The Oberlin Review

Student Debate Will Help Strengthen Personal Views

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

November 10, 2017

Filed under Letters to the Editors, OPINIONS

To the Editors: When some anti-Semitic signs appeared on campus, President Ambar announced that her administration will not automatically amplify those messages by informing the entire campus each time they appear. But she will surely do an all-campus notification if need be. I have no idea if she explained to students or the campus what her rationale was before taking this action; in any case, her position does seem to be a good one, if only because there is nothing anyone can ever do to prevent one person — perhaps not even associated with the College — from having the power to sow fear throughout the entire campus by posting hate-filled scribblings. When President Ambar visited New York City about two weeks ago, she rece...

Oberlin Must Protect Diverse Opinions

Duncan Reid, Contributing Writer

September 15, 2017

Filed under Commentary, OPINIONS

Across college campuses nationwide, the right to free expression is endangered. In the past three years alone, one lawmaker in Wisconsin threatened to withhold funding from University of Wisconsin Madison because they were offended by a course dealing with race and ethnicity, Tennessee passed a law prohibiting universities from using public funds for a “sex week,” or to “promote the use of gender neutral pronouns,” South Carolina lawmakers voted to cut funding to two colleges that assigned LGBTQ-themed books as required reading for first-year students, and a Michigan Senate subcommittee threatened to fine universities for “any instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizin...

College Should Prioritize Healthy Working Environment Over Free Speech

Daniel Markus, Arts and Culture Editor

May 5, 2017

Filed under Commentary, OPINIONS

Imagine the following scenario: You work in an office. One day at work, the company brings in a speaker to give a presentation about business development. Midway through, the presenter starts making incredibly disparaging comments about women. What would you do? Most likely, you would file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, because the presenter’s actions are prohibited under federal law. According to the EEOC, “The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.” If you were a member of this workplace, you wouldn’t expect coworkers to go about their bu...

Controversial Speakers Deserve Fair Platform

Will Cramer, Contributing Writer

March 10, 2017

Filed under Commentary, OPINIONS

Author Charles Murray was invited last week to speak at Middlebury College in a move that was certain to invite controversy. Notorious for his 1994 book The Bell Curve, which suggests that IQ rather than economic opportunities or access to basic services such as health care is the most effective indicator of future success, Murray is justly despised by many liberals. His work lacks credible peer review and is often cited by white supremacists to justify their racism, since Black people scored an average of 15 points lower than white people on IQ tests at the time of The Bell Curve’s publishing. Middlebury students swarmed the speaking venue and chanted to prevent Murray from speaking. After 20 fruitless minutes...

University of Chicago Balances Free Speech, Trigger Warnings

Jack Derwin, Contributing Writer

September 16, 2016

Filed under Commentary, OPINIONS

As the training ground for students on the brink of entering full adulthood, the values of higher education are often the subject of scrutiny and controversy. One such controversy was prompted by a University of Chicago welcome letter sent to the university’s incoming first-years on Aug. 24 this year. The letter stated that the school does not sanction safe spaces or trigger warnings and will not stand for the intellectual losses that can come with both. Colleges and universities are institutions of learning, discovery and growth. To achieve those three goals, institutions cannot shield their students from opinions and ideas contrary to their own. In the letter, the university demonstrated a theoretically strong an...

Free Speech Still in Student Body’s Best Interest

Aaron Pressman, Columnist

December 11, 2015

Filed under Columns, OPINIONS

On Dec. 4, College junior Jasper Clarkberg wrote a response titled “Non-Black Allies Must Engage With Protest Critics” to my Nov. 6 column in the Review, “Discouraging Dissent Stifles Intellectual Growth.” I appreciate Clarkberg taking the time to respond to such an important issue and would like to rebut some of his concerns. First off, Clarkberg makes the argument that “nobody is punishing dissenters legally, financially or academically,” and that “Obies are not responsible for actively engaging with minority opinions.” While I concede that the administration does not usually punish dissenters for protected speech, my argument has nothing to do with legal protections and everything to do with effe...

