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Classes Canceled: Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4, 2013

Early this morning, there was a report of a person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit between South and the Edmonia Lewis Center and in the vicinity of Afrikan Heritage House. This report is being investigated by both Safety and Security and the Oberlin Police Department. This event, in addition to the series of other hate-related incidents on campus, has precipitated our decision to suspend formal classes and all non-essential activities for today, Monday, March 4, 2013, and gather for a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks.

We hope today will allow the entire community—students, faculty, and staff—to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual. Indeed, the strength of Oberlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all, and enhances the educational mission at its core.

We ask that all students, faculty and staff participate in the events planned for today:

12PM | Lord Lounge, Afrikan Heritage House
Teach-in led by Africana Studies Department

2PM | Wilder Bowl
Demonstration of solidarity

3:30PM | Finney Chapel
Community convocation: “We Stand Together” (previously scheduled for Wednesday 3/6 at 12PM)

When faced with difficult situations, Oberlin has consistently met the challenges and affirmed its commitment to the highest quality of education and the noblest aspirations of its community members. We believe that today’s events—and our ongoing work and discussions—will strengthen Oberlin and will strengthen us all.

Marvin Krislov, President
Sean Decatur, Dean, Arts & Sciences
David Stull, Dean, Conservatory of Music
Eric Estes, Dean of Students

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  • Write anything you like as long as it’s civil and productive. Attack ideas if you wish, but not people. Oberlin = love, remember? (Seriously. Be nice or your comment will be removed.)

I first saw the headline as a line on My Yahoo page: "Person in KKK robe seen on Ohio College campus". For some reason, I knew it was Oberlin. I was greatly saddened by this as well as angered. I have read all of the comments and it again makes me proud to be an alum of this school. I would agree with some of what Mr. Porterfield says in that it does seem like making a big deal out of this, plays into the desires of the perp, but I also think things should be brought out into the open especially for those students who have been traumatized by the racist grafiti. They need to find the person(s) responsible and procecute them to the fullest extent of the law. That would be the best solution. It wouls also seem sensible for the sake of students feeling safe, if CCT cameras were installed to help prevent this from happening again, or make it easier to locate the person responsible.

Andrew Kronick '83 (March 10, 2013)

When i went to oberlin between 2002 and 2007 my friends and i would go to nearby towns to get food... Namely at dennys. We routinely saw people with giant confederate flags and on occasion people that appeared to be skkinheads. We also experienced racism in a diner across the street from the dennys....this has been going on for a long time and oberlin should do more to reach outside its borders to engage in critical and open dialogues about racism and classism as well as sexism and homophobia in the local community. Thank you oberlin....but dont stop with the college...go beyond those boundaries you can do it!
Rasheed salaam Hislop Class of 2007

Rasheed hislop (March 9, 2013)

@Cendra Lynn '66 Thank you for misrepresenting my position so absurdly. Nowhere did I suggest we "do nothing." I hope that the perpetrator(s) are being pursued by all means possible both inside and outside of our institution; and if identified, I hope he/she/they are expelled and/or prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Kitty Genovese indeed. What a brilliant parallel.

Al Porterfield (March 7, 2013)

Since I graduated from Oberlin College in 1957, I have always assumed that Oberlin was a tolerant, diverse, accepting, inclusive oasis in the sea of hate that is much of the rest of the USA. Whenever dissension and intolerance, especially of people of diverse cultures, nationalities &/or religions have been criticized, I have continuously pointed out that Oberlin makes tolerance and understanding work! What has happened to Oberlin? Are the problems caused by people outside the College or within its walls? This is such a shock! I''m proud, however, that the Oberlin administration and students are uniting against these expressions of hate and intolerance. Don't give up! Make your unity known, everywhere you go. Spread the word about Oberlin's real principles, and don't let the outside world think this latest horrible behavior is ever acceptable at Oberlin College.

Marybeth Bridegam (March 6, 2013)

Mine was the class of 1947. I have always been proud of the fact that Oberlin represented the best in inclusion of all people, black, white hispanic and others. The student body always ferreted out prejudice and acted upon it. I am dismayed that this sort of hatred is showing up now. I am wondering why anyone with such prejudicial leanings would even choose Oberlin as their school?

Sally S. Wilks (March 6, 2013)

We've heard all of arguments of Al Porterfield ad infinitum. They, and he, are wrong. Think Kitty Genovese. Think Jerry Sandusky. Bring the dirt to light and ensure that none of these wrongs are overlooked. All it takes for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing.

Cendra Lynn '66 (March 5, 2013)

I see this and I am proud to be an Oberlin alumna.

Way to stand together as a community....

Ryan Holman, class of 2005 1/2 (March 5, 2013)

I am very glad you took such quick action and let alumni know as well. I was stunned, especially by the KKK outfit. It seemed such an ignorant and childish prank -- I wondered how immature that student must be -- was it intended to be truly mean or just plain funny ? As a retired professor (for 29 years) myself I wonder if some sort of required private one to one with a professor about Oberlin values vs the world at large would help in addition to your larger group discussions. Require the kid to research the KKK and what they actually did to people. My i956 classmate Joel Montague is correct, though, that these ideas are everywhere. It's just that in 1956 we didn't speak so openly, and now people do. But I am sure you will handle this very well. My best wishes to you. I'm proud of what Oberlin stands for. Nancy Corwin

Nancy A. Corwin class of 1956 (March 5, 2013)

I am a 1977 graduate of Oberlin College. I have always taken pride in Oberlin's long illustrious history of being a bastion of tolerance and a hotbed of liberalism. I am stunned by recent events. In my opinion, now is the time to put the safety of the students, faculty and staff first. The people who have engaged in valdalizing the school can be caught if the College decides to do something. This is a security issue. Oberlin has the resources to hire security staff and install cameras that will bring this matter to a swift end. Discussions are necessary, but they will not put a stop to this behavior. The problem will only escalate if safety measures, i.e 24 hour surveillance, increased security staff, increased cameras, are not employed immediately.

