The Oberlin Review

Gibson’s Boycott Denies Due Process

Roger Copeland, Emeritus Professor of Theater and Dance

September 8, 2017

To the Editors: In the Sept. 1, 2017 issue of The Oberlin Review, the paper’s Editorial Board lists a number of actions taken last year by the Krislov administration which “[paint] a picture of an untrustworthy, austere, and aloof bureaucracy” (“Ambar Provides Opportunity for Needed Change,” The Oberlin Review, Sept. 1, 2017). I agree with their choice of the word “untrustworthy.” But I strongly disagree with one of the reasons the editors cite for arriving at this adverse judgement. They criticize the administration’s decision to “[resume] business with Gibson’s Bakery after controversy that sparked massive student protests.” Ironically, just a few pages earlier in the same issue...

Board Challenges Academic Freedom

Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

March 11, 2016

To the Editors: In a March 5 email to members of the Oberlin students and faculty, Clyde McGregor, OC ’74, and chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, expresses the Board's’ collective concern over allegedly anti-Semitic postings on social media by an Oberlin faculty member. The Trustees call upon “the administration and faculty to challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings and to report back to the Board.” Needless to say, I speak only for myself. But what follows is my own preliminary “report back to the Board.” I would like to begin by reminding Mr. McGregor that no individual employee of Oberlin College “speaks” for the institution. In fact, I’m ...

Classroom Censorship Does Not Protect Against Real World Experiences

Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

November 20, 2015

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...

Controversial Events Must Be Met with Reason

Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

May 8, 2015

To the Editors: I’m writing to address both of the letters the Review published last week in response to my earlier comments about the generic distinction between “speech” and “violence” (“Violence Requires Multiple Definitions” and “Silencing Survivors Results in Violence,” The Oberlin Review, May 1, 2015). My colleague Jade Schiff argues that the difference between speech and violence is not as absolute as I maintain. She writes, “Constitutionally protected speech can indeed be violent but not in the same way that rape, sexual assault and related offenses are violent.” If Professor Schiff is merely arguing that speech can be both hateful and hurtful, I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, one of the ...

Violence Requires Multiple Definitions

Jade Schiff, Assistant Professor of Politics

May 1, 2015

To the Editors: Violence, sexual and otherwise, afflicts Oberlin as it does colleges and universities around the world, and our community needs to address it vigorously. But we won’t be able to do so effectively unless we know what we are talking about when we talk about violence. I’m not always sure that we do. My colleague, Professor Copeland, responded forcefully last week to a previous letter objecting to Christina Hoff Sommers’ campus visit (“Free Speech Not Equivalent to Violence,” The Oberlin Review, April 24, 2015). In particular, he took issue with this line: “Her talk is happening, so let’s pull together in the face of this violence and make our own space to support each other” (“In Respon...

Silencing Survivors Results in Violence

Anonymous, College junior

May 1, 2015

Dear Professor Copeland: Do you think there are not survivors on this campus? Survivors who were offended and hurt by the words and actions of Christina Hoff Sommers? You said that nothing Sommers said could have offended a survivor ... Are you a survivor? Do you speak on behalf of all survivors? Have you listened to the survivors who have been bravely saying, “As a survivor, Sommers’ words and actions hurt me?” Dear Professor Copeland, do you know what sexualized violence is? Have you ever considered that violence may be more nuanced than you believe? That everyone experiences violence differently? Have you ever considered that reliving trauma, being told that your experience didn’t happen or doesn’t...

Free Speech Defenders Underestimate Power, Violence of Language

Cyrus Eosphoros, Columnist

May 1, 2015

An awful lot of problems spring from one question: Does speech do harm comparable to physical injury? Roger Copeland’s letter to the editors (“Free Speech Not Equivalent to Violence,” The Oberlin Review, April 24, 2015) has given us one side. I disagree with him. But beyond that, I’m worried about a miscommunication that might destroy our ability to have this debate. Most people can recognize that verbal threats are a promise of impending violence. However, the standard conception of what qualifies as a threat is absurdly narrow. “I am going to do this thing to you” reads as a threat. Without personal experience to inform someone’s judgment, what about another expression of violence? Throwing things...

Free Speech Not Equivalent to Violence

Roger Copeland, Professor of Theater and Dance

April 24, 2015

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...

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