The Oberlin Review

OCOPE Resolution in Support of UAW

Julie Weir, President, OCOPE Reference & Academic Commons Assistant

March 13, 2020

We, the members of Oberlin College Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 502, stand in solidarity with our United Automobile Workers union brothers and sisters, and we wholeheartedly support them in their fight to preserve their jobs and the dignity of labor at Oberlin College. We strongly condemn the administration’s plan to lay off unionized custodial and food service workers and to replace them with outsourced labor, and we oppose any union-busting techniques. Furthermore, we are convinced that Oberlin’s future is best secured when the College treats all of its workers like the valuable members of the campus community they are — rather than as expendable units of labor.  ...

Oberlin Has Transparency Problems

Les Leopold, OC ’69

March 13, 2020

Oberlin College’s administration claims that contracting out 108 union dining and maintenance jobs will save over $2 million a year. But where is the evidence for this claim? Good governance requires full transparency so that all the stakeholders impacted have the information needed to evaluate such dire actions as well as the overall financial health of the College. That is far from the case here. Here’s what we have NOT seen to date:  1) The proposed non-union sub-contracts: How much do they cost, and with whom? How long do they last? How are quality control and student safety issues handled along the way? What are the quality, performance, and labor relations history of the contractors? 2) Administra...

A Note of Thanks from OSTF’s Producing Artistic Director

Paul Moser, Professor of Theater OSTF Producing Artistic Director

March 6, 2020

 The Oberlin Summer Theater Festival is closing its doors and will not be offering a 2020 summer season. Nagging fiscal and staffing problems that we’ve found increasingly challenging to overcome have finally come to a head and made the operation unsustainable.  A group of us started OSTF in 2009 as an experiment. It had a clear mission to present professional productions of great masterpieces of our theatrical heritage in rotating repertory; to make admission free, so we could attract a diverse audience of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds; to develop a core company of talented theater artists, including Oberlin alumni; to provide a professional venue associated with the College’s Theater department; t...

Don’t Buy Into Mass Coronavirus Hysteria

Leo Hochberg, Columnist

March 6, 2020

 Coronavirus has now spread to 81 countries after breaking out in Wuhan, China just a few weeks ago, with over 97,800 confirmed cases and 3,332 confirmed deaths as of March 5. As is typically the case with contagious diseases, false news, overblown risk assessments, and conspiracy theories have spread quickly, inducing plague-level fears surrounding a disease that is only slightly more of a risk to the global population than the common flu. And while everyone should doubtlessly be taking coronavirus seriously, the hysteria surrounding the disease, on both a social and governmental level, has realistically done more direct damage to global quality of living than the disease itself. Here’s why that hysteria is so d...

Why Tear Down Our Heroes? We Need Them Now

Peter Takács, Professor of Piano

March 6, 2020

 Saturday night, I went to Finney Chapel to hear Beethoven’s first two symphonies. It was exhilarating — hearing fresh, committed performances of revolutionary music. The student performers were on the same wavelength with each other and with our wonderful conductor, Professor of Conducting Raphael Jiménez. The audience was listening in rapt attention, cheering at the end of each revelatory piece. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, this is old music, part of the “hegemonic institution of the canon,” written by a dead white male, Eurocentric, a remnant of pernicious 19th-century patriarchy, an oppressive… okay, stop (“Beethoven’s Dead — Can We Move on Now?” The Oberlin Review, Feb. 28, 2020)...

Oberlin Must Be Sure to Take Care of Neighbors, Workers

Booker C. Peek, Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies

March 6, 2020

 Most of us agree that Oberlin College must pay all its workers a living wage. But perhaps not all support this view. There is no universally agreed-upon definition for what amount of dollars represents a “living wage” — a sum for one person or a family of four, for those living in the most expensive area of the country or the least expensive?  Let’s allow that the term lacks precision, but is a concept that must cover what we all think of as basic needs — food, housing, clothing, health insurance, etc. — with some notion of a barrier still, but hardly impossible to overcome. It is urgent for us to impress upon the College a sense of oneness as humans, caring and supporting each other in life’s jo...

