MRC Deserves Better

Advocating for social justice is perhaps the Oberlin community’s most strongly-held value. We care deeply about equity, even though we’re far from perfect in achieving it.

One of the most important resources on campus in our ongoing work to be better advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion is the Multicultural Resource Center. The MRC plays an invaluable role on campus through the support and programming it provides for marginalized communities at Oberlin. Further, the MRC does good work in educating and training other campus groups to be more sensitive to social power dynamics and their own biases.

Because of the contributions that the MRC makes to our community, we have been alarmed to see the deterioration of the MRC in the past six months, following the departure of a number of staffers who have yet to be replaced.

These names include former MRC Director Toni Myers and Interim Director Anna Phung, both of whom moved on to positions outside of Oberlin. Program Coordinator Libni Lopez has relocated to the Counseling Center. And, just last week, members of the Oberlin community learned that LGBTQ Community Coordinator Elliot Director has decided to leave Oberlin at the end of November.
These departures leave Student Life Program Coordinator Khalid Taylor, OC ’17, as the last professional MRC staffer standing — an unacceptable condition for one of the most important resources for marginalized and underrepresented students on this campus.
During this time of staffing shortage, Assistant Vice President and Senior Associate Dean of Students Adrian Bautista will serve as interim director of the MRC. He will also chair the search committee for the MRC’s next director.

Bautista is undoubtedly qualified for the job, having worked in and around the MRC in multiple capacities throughout his time at Oberlin. But the reality is that the MRC needs a full-time director at the helm. Anything less — especially when so many other positions remain unfilled — will seriously compromise the office’s ability to provide the programming and support services that are so vital to our campus community.

While we are sympathetic to the financial stresses the College is currently enduring — and understand that the search for a new director is ongoing — it strikes us as irresponsible that the MRC has been allowed to fall into such a severe staffing shortage. Yes, personnel changes happen — people coming and going from jobs is a relatively unremarkable part of running an institution. But the MRC’s challenges run deeper than just a missing director; an office once staffed by five people will be down to one professional employee at the end of the month.

When such changes happen, institutional leaders make very intentional decisions about which positions to refill, as well as how quickly that happens. While it’s true that the College should take its time and be deliberate in making important hiring decisions, that must be balanced with the need to keep important support positions filled so that students can access the resources that are necessary for their success.

Currently, the College appears to be taking a long-term approach in replacing the recently-vacated MRC positions. While their consideration and care is admirable, the current staffing situation is unacceptable, especially when other staffing vacancies have been dealt with much more swiftly.

Take the Office of Residential Education, for example. There is high turnover among area coordinator positions within ResEd; similar to MRC coordinators, most people who fill the job are recent college graduates trying to get their foot in the door in higher education.
While ResEd is hardly the benchmark for organizational efficiency, it nonetheless has vacant positions replaced quickly and efficiently, as the College understands that having someone to do those jobs is vital to the campus’ function. It is deeply concerning that the College is not extending the same sense of urgency to MRC coordinator positions, instead relying on Taylor to shoulder the work of an entire office. Have we truly come to view supporting marginalized and underrepresented students as nonessential?

Furthermore, this approach places an outsize level of pressure on student workers at the MRC. While we are extremely grateful for these students for picking up the slack in the face of such adversity, they simply cannot provide the full-time, professional service students need from the MRC.

We understand that the MRC’s current challenges are likely due to oversight rather than a concerted effort to drain the office’s resources — but it is nonetheless an oversight that must be addressed immediately. The College must prioritize replacing the MRC’s vacant positions.

On the part of students, we must be diligent in advocating for the programs and services offered by the MRC. Let’s give them our feedback by engaging in the upcoming listening sessions about the search for a new MRC director. We must do all we can to help get the MRC back on its feet.

The MRC is more than a newsletter. It’s a beacon of strength, family, and community for minority, disenfranchised, and marginalized communities — let’s value it the way we should, as a community.