This article is part of the Review’s Student Senate column. In an effort to increase communication and transparency, student senators will provide personal perspectives on recent events on campus and in the community.
On the morning of Monday, Sept. 11, I left my room early, meandered through South Bowl, crossed the dewy grass, and entered President Carmen Ambar’s home at 8 a.m. sharp. The President’s residence is, as many would guess, fancier than The Local Coffee & Tea, my typical breakfast location. On the dining room table was an array of fruit, bagels, and teacups that looked too fragile for me to want to hold. However, suffering from the early stages of the Obie Plague, like many of us right now, I made myself of a cup of lemon tea — forgoing my fears of breaking the porcelain.
I was there for the first of what will be Student Senate’s many monthly breakfasts with President Ambar. Recently re-elected, I had officially been on Senate for a total of three days of my new term, most of which had been spent in training and getting acclimated to the new group. Every group of senators is distinct, and the first two to three weeks of every semester is generally spent learning about each other and how we will work together to tackle the issues facing Oberlin.
This semester, we dove straight in during our first week on the job and asked President Ambar about her goals and vision for the College moving forward. Highly concerned with our current fiscal model and lack of transparency, we listened as President Ambar, beginning the first weeks of her administration, discussed her priorities for Oberlin.
President Ambar is emphasizing student enrollment and retention; diversity, equity, and inclusion; stabilizing our fiscal future; and balancing the demands of all of Oberlin’s constituencies. Needless to say, she has her hands full. Because she is still so new, she didn’t have an answer to every question. However, her willingness to collaborate and listen to students gave me hope for what is to come.
Senate is continuing to advocate for student representation on the Board of Trustees, to explore a participatory budgetary process, and to maintain our efforts to include student voices in administrative decisions at Oberlin. Hearing how excited President Ambar is for students to serve on general faculty committees and have involvement in decisions thrilled me. There are so many institutional opportunities for students to participate in governance at Oberlin and to have our voices included.
It’s important that, as Oberlin looks to make governance more nimble and to reduce expenditures, students engage with the system and assert themselves in the process. This can take many forms and will require students to take advantage of opportunities to make their voices heard. Decisions regarding Oberlin’s long-term direction will affect students and our abilities to exist in different capacities on campus.
As I left our breakfast Monday, thinking about what was to come, I went to get a second cup of tea with fellow Senators Kameron Dunbar and Thobeka Mnisi. As we talked and reflected on our conversation, I felt reinvigorated about what could be possible for this year.