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Oberlin Student Proposals for Institutional Change by LegalInsurrection


									Student Proposals for Institutional Change
   Around Diversity, Social Justice, and
      Inclusion at Oberlin College
                                                             Table of Contents



A) The Conservatory…………………………4

B) The Natural Sciences………………………5

C) Athletics…………………………………...6

D) Documentation………………………….6-7

E) Training, Workshops, and Curriculum..….7-9



A) Timeline
B) Moving Forward
I. Introduction

We are a coalition of Oberlin College and Conservatory students who have come together in the
wake of the past month’s hate-based incidents. The working groups coalition emerged from the
Africana Studies Department’s teach-in on March 4, 2013. We are here to hold the institution,
faculty, staff, and our fellow students accountable to our institutional commitment to diversity,
inclusion, support, and safety. While we honor the institution’s rich history of activism and
inclusivity, we refuse to exploit it to perpetuate cultural stagnation. The past few months have been
filled with shock, fear, confusion, and deep reflection for the entire Oberlin community. As
students, we have actively organized sit-ins, marches, and forums since the beginning of the Spring
Semester to visibly affirm our concerns. Through faculty and student collaboration, hundreds united
in solidarity to create innovative and sustainable initiatives to support diverse communities on
Oberlin’s campus.

We are not just responding to these recent events; we are addressing the history of racism, cis-
sexism, queerphobia, classism, faith-based discrimination, ableism, sizeism, and eurocentrism in the
United States and have a more meaningful discourse on the ways they manifest at Oberlin College
and Conservatory. We expect the College and Conservatory to promote social change by validating
and affirming all students’ voices, especially those whose experiences of exclusion have been
marginal to the larger campus discourse.

This is ongoing, relentless work, which should not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of those
most directly impacted by hate-based incidents and micro-aggressions. Many community members –
faculty, staff, and students alike – have been asking for concrete solutions to the problems to which
we are reacting. We would like to move forward as advocates for more resources for
interdisciplinary study; the inclusion of a social justice framework in all academic coursework;
student participation in administrative initiatives; a re-evaluation of faculty, staff, and administrative
hiring practices to better promote meaningful and sustainable diversity; and situating our education
within the scope of a larger social context. The purpose of this document is to inspire collaboration
between students, administrators, faculty, and staff in the implementation of the following
    II. Our Proposals


    We, the Conservatory Working Group, have constructed a list of proposals to address the
    shortcomings in the Conservatory’s culture and curriculum. It must be understood that the
    Conservatory’s social climate has historically fallen short of the institutional commitment to
    diversity, social justice, and inclusion. It is time for the Conservatory to facilitate and support
    opportunities for faculty, staff, and students to engage with issues of race, class, gender identity and
    expression, sex, sexuality, ability, citizenship, educational background, and religion, and their
    intersections. It is essential to discuss and challenge how the Conservatory weaves eurocentrism,
    oppression, and privilege into the fabric of our conceptions of music, the medium through which we
    come to understand our world and the experiences of others. Our goals are to develop an academic
    environment that is representative and supportive of diverse cultural identities and experiences
    through curricular and cultural resources. We propose the following course of action:

1   Cultural Enrichment

        a Establish a cultural center within the Conservatory that works in concert with the existing
          Oberlin College Multicultural Resource Center
        b Articulate a sustainable strategic plan similar to the institution’s mission for diversity, in
          order to significantly improve our admissions yield and retention of domestic students of
          color, as well as first-generation, LGBTQ, and low income students
        c Review the Conservatory’s mission statement and incorporate a commitment to cultural
          diversity in addition to the development of skills and knowledge students will need to
          navigate among highly diverse communities
        d Apply the College faculty committee faculty: student ratio of 8:4 to the Conservatory faculty
          committees, which currently use a 14:2 ratio
        e Heavy and diverse student involvement in the Conservatory Dean search committee
        f Support for and participation in the mandatory faculty and student trainings outlined in the
          Trainings, Workshops, and Curriculum section

