Administration Abandoning Oberlin’s Core

 Institutions of higher education in the United States are facing significant challenges after decades of soaring tuition costs and a population that is increasingly skeptical of the value of a liberal arts education. Oberlin College faces these same challenges, which are exacerbated by the recent legacy of fiscal irresponsibility on the part of trustees and administrators who indebted the institution in the pursuit of vain building projects, charting an unsustainable fiscal course. The current administration and the Board of Trustees have quite rightly striven to correct these mistakes by slowing the increase in tuition and reducing the yearly draw on our endowment. 

Unfortunately, in their eagerness to correct their past mistakes, the board has imposed a regime of austerity that has resulted in a significant loss of jobs among our most vulnerable (unorganized and untenured) administrative and professional staff colleagues, but that was not enough. Now, in order to meet their budgets, the administration is targeting the jobs of 108 custodians and food-service workers in order to preserve a planned endowment growth rate. 

In their desire to increase endowment growth, the trustees and administration risk destroying Oberlin’s very soul. Oberlin’s core mission is not just academics, but has always been to be “peculiar in that which is good,” as Oberlin co-founder John Jay Shipherd wrote in an 1834 letter. Union busting, outsourcing jobs, and destroying the lives of people dedicated to our school is anything but good. The students and alumni know that the proposed union cuts do not represent their Oberlin, and the administration and trustees would do well to follow their lead. The faculty should stand with our students, past and present, in defense of fellow workers and the ideals to which we have always aspired.