Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

How Do You Think Oberlin Has Changed Since You Graduated?

Oberlin College alumni 50 years apart answer the question, “How do you think Oberlin has changed since you graduated?

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Ian Kelly, OC ’17, Cinema Studies Major:

I could go all day about this. This is an interesting question. I think that in the first couple years after I graduated, it seemed like it was fairly similar. I live in Chicago, I happen to go back and forth a lot. I feel like I’ve been here a lot, like a weird amount. COVID-19 had a big impact on the way that people were socializing. Last year I was here and we went to The Feve, and Dan, who works at The Feve, told us that the students don’t come to the Feve anymore. So I heard that last year — Dan just told me half an hour ago that the students are starting to come back to The Feve again. Best bar on the planet. … What I’ll say about that is it seems like, observationally and anecdotally, there’s a little less socializing in public arenas than when we were here. 

Alex Abramowitz, OC ’15, Economics and Politics Major:

I live in Cleveland, so Oberlin’s always close by and on the radarish. COVID-19 clearly killed a lot of really good inertia that may be coming back a little bit. I think the biggest threat to this place is austerity and trying to broaden its appeal. This is not an athletics school, and the amount of freaking athletics clothing I’ve seen just walking around is disturbing. You can be an athlete, go ahead, play a varsity sport, but that shouldn’t be the only thing that’s interesting and unique about those people. Don’t recruit to field a winning football team, and don’t make that a defining characteristic of this school. It’s not, it hasn’t been. It never will be. And you need to double down on what works here. Not just like another business thing. … You’re not gonna cut spending and make this a better school. Make some ambitious bets and go from there.

Zoe Reinstein, OC ’17, Politics and Middle Eastern Studies Major:

Honestly, the attack on OSCA. That was the most important part of my college experience. It’s what drew me to Oberlin in the first place. And if it becomes something that only wealthy students can afford, as opposed to being a way that a lot of people can afford to come to this school in the first place, and it becomes a cute little thing that Oberlin offers instead of a cultural core, I think that affects the school in a really detrimental way. As an alum, it makes me wanna be less involved because the school’s attacking the thing that I love the most. 

Elizabeth (Betsy) Allen, OC ’67, History Major:

The town of Oberlin seems to be pretty much the same. The campus, of course, has changed. There’s some new buildings. I went to a session today about the state of the College, and it was very interesting. I really liked hearing about the — I don’t know exactly what you call ’em, but the long list of minors that you can do, or things that include internships. Also I had read about the bigger integration between the College and the Conservatory so that you can do cross-classes better than before. Both those things seemed really good to me.

Polly McIlrath, OC ’67, Music History and German Major:

I had a double-degree program back before it got to be as popular as it’s become since. … Well, I was lucky to be able to come back every year in between, so the physical changes were not that serious to me when I arrived at Kendal at Oberlin. I’m living at Kendal now. I think the change in the students is significant. I think the students are as bright, or brighter, than they ever were before, and as talented as — or more so — than they used to be in the Conservatory. It’s lovely to see their enthusiasm and their prowess at what they do.

Caroline Jacobson, OC ’67, French Major:

I lived in La Maison Francaise. It’s now Baldwin Cottage, but that was the location of French House when I was here. So it had a lot of character and was a great place. We used to have something called Café Fromage. We would get together with one of the French professors who would bring his guitar and we would learn French drinking songs, which I unfortunately can still recall. It was just another chance to speak French. I just noticed the buildings have changed so much. I lived in Dascomb Hall my first year, and the whole lobby area is very different. We used to have a great big lobby. We had a dining room there. That whole wing where Campus Security and the Student Health Center are, that was a dining hall. I took a tour with one of the admissions representatives and I said, “When we were here, the guys had to wear coats and ties to dinner. … When we went into the dining hall, the women sat in every other seat and then the men had to come and fill in. That was the old days, yes.”

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