Classroom Censorship Does Not Protect Against Real World Experiences

Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

November 20, 2015

Filed under Letters to the Editors, OPINIONS

To the Editors: In a feisty essay published in last week’s Review, columnist Cyrus Eosphoros delivers the following ultimatum to Oberlin’s faculty: “If a professor feels like putting their students — over whom they have substantial power — in danger, the least they could do is prove it’s necessary to their course. If hurting people is vital to the professor’s pedagogy, the proof should be obvious” (“Classroom Censorship Can Improve Learning Environment,” Nov. 13, 2015). I would go considerably further and declare that there is no pedagogical imperative that could ever — under any circumstances — justify putting a student “in danger.” Similarly, any educator who believes that “hurtin...

Content Warnings Fail to Reflect Life After Oberlin

Aaron Pressman, Columnist

November 20, 2015

Filed under Columns, OPINIONS

I have no objection to professors warning students that some information discussed in their classes may be emotionally challenging or difficult to hear. In fact, it is part of a professor’s job is to outline the content of a course and distribute that information to students before the add/drop deadline so students can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to take the class. If a student wishes to drop a course during the add/ drop window, they have the right to do so for whatever reason, including feeling that material covered in class may be emotionally distressing. Students also have the right to speak to professors about the content of classes, and I encourage professors to be very understan...

Discouraging Dissent Stifles Intellectual Growth

Aaron Pressman, Columnist

November 6, 2015

Filed under Columns, OPINIONS

The first tenet listed in Oberlin College’s mission statement is to “graduate ... students who have learned to think with intellectual rigor, creativity, and independence.” Yet it seems to be increasingly common on campus for students who make up the majority opinion to stifle dissent. We must allow for a free flow of ideas, and students must exhibit the intellectual capability to respect dissent. I have been disappointed with the frequency with which students holding popular beliefs on campus immediately dismiss the views of those who disagree. I find this especially problematic at a school that so strongly prides itself on tolerance, acceptance and diversity. All too often, students dismiss dissenting views as “violent...

Privilege Means Choosing Silence

Chloe Vassot, Contributing Writer

September 25, 2015

Filed under Commentary, OPINIONS

To speak has always been a political act. The urge to protect one’s right to speak, the most basic method of communication — in a way the most intimate, most direct route from your mind to another’s — is inherently understandable and incontestable. The unwavering belief in this right is part of what has been driving the ever-growing number of think-pieces criticizing colleges and students for the “policing” of free speech and the prevalence of “politically correct” speech that is beginning to dominate certain campuses. This examination of the politics of speech is needed, but not when the goal is exclusively to find the weaknesses in our liberal arts schooling. The politics of speech, of who gets to ...

Free Speech Not Equivalent to Violence

Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

April 24, 2015

Filed under Letters to the Editors, OPINIONS

To the Editors: I was appalled by last week’s letter to the editor, titled “In Response to Sommers’ Talk: A Love Letter to Ourselves” (The Oberlin Review, April 17, 2015). Published three days in advance of Christina Hoff Sommers’ public lecture at Oberlin, it read in part: “By bringing her to a college campus laden with trauma and sexualized violence and full of victims/survivors, the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians is choosing to reinforce this climate of denial/blame/ shame that ultimately has real life consequences on the well-being of people who have experienced sexualized violence.” Presumably, the signatories to this letter would have preferred that OCRL rescind their invitation to...

In Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech for Some

Chloe Vassot, Contributing Writer

February 6, 2015

Filed under Commentary, OPINIONS

For obvious and grim reasons, January was a difficult month for France. Thinking about the massacre at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Jan. 7, and the complex and heated reactions that followed, has made my mind run in confused circles. The recent attacks revealed many contentious problems France has faced as a country. But perhaps no issue is as delicate as what many perceive as the hypocrisy in France’s laws regarding freedom of speech and expression. France is not America. There is no First Amendment that guarantees a near-absolute right to verbal liberty. French laws draw complicated lines around what types of speech are permissible, and hate speech directed against individuals or groups based ...

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