The individual members of Student Senate who drafted and approved this document are solely responsible for its content and the views expressed herein. Student government is not authorized to speak on behalf of Oberlin College and Conservatory.
Dear Oberlin College and Conservatory Community,
We write to you today to stand in solidarity with the nationwide protests and uprisings of the past three weeks, calling attention to and condemning white supremacy and anti-Black racism in the United States. The issues that stem from the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, David McAtee, and more — such as structural racism and the controversial history of policing — impact us all, both while we’re in our respective homes across the country and world and also when we reside on campus in our intersecting home of Oberlin, Ohio.
We write today not just as student representatives, but as varying and diverse elected student leaders who feel an obligation not only to extend our support to the Black members of our community uniquely touched by these issues but also to be clear on our stance. Student Senate wholeheartedly supports protesters across the country fighting for racial justice and Black liberation and condemns all forms of systemic racism.
President Ambar’s recent email expressing her thoughts and announcing her Presidential Initiative demonstrates courageous leadership and a commitment to addressing issues of racial justice on campus and within our broader community. Student Senate is excited by President Ambar’s initiative and is proud to see the institution many of us call home take steps toward continuing the urgent conversation regarding racial inequities in the United States. Oberlin has a long history of showing progressive leadership as it relates to race, and how we respond in this moment builds upon that legacy. Student Senate looks forward to working collaboratively with President Ambar, her senior staff, and those participating in the Presidential Initiative.
On top of the programming we plan to launch within the next few weeks, we also believe that it would be most responsible for the following actions to be taken as well. Student senators will commit ourselves to working collaboratively with relevant offices and administrators toward seeing that progress be made on these tasks:
1. Information regarding Campus Safety’s relationship to the Oberlin Police Department should be released publicly to students and reexamined, along with any other information regarding OPD’s jurisdiction on campus.
2. Oberlin College and Conservatory should require that all incoming first-years engage in a Power, Privilege, and Oppression training within their first month of arriving on campus.
3. College and Conservatory administrators must consider and implement the recent demands released by ABUSUA and the Africana community.
4. Oberlin Conservatory deans and conductors should similarly consider recent demands by Conservatory students regarding the inclusion of works by Black composers in all large ensemble projects and the hiring of more Black faculty.
5. Student Senate will reexamine its own position structure, election process, and internal climate within the context of equity and inclusion to ensure that Student Senate is a safe, representative body where students of color — Black students especially — are included, heard, and valued.
Building off our third action item, Student Senate wants to emphasize that we fully endorse the demands recently released by ABUSUA. Not only are these demands reasonable, but they are purposeful and necessary. Student Senate is looking forward to working with ABUSUA, administrators, and relevant offices on campus to see their implementation. On that note, we want to thank all of the students who put in time and effort releasing this set of demands. This work does not go unnoticed, and Oberlin is a better institution because of it.
We encourage Oberlin students to donate, to educate themselves and others, to post flyers throughout their neighborhoods, to have difficult conversations about whiteness and its historic and contemporary impacts on the Black community, and to act in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. This work is vital and in line with our shared values of community, social justice, and collectivism.
It may be fitting to end while reflecting on those same values and the historic practice of them. In the Oberlin–Wellington Rescue of 1858, Oberlin community members took to the streets against racial injustice, slavery, biased policing, and unlawful incarceration. After a formerly enslaved man, John Price, was kidnapped by slave catchers, residents within the town of Oberlin organized in protest of his capture and of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 more broadly. The abolitionists stormed the makeshift jail where Price was held in the nearby town of Wellington and liberated him, escorting him up through Oberlin and to freedom in Canada. The members of our community who have made their voices heard in the fight against white supremacy do so in the same spirit of the freedom fighters who laid the path before us, and they contribute to that esteemed legacy.
Since beginning the initial draft of our email to you several days ago, we’ve seen the unjust murders of Black people persist. Whether it be Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta; Robert Fuller in Palmdale, CA; or Riah Milton in Liberty Township, OH; the continuing violence in our country demonstrates a need for each of us to step up and take tangible actions toward the fight against white supremacy. We were all drawn to Oberlin by the idea that one person can change the world. Now is the time to put that into action.
Oberlin College Student Senate
Henry Hicks ’21, Interim Senate Chair
Ilana Foggle ’21, External Affairs Committee Chair
Austin Ward ’21, Internal Affairs Committee Chair
Emarie De La Nuez ’21
Sun Moon ’21
Wenling Li ’21
Kofi Asare ’22
Renzo Mayhall ’22
David Mathisson ’22
Latifa Tan ’23
Owen Pazderak ’23
Lena Golia ’23
Rory Callison ’23
Cat Chen ’24
Places to Donate:
1. Black Lives Matter
2. National Bail Out – #FreeBlackMamas
3. Know Your Rights Camp
4. Marsha P. Johnson Institute
5. Color of Change
1. 1619, a podcast by The New York Times
2. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
5. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
6. The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
7. Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
8. Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy by Darryl Pinckney
9. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor