Students Must Protect Entirety of Oberlin, Not Just Specific Parts

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.

President Carmen Ambar delivered her 10th comprehensive presentation on Oberlin’s financial futures on Wednesday, particularly the challenges and opportunities therein. King 306 was packed with students, with audible laughs and sighs throughout the event’s duration. Personally, I was extremely excited to see such an awesome turnout. Years of frustration, coupled with an inclination to interrogate institutions, have left the student body suspicious of practically anything that involves administrative decision-making surrounding Oberlin’s finances.

This type of skepticism is fair. Oberlin’s most recent Strategic Plan process tokenized students by giving the illusion of input without much serious consideration for actual student feedback. Even when student voices are solicited, students still rightfully question the true weight of their contributions.

I’ve been involved in student government at Oberlin for nearly my entire student career, and it is clear to me that this is a pivotal moment in Oberlin’s lifespan. Decisions made today are, in many ways, existential, and Oberlin’s future is dependent upon them. I mention this not to provoke fear, but more so a sense of urgency and dedication to thoughtfulness and rationality in a critical time.

In the coming months, various announcements will be made concerning changes in operations across campus. As students, I know we all have things we cherish deeply at this institution. I love working with the Rhetoric and Composition department, enjoying a lime LaCroix in the Wilder Hall nooks, and spending hours on the first floor of Mudd library pretending to study while really catching up with friends.

So when Ambar initially informed me as Student Senate Chair about some of the administration’s options for next year, including examining some student residences and reimagining Dascomb, I was immediately shaken. I thought of all the friends I made sitting on the deep green booth cushions, and I recalled all my fond memories from mac and cheese nights at Fourth Meal. Despite that nostalgia, I also understand that none of those joys would exist for me if Oberlin College didn’t exist.

What stuck out to me most in Ambar’s Wednesday presentation was the point at which she asked that students, and everyone else in the Oberlin community, not immediately run to their individual corners to only protect specific parts of Oberlin. In my opinion, this will be our biggest challenge. This oncoming process of data collection and review will require community consensus around what we find, and the courage and fortitude to make hard choices that impact campus bodies beyond our own.

At the end of the day, students are the backbone of this place. Our opinions matter, and we should voice them vigorously. Student Senate is well equipped to act as a microphone for students. When we call for feedback, input, and advice, extend us some grace and help us. We want to represent the student body as best as we can. Without your help — and to quote President Ambar — “this is gonna be hella hard.”