2   Social Context and Diversity within the Curriculum:

        a   Legitimize inter-divisional ensemble courses by granting credit to them
        b   Further diversify the music history and theory curriculum offered within the conservatory
        c   Critically review current ethnomusicology courses
        d   Continue annual African-American music courses past the introductory level
   Natural Sciences

   The Natural Sciences Working Group, which included students of Biology, Chemistry, Physics,
   Geology, Environmental Studies, Psychology, Neuroscience, Mathematics, and Computer Science,
   believes that science at Oberlin College should be an inclusive, interdisciplinary, and community-
   based division of study. We are disappointed by the Natural Science division’s general lack of
   response to recent hate-based incidents. Physical isolation and racial homogeneity of the Natural
   Sciences result in an inaccessible community with a limited relationship to other academic
   departments. Every academic discipline has equal opportunity to identify truths; we must employ
   this framework to dismantle academic hierarchies and make education inclusive and critical. We
   propose the following course of action:

1. Student Involvement and Opportunities:
      a A mandatory forum within the next month with department chairs and students and
          moderated by OCDC to discuss race, class, gender identity and expression, sex, sexuality,
          ability, citizenship, educational background, and religion as they operate in the Natural
          Sciences at Oberlin College
      b Two student-chosen liaisons to discuss recent events on campus at individual department
          meetings with the presence of OCDC
      c Student representation at every department meeting
      d Regular, informal gatherings in the Science Center to promote dialogue and enhance
          student-professor relationships
      e Active student input in the hiring of new professors

2. Social Context and Diversity within the Curriculum:
      a Cross-disciplinary module or mini-courses that specifically address particular issues of
           identity and power in the sciences including but not limited to race, class, gender identity and
           expression, sex, sexuality, ability, citizenship, educational background, and religion. We
           strongly suggest requiring one of these classes to complete any Natural Science major
      b Modification of existing courses to include critical thinking on social issues related to science
      c Opportunities for interdisciplinary work outside of the classroom including research, Winter
           Term, internships, and department honors

3. Events and Outside Speakers:
      a Invite speakers from underrepresented groups to speak or lead workshops about their
          professional journey and research as they relate to identity
      b Publicize all events and talks to the entire campus and create incentives for science students
          to attend

We, the Athletics Working Group, feel that marginalized identities within Oberlin College and
Conservatory, including students of color, LGTBQ-identifying students, and low-income students,
have been denied fair and equal opportunity to participate in sports and utilize athletic facilities. We
demand that the Athletics and Physical Education Departments make Varsity, Club, and Intramural
sports accessible and affirming to all students.

We propose the following changes:

    1 A full-service gym on South Campus with available equipment that is affirming for all
      genders. We recommend the conversion of a space such as the southwest basement area of
      South Hall, which currently serves as a storage facility
    2 Sports and/or health and wellness themed halls on South Campus (e.g., South Hall) in order
      to build a community committed to health and wellness on South Campus.
    3 More public, accessible communication of the current trans* policy
    4 Clearly marked, gender inclusive locker rooms and bathrooms, and a brief orientation for all
      first-time facility, users, and members about the accessibility of all facilities.
    5 Better support and flexibility from coaches and faculty for participation in social justice
      related events
    6 The creation of a Social Justice Advocate in the Athletics Department to act as an educator,
      advocate, and liaison between the Athletics Department, Physical Education Department,
      the Multicultural Resource Center, the Dean of Students Office, and the student body
    7 Elimination of time conflicts with New Student Orientation programming
    8 Mandatory coach participation in trainings detailed in the Trainings, Workshops, and
      Curriculum section

Documentation and Communication

We, the Documentation and Communication Working Group, focused on the preservation of
historical memory and improving channels and content of communication between the
administration, faculty, student body, and general public. Feeling uninformed contributes to feeling
unsafe. We propose the following changes to communication and documentation in order to
promote transparency and safety at Oberlin College and Conservatory as well as accuracy in how we
are portrayed off campus.

