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Student Proposals for Institutional Change Around Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion at Oberlin College Table of Contents Introduction…………………………………………………………………3 Proposals…………………………………………………………………...4 A) The Conservatory…………………………4 B) The Natural Sciences………………………5 C) Athletics…………………………………...6 D) Documentation………………………….6-7 E) Training, Workshops, and Curriculum..….7-9 Conclusion………………………………………………………………….9 Addendum............................................................. 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 proposals. II. Our Proposals Conservatory 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 Athletics 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 action) 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 incident 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 difference. 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 Conservatory. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Addendum: 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 present. 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 email@example.com 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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