Within a small college community such as Oberlin, the line between what’s personal and what’s public often becomes blurred. Campus organizers hoped to more clearly distinguish the two during a public discussion held Monday in Craig Lecture Hall.
The event, titled “Vandalism. Adderall. ObieTalk.,” was planned by the Student Senate in conjunction with the Dean of Students Office, the Judicial and Community Boards and the Student Honor Committee. Organizers hoped that the forum, moderated by the Oberlin College Dialogue Center, would foster open dialogue on these hot-button issues.
“The planners of the forum hoped to get people talking about community on campus,” said Ilyssa Meyer, College junior and Student Senate liaison. “Framed as a follow up to last spring’s Community Symposium, we’re interested in bringing these topics to the front of the discussion for people to offer their insight and opinions in an open discussion.”
The event began with remarks from three separate panelists. Eric Estes, the dean of students; Meredith Gadsby, Associate Professor and chair of African American Studies; and Keith Watkins, the director of facilities operations, each spoke briefly before opening the floor to discussion.
According to organizers, the event was not planned in response to a particular incident, but was taken as a proactive measure. The discussion focused on ObieTalk, but touched on general accountability issues on campus as well.
“I think the question is not whether there is an integrity problem on campus; it is more how people engage with the broader campus community as a whole,” said Savitri Sedlacek, a College senior, member of the Judicial Board and Review business manager. “There are few events on campus, for example, that can actually be attended by more than a third of the College and Conservatory. Because of this, the individual and smaller cohorts can disengage from the larger community. I think we wanted to better understand this, not necessarily as a problem, but as something that happens on campus.”
Inspired by a series of conversations among organizers and Kimberly Jackson Davidson, campus judicial coordinator and associate dean of students, the forum was planned and discussed for about five weeks before coming to fruition. Due to ObieTalk’s divisive nature, organizers felt such an event needed to take place.
“Personally, I believe that ObieTalk is a really interesting and important topic of conversation, but it is also something that students choose to opt into or not,” said Sedlacek. “People have a choice of whether or not they want to look at the website, or search their own name. There are other things on campus — if someone cheats on a test and skews the class curve, or if someone vandalizes a space that is for public use — that students do not choose to opt into. I would be interested in talking more about those topics in the future.”
Campus activists don’t intend to slow their efforts in promoting on-campus dialogue any time soon. The Oberlin College Dialogue Center, Student Senate and other organizers of the forum have plans already in the works to hold future discussions in more intimate settings.