    1 More thorough communication with students about emergency and hate-related incidents
      that occur on campus through:
            a Clarity in email emergency alerts with the inclusion of as much specific information
              as possible (i.e., location, date, time, context, and planned course of administrative
          b Revitalization of text alert system for emergencies and hate-related incidents
          c Justification of confidentiality if relevant information is being withheld
          d An up-to-date list, made accessible through The Source, The Review, etc., of health
              and safety-related incidents, including how these events are being addressed by
              Safety & Security and the administration
    2 Adherence to the following standards for the documentation of events and their release to
      the public by the Office of Communication and other Oberlin College and Conservatory-
      related media outlets:
          a Respect for individual students and how they want their stories to be told in terms
              of anonymity, detail, and general presentation
          b Comprehensive and timely fact checking before the release of information
          c Accountability for balance of perspectives included in coverage of hate-based
          d An opportunity for individual(s) to review any information pertaining to themselves
              or relevant incidents prior to its release

Trainings, Workshops, and Curriculum

In considering potential trainings and workshops, the largest of the working groups narrowed their
focus into three main topics: new students and First-Years; continuing privilege and oppression
education, or, “re-orientation”; and mandatory training for faculty and staff. Student leadership and
facilitation are central to the success of these programs, so we would require a sustainable training
system and compensation for these students. The following proposals apply to the College and
Conservatory equally:

For New Students and First-Years:

New Student Orientation: Currently, the Social Justice Institute is offered for up to 150 First-Years as a
two day intensive to explore issues of privilege and oppression. We propose a mandatory workshop
or set of trainings for New Student Orientation as well as the expansion of preexisting mandatory
programming such as the OC, Many Voices, and the Honor Code presentation to include
discussions of allyship and marginalized identities within Oberlin College, Conservatory, and town.
New orientation programming would include:

    1 Preparatory readings on privilege and oppression, allyship, and terminology included in the
      Big Book of Forms
    2 An expanded history of Oberlin College and Conservatory to preserve historical memory
      about the ways that race, class, gender expression and identity, sex, sexuality, ability, and
      religion historically and continually affect student and faculty experience on Oberlin’s
      campus and in the larger community
    3 Language and communication tools to guide engagement with issues of privilege and
      oppression in both self-reflection and conversations with diverse groups of people
    4 Information on resources available to continue related conversations and get involved with
      activism on campus and in the larger community

First-Year Seminars: We ask that the discussions initiated during New Student Orientation are
continued through the First-Year Seminar program. Student facilitators in First-Year Seminars
would use the first twenty-five minutes of the first four classes to discuss:
    1 Language and accountability
    2 How privilege, oppression, and academia intersect
    3 How to get involved in activism and organizing on campus and in the town
    4 Any related questions students raise

Continuing Education:

In order to provide students with opportunities to build upon the social frameworks and
terminology explored in New Student Orientation, we propose a new graduation requirement. We
plan to work with the College’s Education Plans and Policy Committee and the Conservatory’s
Education Policy Committee to create requirements through which students would discuss race,
class, gender, sexuality, religion, and intersectionality. By graduation, students will be equipped to
confront questions of identity and diversity as they apply to Oberlin College, Conservatory, and
town and to the rest of their lives. While certain academic and social communities on campus engage
with these issues continually, we argue that an institutional commitment that recognizes the
importance of studying systems of privilege and oppression in our education and personal
development regardless of discipline is necessary. All students will be required to:
    1 Attend five relevant events including panels, convocations, and at least one student-led
         workshop offered multiple times every semester.
            a These workshops will cover, but are not limited to, race, class, gender identity and
                 expression, sex, sexuality, ability, citizenship, educational background, and religion.
            b Each workshop will limit the number of students in order to generate productive
                 discussion among a small, diverse group with varying experience talking about
            c Students may elect to participate in an on-campus Winter Term project to complete
                 the requirement.
    2 Complete two full courses that carry a new curricular designation (e.g., Social Justice
         Requirement or Power, Privilege, and Oppression Requirement). We urge the development
         of interdisciplinary courses in all departments, which will engage with relevant social context
         and qualify for the designation.

