The Oberlin Review

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...

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 ...

Hundreds of students protested President Carmen Twillie Ambar’s recent announcement that the College is “formally considering” contracting with outside vendors, potentially cutting 108 United Automobile Workers union jobs, in the King Building Wednesday.

College “Considering” Outsourcing Dining, Custodial Services

February 21, 2020

Employees in Oberlin’s chapter of the United Automobile Workers union are reeling after a Tuesday afternoon email from President Carmen Twillie Ambar to the campus community announced that the College is “formally considering” contracting with outside vendors to provide campus custodial and dining services. If the College ultimately chooses to outsource, more than 100 union employees could lose their jobs on June 30, when the transition would occur. According to President Ambar’s email, O...

Outsourcing Proposal Creates Unfair Burden; Cuts Must Come From Elsewhere

Editorial Board

February 21, 2020

 After reading Tuesday afternoon’s announcement from President Carmen Twillie Ambar and engaging in conversation with many campus stakeholders, we firmly oppose the College’s proposal to contract with outside vendors to provide campus dining and custodial services. We support the 108 unionized United Automobile Workers employees who could lose their jobs as a result of this proposal and strongly advocate for Oberlin’s administration to identify another area in which to find the approximate $2 million in annual savings that this decision is expected to bring in.  It is important to remember that the financial imperative driving the administration’s proposal to outsource more than 100 jobs is indisputable and i...

Living Wage and Health Care for UAW Workers Proves Urgent

Booker C. Peek, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies

February 21, 2020

 President Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin College’s first Black president and just the second female president, shared with us all an impressively argued, 900-word announcement titled “Dining and Custodial Negotiations,” which reported that the College has proposed to, very shortly, cut every single one of its custodians and dining hall workers without warning, unceremoniously — a Trump-like “Get out of here, you’re all fired!” President Ambar’s defense of her actions is quite solidly based upon One Oberlin, which is the name of the final report produced by the Academic and Administrative Program Review. The president offers an unassailable argument for the protection of the College’s core value: ...

Oberlin Community Should Appreciate Ambar’s Honesty

Jeff Witmer, Professor of Mathematics

February 21, 2020

Last week, my son lost his job — through no fault of his own. New management told several workers that the company couldn't afford to keep them. So after three weeks’ notice, my son is now applying for unemployment payments and looking for a new job. This heightens my sympathy for workers affected by President Carmen Twillie Ambar's announcement.   These are difficult times for the College, which has a very real budget problem affecting all employee groups, although unequally. Given her decision to focus on the core mission of the school and to explore savings by reducing compensation for some unionized workers, President Ambar might have waited until after Commencement/Reunion Weekend to announce her plans. I'm sur...

Oberlin Has Pursued Policy of Hostility Towards Workers

Jeanne Morefield, OC ’91

February 21, 2020

I am an academic in the United Kingdom, and next week, my colleagues in the University and College Union and I — at 74 universities across the country — are striking for better working conditions. I am grateful every day that I have a union so that I don't have to depend upon the whims and empty promises of colleges and universities to do right by their employees. And now, in a complete violation of everything that has ever made Oberlin unique and powerful as an institution, President Carmen Twillie Ambar is posed to deny that basic right to many employees currently on Oberlin’s campus.   This is not about fiscal responsibility. This is about breaking the union and about the imposition of unnecessary, Shock Doctrin...

Erik Villar for UAW Chair

Buffy Lukachko, Member and Women’s Committee Co-Chair, UAW Local 2192

May 10, 2019

Brothers and Sisters of Oberlin College UAW Local 2192: I’m writing to you today to go on the record that I fully support Erik Villar’s candidacy for Chair of Oberlin College UAW Local 2192. Erik is uniquely qualified for this leadership position because he has worked in more than one department at Oberlin College, and therefore has a unique understanding of the school’s concerns. Erik began his career at Oberlin on the custodial staff as a part-time employee before securing a full-time position in Kitchen Maintenance. After five years, he transferred to the Transportation Department for a more stable work schedule. In 2016, Erik successfully bid on an open position in HVAC where he is currently a UAW Union...

Campus Must Support OCOPE Negotiations

Editorial Board

May 6, 2016

The remainder of this month is all about countdowns. Six hours until reading period begins. Six days until the first day of finals. Eleven days until the majority of our student body makes a break for it, and eighteen days until those graduating pack their things and hit the road that, for many, will not lead back to Oberlin. Once students leave, campus inevitably quiets. Not only do dorms and classrooms shut down, but dozens of faculty and staff head elsewhere for the summer, reducing Oberlin’s employee pool to a fraction of its calendar year size. For the employees who remain on campus, running the school is a year-round job. For one faction of those employees, the countdown continues. Thirty-eight days after Commencement, the un...

The Economics of Union Busting

George Berry, Columnist

March 11, 2011

The recent passage of SB5 in the Ohio State Senate marks another blow to the workers’ right to negotiate with large and often impersonal employers. If the bill passes the House, Ohio’s 350,000 public workers would be allowed only a certain type of arbitration, with ultimate power held by state and local governments. But Ohio’s budget problems are severe and require drastic changes — even if cutting compensation is the wrong change. Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker, who has emboldened the likes of John Kasich, faces far less severe budget problems. His insistence on “economic necessity,” however, has given union-busting proposals an air of legitimacy. It seems that Kasich, Florida’s Rick Scott and others...

Students Protest Senate Bill 5 in Wilder Bowl

Jessica Lam, Staff Writer

March 4, 2011

With chants of “Kill the bill” and “I say budget, you say bullshit,” a march for solidarity with the unions to be affected by Senate Bill 5, along with a discussion panel with several faculty members from the politics department and the president of OCOPE, took place on Monday in Wilder Bowl. S.B. 5, a bill facing the state legislature in Ohio similar to the controversial legislation being debated in Wisconsin, would limit the collective bargaining rights and prohibit negotiation over health care benefits of unions. Senate Bill 5 has passed the Senate, and the House will begin committee hearings on the bill next week. Republican Governor John Kasich, who claims that these measures are necessary to fix Ohio’s...

Students Rally in Columbus in Support of Union Rights

Elise Shulman-Reed, News Editor

February 25, 2011

Thousands gathered on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, to support public-sector union employees’ right to collective bargaining. Fifty-five Oberlin students made the trek to the state house to join in the protest. Protesters marched to the state capitol where the Legislature held hearings on Senate Bill 5 — a proposal that would eliminate almost all collective bargaining and prohibit negotiating over health care benefits, among other changes. Ohio’s bill comes on the heels of mass protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to strip workers of their bargaining power. In an interview with CNN, Ohio Governor John Kasich said that public employees should have the ability to negotiate on some matters,...

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