Dear Oberlin College and Conservatory Community Members,
These are difficult and scary times that we are living in. Since being evicted from campus amidst a global pandemic, none amongst us have been able to avoid the fallout of COVID-19. However, this crisis will especially impact Black students’ ability to succeed. As many of us will be deprived of the resources necessary for our success, the move to online classes will create greater disparity on an already uneven playing field. In addition, Black students are more likely to have been thrust into unsafe environments where we may face food and financial insecurity, as well as other circumstances that are beyond our control. All of these variables increase the likelihood that Black students will suffer negative academic outcomes at a disproportionate rate compared to our peers.
This is why we, Oberlin’s Black student leadership, are formally endorsing the Student Senate’s proposition to reform the existing grading system for the spring 2020 semester to a Universal Pass system with an opt-out option for students to receive letter grades for individual classes.
Oberlin College has built its reputation as an elite academic institution that has been ahead of the curve regarding political radicalism during some of the darkest times in this country’s history. This includes, but is not limited to, being the first college to admit Black students in 1835. However, this is not said to praise the institution for doing the right thing when times were hard. This is said as a call for the institution to live up to the expectations that it has set for itself.
How dare we boast our belief that “one person can change the world” but fail to take care of the most vulnerable members of our community? Oberlin College and Conservatory, now is the time for action. We would also like to invite other student organizations and affinity groups to join us in endorsing the Student Senate’s reforms.
We — ABUSUA, African Students Association, Students of Caribbean Ancestry, Black Scientists Guild, Oberlin Conservatory Black Musicians Guild, The Brotherhood, and Black Student Athletes Group — urge faculty governance bodies to approve these revisions to the semester’s grading policy, and replace the current grading system with a universal pass system, with an opt-out option for letter grades. Failure to do so would deprive the most vulnerable members of the Oberlin student body of an accessible and equitable academic experience.