Faculty, Staff, and Administrators:
We propose that faculty, staff, and administrators participate in similar workshops and trainings.
Students would like to work together with existing faculty organizations, including the Center for
Excellence in Teaching and the Faculty Committee on Equity and Diversity, to make these
programs as effective as possible. Our proposals include:

    1 Mandatory programming in new faculty trainings and general faculty meetings focusing on
      ways power and privilege shape professors’ classrooms and disciplines
    2 Committing more financial resources to the MRC so that they may have the means to create
      these workshops and trainings for students, faculty, staff, and administration
    3 Increased support and resources for the Africana Studies Department, Comparative
      American Studies Program, and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies, including more
      tenure track positions for within these departments.
    4 Greater student involvement in hiring and tenure decisions, including greater transparency
      about how these decisions are made and the implementation of two voting seats in each
      department held by student majors as suggested by the Natural Science Working Group.
    5 Creating and sustaining more tenure-track positions for professors of color in all
      departments and disciplines
    6 Revised course evaluations to include how professors handled issues of race, gender, class,
      sexuality and ability in their classroom

III. Conclusion

This document is just the beginning. We see this as a crucial moment for serious dialogue centered
not only on our frustrations, but on our hopes and visions for the future. Systems of oppression and
violence are problems that persist beyond the duration of any student’s attendance at Oberlin
College and Conservatory. The working groups have provided a blueprint for administrative
engagement in order to raise the standards of education, safety, and inclusion at Oberlin College and



The timeline of events thus far relating to the distribution of the document to administration and
senior staff goes as follows:
1. On March 19th, President Krislov and senior staff received the letter of proposals. This same day,
President Krislov wrote in the Source acknowledging the presentation of the document.

2. On March 20th, President Krislov announced he had received the document to General Faculty,
thanking some of the student representatives of the working group, faculty, and staff who were

3. On Friday, April 5th, student representatives from the working groups met with the President and
senior staff to obtain feedback about the proposals.

       a. At the conclusion of the meeting, it was proposed that the small working groups
       reconvene with the point administrators they are associated with to continue working on
       concrete implementation plans throughout April.

       b. In May, student representatives and administrators will reconvene and meet with the
       President to give feedback.

4. Following this meeting, Krislov and Dean Estes responded to the working groups with feedback.

          Moving forward will require campus-wide commitment to these proposals and continued
critical thinking on how to create a better Oberlin. A number of offices, including but not limited to
the Office of Financial Aid, the Dean of Studies Office, and the Office of Admissions, are not
mentioned in the proposal. In order to adequately address issues of diversity and inclusion on
campus, however, we acknowledge we must engage all divisions of the institution. Consequently,
there is space for more working groups to be formed to dialogue with these other divisions. We all,
as a community, must continue to propose changes and collaborate with the administration, faculty
and staff to make the Oberlin campus and town more affirming place for all students, staff, faculty
and residents.
          While many members of the student body were unable to attend the working group
meetings in March, there will be more opportunities for students to get involved. Working groups
will reconvene this Sunday, April 28th, 2013. If you are unable to attend, please send a proxy
statement to with your working group of interest in the subject
line. If you have been organizing within your communities around issues raised in this document
that you would like to continue in tandem with the working groups, please attend the meeting or
send us an email.
          Finally, we would like to thank professors and staff who have been supportive of their
students and remain active in the process of institutional change. We look forward to continue this
relationship as this process continues. We would like to thank all of the students and faculty
involved in the development of this document.

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