Alumni, Students Try Reversing Staff Cuts With Petition


Mallika Pandey

Obies petition for the reinstatement of Tom Reid, OC ’80, former Associate Director of the Student Union and Instructor of Bowling I and Bowling II courses.

Alumni and current students are attempting to reverse the College’s decision to eliminate the position of Associate Director of the Student Union most recently held by Tom Reid, OC ’80. In an online petition that has garnered more than 1,000 signatures, supporters are demanding Reid’s reinstatement and criticizing the decision as an unwise cost-cutting measure.

“I was totally shocked that Tom Reid was let go,” Johnnie Kallas, OC ’14, said. “This is a tremendous loss for the community.”

While neither Reid nor the College publicized his departure, news quickly spread among alumni through social media and online forums. After learning of the decision in August, Kallas and some of Reid’s other former students began to organize a response to what they felt was an unjust decision.

Savannah O’Meara, OC ’18, was among them.

“I was completely surprised,” she said. “[The decision] had nothing to do with Tom or his behavior. The College just saw a cost, but they didn’t think of the value.”

Reid staffed the Wilder Hall front desk, managed the Oberlin College Lanes, and taught two popular bowling courses. He had been working for the College for nearly four decades at the time of his termination.

“I’ve been here for a total of 84 semesters,” Reid said. “It’s kind of heartbreaking to not be a part of that anymore.”

The Wilder Hall lobby redesign, pioneered by the Dean of Students Office, controversially removed the front desk in favor of a more open floor plan. Reid’s position, a second Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees position, and several student jobs were eliminated during the renovations.

Tracy Tucker, Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees President and Politics Department Administration Assistant, pointed out that despite the desk — and its jobs — being gone, a final room has not yet been demolished to complete the proposed design.

“Part of the reason why [Wilder Hall lobby] hasn’t been finished is because the College architect is leaving,” said College senior and Student Senate Chair Kameron Dunbar. “This results in delays.”

According to Dunbar, the Office of the Dean of Students and the Student Union had long been weighing the usefulness of the front desk against other concerns.

“This wasn’t a secret ploy,” Dunbar said. “It was made under serious financial considerations and in an effort to bump up the space. Expenses are outpacing revenue and we need a better budget model.”

Some of those who oppose staff cuts have made the argument that remodeling spends money that could otherwise be used to retain jobs. Dunbar says this isn’t true.

“Most of the money for facilities comes from donations,” Dunbar added. The administration has argued that staff cuts are an effort to reduce spending and improve the College.

“As Oberlin seeks financial resiliency, we are reviewing all administrative structures to identify opportunities to reduce costs while investing in the core mission of the institution,” Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo said. “Many of functions at the desk could be accomplished in other ways, allowing investment in areas students have identified as high priorities.”

Kallas, on the other hand, disagrees.

“We don’t think that getting rid of someone so many alumni and students have been impacted by is how Oberlin should be dealing with the issue,” Kallas said.

For Reid’s advocates, the fight to reinstate him has just begun.

“We’re reaching out to the Review; we’re contacting the College this week,” O’Meara said. “The primary goal is to show how important Tom is to us.”

Despite the outpouring of support for Reid, some question the sustainability of such a movement.

“If this happens again, are Obies going to keep doing this?” Dunbar said. “I feel sometimes that people’s support for labor rights at Oberlin is often not followed by a good understanding of labor or the College’s needs.”

Raimondo and her office do not publicly comment on personnel decisions, and did not provide a statement on Reid’s departure.