Working Groups Present Proposals, Again

Madeline Stocker, Staff Writer

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Oberlin community members gathered at Wilder Hall last Sunday, April 28, for a presentation of proposals from six different student working groups. The groups, which represented the Conservatory, the Natural Sciences, the Athletics department, documentation and communication, as well as training, workshops and curriculum at Oberlin, grew from the Multicultural Resource Center retreat in late February.

During the plethora of meetings at Afrikan Heritage House on March 4, the working groups collectively decided to adapt themselves to a specific type of institutional change, one that centered on diversity, social justice and inclusion at Oberlin College.

The working groups met daily during the following weeks, with each group collaborating on a draft of proposals that it hoped would be successful in promoting the aforementioned description of institutional change. On March 19, a finished letter of proposals was sent to President Krislov and his senior staff. The following day, Krislov announced that he had received the document and acknowledged several students and faculty members who played a significant role in the document’s creation.

After spending two weeks reviewing the article, Krislov met with student representatives in order to relay his feedback. Upon the meeting’s conclusion, the working groups agreed to meet with faculty representatives throughout April, when they would continue to develop more definite plans to implement the proposals.

Although the document of proposals has been in circulation for the past week, the presentation that took place Sunday was the first time that they were effectively presented and explained to the general public.

The following is an abridged, modified version of the proposals drafted by each working group:

Conservatory

  • Establish a Multicultural Resource Center within the Conservatory.
  • Develop a sustainable plan that effectively improves our admissions yield and retention of students of color, first-generation, LGBTQ and low-income students.
  • Review the Conservatory’s current mission statement and instill a commitment to further recognize and address cultural diversity.
  • Change the faculty-to-student ratio to 1:8.
  • Apply heavy and diverse student involvement in the Conservatory Dean search committee.
  • Grant credit to interdivisional ensemble courses.
  • Further diversify the Music History and Music Theory curricula.
  • Critically review current ethnomusicology courses.
  • Continue annual African-American music courses beyond the intro level.

Natural Sciences

  • Hold a mandatory forum moderated by Oberlin College Dialogue Center to discuss all different aspects of diversity and how they operate in the Natural Sciences.
  • Elect two student liaisons to discuss recent events at individual department meetings with the presence of OCDC.
  • Have student representation at every department meeting.
  • Hold regular gatherings in the Science Center to enhance student-professor relationships.
  • Encourage active student input in the hiring of new professors.
  • Offer mini-courses that specifically address particular issues of identity and power in the sciences.
  • Modify existing courses to include critical thinking on social issues related to science.
  • Give opportunities for interdisciplinary work outside of the classroom.
  • Invite speakers from underrepresented groups to speak or lead workshops about their professional journey as it relates to identity.
  • Publicize all events and talks to the entire campus.

Athletics

  • Build a full-service gym on South Campus with equipment that is affirming for all genders.
  • Create sports and/or health and wellness-themed halls on South Campus.
  • Circulate more public, accessible information of the current trans policy.
  • Make clearly marked, gender-inclusive locker rooms and bathrooms as well as a brief orientation for all new users.
  • Provide better support from coaches and faculty for participation in social justice-related events.
  • Create a social justice advocate in the Athletics department.
  • Eliminate time conflicts with new student orientation programming.

Documentation and Communication

  • Emphasize clarity in e-mail emergency alerts with the inclusion of specific information.
  • Revitalize the text alert system for emergencies.
  • Justify confidentiality if relevant information is withheld.
  • Publish an updated and accessible list of all health- and safety-related incidents, and how they are addressed by Safety and Security and the administration.
  • Respect individual students and how they want their stories to be told in terms of anonymity, detail and presentation.
  • Perform comprehensive and timely fact checking before the release of information.
  • Enforce accountability for the balance of perspectives included in coverage of hate-based incidents.
  • Give an opportunity for individuals to review any information pertaining to themselves prior to release.

Trainings, Workshops and Curriculum

  • Provide preparatory readings on privilege and oppression, alllyship and terminology included in the Big Book of eForms.
  • Expand the history of Oberlin College and Conservatory to preserve historical memory about how individual differences have affected, and continue to affect, student and faculty experience.
  • Create language and communication tools to guide engagement with issues of privilege and oppression.
  • Provide information about ways to get involved with campus and community-wide activism.
  • Continue the discussion of language, privilege, oppression and activism during the First-Year Seminar Program.

Continuing Education

  • Require all students to attend five workshops consisting of a small diverse group of students, which will cover race, class, gender identity, sexuality, religion and many other individual backgrounds.
  • Require all students to complete two full courses that carry a new curricular designation.

Faculty, Staff and Administrators

  • Have mandatory programming in new faculty trainings and general faculty meetings focusing on the ways power and privilege shape professors’ classrooms and disciplines.
  • Commit more financial resources to the MRC.
  • Increase support and resources for the Africana Studies department, Comparative American Studies program and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies.
  • Encourage greater student involvement in hiring and tenure decisions.
  • Create and sustain more tenure track positions for professors of color in all departments.
  • Revise course evaluations to include how professors handle issues of race, gender, class, sexuality and ability in their classrooms.

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