An Open Letter to Students

Susan L. Phillips, OC ’76

February 28, 2020

 It’s with sincere and profound sorrow that I want you to know that the Susan Phillips Social Justice Scholarship Fund spring interviews have been suspended indefinitely. I know that this will disappoint the students who have benefited from stipends each summer for the past four years, and will deprive others of important internship opportunities in the future.  I have looked forward tremendously to coming to campus in the spring to listen to your creative project proposals and again in the fall to hear about your actual experiences. You have restored my faith in the future during these bleak, divisive times for America — more than I can ever express. Therefore, the decision I’ve made to suspend the program t...

Students Call for Open Dialogue Regarding UAW

Jess Wilber, College third-year, Jemma Johnson Shoucair, College second-year

February 28, 2020

 As students of the Oberlin community, we are writing to call on our fellow students and faculty members in an appeal to President Carmen Twillie Ambar. It is time to launch an open dialogue with the entire Oberlin community to discuss and explore creative ways to retain individuals who have made invaluable contributions to our college lives.  As a result of recent administrative decisions, 108 United Automobile Workers Local 2192 — members of the Oberlin community — stand to lose their jobs. Those who do find jobs with outside contractors will face pay cuts, benefits losses, and degraded working conditions. Unions are critical to upholding living wage jobs and securing rights in the workplace. Replacing union w...

Administration Abandoning Oberlin’s Core

Zeb Page, Associate Professor of Geology, Tom Lopez, OC ’89, Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts, Pablo Mitchell, Professor of History and Comparative American Studies, Alysia Ramos, Assistant Professor of Dance, and Sam Taggart, Assistant Professor of Computer Science

February 28, 2020

 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 ...

Oberlin’s Future Hinges on Razor-Thin Decisions

Booker C. Peek, Associate Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies

February 28, 2020

 College financially following the administration’s announcement of proposed outsourcing. But we should continue to support Oberlin financially — perhaps even more generously than in previous years — and encourage all our friends to join us, however razor-thin the decision to remain loyal may be in light of the impending mass firings of those most vulnerable. It’s the right thing to do. The Board of Trustees’ decision to be one of the first colleges to admit blacks in the 1800s was a razor-thin one, but it was the right decision. A decision made by President Carmen Twillie Ambar to reconsider the College’s decision to make these layoffs may be a razor-thin one, especially because the original recommenda...

Affirmative Alumni Engagement Vital in UAW Discussions

Paula J. Gordon, OC ’68

February 28, 2020

 Editor’s Note: This letter was previously posted on an online forum for Class of 1968 announcements.  I support Oberlin College, including financially, as it wrestles with economic realities in the interest of its long-term survival. Our astute Board of Trustees — made up almost entirely of alumni — hired President Carmen Twillie Ambar to accomplish this daunting task.  As a lifelong union member, I strongly support the College in finding the most humane, responsible, equitable, and socially-responsible results possible under the current circumstances. Positive responses to President Ambar’s forthrightness, transparency, and clarity — all of which I applaud — are more productive than threats of pun...

Alumni Call for OSCA Survey Dissemination

Erika Brandt, OC ’13, Shane Clark, OC ’14, Jake Grossman, OC ’08, Casey Lee, OC ’12, and Nathaniel Meyer, OC ’09

February 21, 2020

 As alumni working in the sciences, we are concerned over Oberlin College’s recent withdrawal from a collaborative research project designed by College third-year Bhairavi Mehra and Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies John Petersen, OC ’88.  This project, a survey, sought to gather information on student housing and dining experiences to facilitate thoughtful, data-driven decision-making in a time of cultural and financial sensitivity. Facing tough choices, the College previously expressed in the One Oberlin report a desire to determine, through self-assessment, what is essential and unique to Oberlin College — its vital nature and experience for students.  As scientis...

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