All Roads Weed to Oberlin

As we spend more time at this institution, the memory of why we chose Oberlin in the first place can fade. Our collective apathy, resentment toward authority, and a weaponized sense of self-deprecation make it easy to forget that perhaps there was a time when we would have sworn by the lanyards hanging around our young necks that this was the place for us. Because of this memory, I was heartened to see the Oberlin administration recognize and celebrate one of our school’s greatest strengths: choosing April 20 — more commonly known as 4/20 — as one of the days for its admissions event “All Roads Lead to Oberlin.”

This kind of event comes at a time when reaching admissions goals is no less than vital. The under-enrollment of this year has been well-lamented, saddling the College with a $3 million deficit from which there is no easy way to escape. Dascomb Dining Hall was among the first martyrs in the holy war of budget cuts, and it isn’t clear what — or who — will be the next to go. Making Oberlin appear attractive to prospective students then becomes not a superficial matter of planting daffodils, breaking out the tablecloths in Stevie, or dazzling tour groups with Burton Hall’s one extremely misleading model room — from the moment prospies step on campus to the moment they leave, every action must be calculated to please. Every complimentary hummus spread, Insta-worthy plywood frame, and opportunistically placed attractive couple tossing a Frisbee must be equal in marketing capacity.

Because of this urgency, it seems only reasonable that the administration deliberately chose 4/20 to host hundreds of high school students. They must know, above all others, the strengths of this place, and what better strength can Oberlin boast than the camaraderie so visible on our nation’s most famous drug holiday?

It’s a well-documented fact that an essential part of the Oberlin experience is arriving as a completely different person than the one that leaves in four years’ time. This is perhaps best appreciated in aesthetic changes — the addition of nose rings, the subtraction of hair, turning off auto-capitalization in iPhone settings — but most notably, in attitudes. I recall a time in my straight-laced past when I disowned my entire middle school friend group at a sleepover after hearing they had smoked the devil’s lettuce. I also recall another time, only a few years later, when a well-meaning friend gave the warning that Oberlin was a “drug school,” and did I know that before committing to go there?

I did not. But the Catholic guilt of my past aside, anyone who attended the All Roads event of last Friday would have seen the pinnacle of Oberlin not only as a drug school, but as a place for collaboration, cooperation, and friendship. Does it matter if this is the reality of the situation at any other time than April 20 at 4:20 p.m.? There is a certain kind of immortality to last Friday’s display in Wilder Bowl. It is clear that this mass exodus of students to swap joints in the grass has happened before and will happen again, long after we have graduated and our bones come to mingle with the dust — as long as the deficit doesn’t swallow us whole.

4/20 is a day in which people across the country engage in civil disobedience by smoking weed openly. It’s only natural that this kind of protest and counterculture become integral to the Oberlin experience — this, and sustaining a contact high while walking through Wilder Bowl.

So welcome to Oberlin, Class of 2022. On behalf of the administration and stoners everywhere, please enroll in our institution.