fights, with students quivering in dorm rooms for shelter. In reality, students were proactive. They identified a problem, initiated dialogue with administrators and reached a solution that both sides found acceptable.

The original piece published in the Review paints this picture much more clearly, a testament to the power of local news organizations (“CDS Appropriates Asian Dishes, Students Say,” Nov. 6, 2015). But in recent years, from the far-right blogosphere to The New York Times, news outlets have latched onto a neatly packaged story that millennials complain more and work less — and it’s an easy article to sell. “Look! Another Oberlin student made a demand! Ridiculous!”

It’s vital to understand that this false narrative is so prevalent because it gets attention, clicks and advertising revenue. Since the ’60s, college campuses have been the beating, throbbing heart of the culture wars. Everyone likes to complain about young people; conservatives love to attack liberal students for their perceived radicalism. The result is a reliable cash grab for right-wing media.

Depicting Oberlin students as sheltered or unreasonable is part of an industry, with conservative bloggers trawling through the Review to find and twist content. It must be a sad and lonely way to earn a living, looking through the internal politics of a community from the outside, trying desperately to find some nugget of controversy to manufacture outrage.

In many ways, this is the crux of why campus journalism is so vital today. We serve a purpose in providing a platform through which the community at large can participate. A clearer picture of Oberlin emerges by reading student-written op-eds about tuition hikes and news pieces about administrative decision-making behind closed doors instead of engaging with misconstrued stories about students protesting for sport. It just takes a little more digging.

Interviewing the countless students who serve on committees, engage with issues of diversity and inclusion and genuinely seek to create an environment in which more people can succeed has allowed us to counter this misguided portrait of our generation from within. Students are paying attention. We care. These are not things to critique; rather, they are qualities that Obies should continue to embrace both here and beyond the walls of this institution.

Alas, we concede; Oberlin is not a utopia. As a college and a student body, we are far from an ideal institution that provides a special sanctuary from racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of oppression that are still very much alive, here and everywhere. But we are strong, and we remain undaunted by the challenges that lie before us, especially in the context of the national political climate that seems hell-bent on stripping people of civil liberties.

Call us snowflakes, too politically correct, hypersensitive. As reporters who have had the immense privilege of speaking to students from all corners of this community, we know this is far from the truth. Oberlin students are smart and introspective. They are caring and passionate.

Though we often scoff at the College’s cheesy slogan, “Think one student can change the world? So do we,” Oberlin students are capable of moving forward into the world and doing just that.