Davida Mathis (March 5, 2013)

It is MY Oberlin that takes a day off to consider these things. Linda Bergmann, 1972

Linda Shell Bergmann (March 5, 2013)

I was happy to see the actions taken by the college. Oberlin should be a safe space, and that feeling of safety is easy to shatter. I believe that positive change will come out of this, and seeing the community's strong response only reinforced that belief.

Chris Hamby '08 (March 5, 2013)

Thank you, President Krislov, for your rapid and thoughtful response to these incidents.

Sarah Cohen (March 5, 2013)

I'm glad to see the administration, faculty, students and supporters come together and not just another letter from the President, as many schools do.. The Oberlin tradition of intellectual challenge and peace prevails. I think the attention is on what and who Oberlin is, not this disgusting character. I'm proud of the Obie response. ruth spencer "72

Ruth Spencer (March 5, 2013)

It saddens me to hear that the Oberlin community should experience such intolerance and hatred. Through my meditation practice my friends and I will be sending the Oberlin community the Buddhist prayer of loving kindness:

May you be filled with loving kindness, May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be safe and protected from harm. May you be healthy.
May you be happy.

May this situation be resolved quickly and peacefully.

Marsha Takemoto (March 5, 2013)

There are always those who want to fight the arc of history and its trend toward justice and tolerance. It is up to the rest of us to keep pushing that arch toward justice and tolerance. It does not move without our efforts. The college's response give all of us a chance to reflect on what a just and tolerant community looks like and how we can better realize it.

I graduated in 1974. Oberlin has always been in the struggle to create a better community.

Walter Mathews (March 5, 2013)

I have to agree with Professor Porterfield with respect to his comment about "given the individual(s) what they want." However, these words and actions really hurt the students, and it's hard to "just ignore it." Kids are legitimately scared. It's difficult to push these things aside when things have escalated so quickly. By canceling classes and holding rallies, we may be putting fuel on the fire, but at the same time we are building community. I think we really need that right now.

Sela Miller, '15

Sela Miller (March 5, 2013)

Hate related incidents are so out of snyc with Oberlin's values and history. Upsetting.

Shirley Rhea Collins '47

Shirley Rhea Collins '47 (March 5, 2013)

I'm proud to see such an active campus. Of course it reminds me of the "Death to all chinks" and "Good chink = Dead Chink" graffiti left by a student on the Memorial Arch back in the 90's. What current students might not know is the level of campus activism, the emergence of female leadership across all students groups, and the subsequent manifestation of Third World Co-op in the midst of all this upheaval.

What I know now, for sure, it that solidarity counts. Whites must stand WITH people of color against racism. The wealthy must stand with the poor. Men must stand with women against sexism. Straights must stand with us queers against homophobia and hetero-chauvinism. We must all be read to stand up for one another, particularly when we're too tired/defeated/frustrated/mentally colonized to stand up for ourselves. But, to to that and not re-instantiate implicit supremacy, we must be prepared to listen to others, and understand that they may not express themselves in a comfortable, respectable manner. We all must be prepared to change.

Dr. Diepiriye S. Kuku, c/o '97 (March 5, 2013)

I am very shocked by these incidents and wondering how we as alums can help. I know current students who are afraid and I would love to be updated on these events. As a founding member of Student Organization Against Racism (SOAR) which I think is no longer in existence, I know the power of being allies. Please do not let this split the student body racially. Truly, United you Stand. Please increase security around all the cultural dorms.

Jasmine Love (March 5, 2013)

Greetings . Wellcome to the real world !.. Oberlin has grown perhaps too neat and orderly in its thinking .. indeed I went to Oberlin half century ago from a VERY fancy Eastern Private School because it seemed to me at that time that it's ( oberlins ) values were in the right place .. so much so indeed that the single person in my class who went into business ( making money .. oh the shock !!! ) was mocked by his (our ) class mates . . Sure find out who is doing this madness but do not think for a moment that there are not dozens more .. if not on campus , in Ohio , in the US and around the world . Regards Joel M.

joel montague (March 4, 2013)

I would think that events such as this are as much for student support as they are for demonstrating anything to the agressor(s) committing these racist and homophobic acts, so while I see your point, Al, I have to disagree. The lamentable Fred Phelps came to Oberlin while I was a student, and I vividly recall how the administration made the decision to hold a fair of sorts, on Tappan Square, in order to prevent students who might (quite naturally) become upset, from doing anything rash. Some might have looked at the Fair as a provocation to the Phelps crowd, but I believe it was intended to help the Oberlin community to cope with an upsetting attack - to offer students tangible reassurance that the community stood together in the face of these bigots descending upon us. This seems very much in the same spirit, and I applaud it.

On another note, I agree with Jennifer Sees about alumni being informed - I only discovered that this was going on when I saw an article on the BBC website. Seeing the headline about trouble at an American university, I glanced at the accompanying photo and thought "That looks like Peters!"

Abigail Moller '05 (and daughter of a '61 grad)

Abigail Moller (March 4, 2013)

Faith will overcome any of this persecution. My dad is a 38 grad and would if alive say the same.

Do not allow yourselves to become victims, only you can allow something like this to cause you harm. We all face problems from people that do not like us.

So what I say, and so should you.

Turn the other cheek and get on with your life.

jay nelson esq. (March 4, 2013)

I think we have got to take anything like this very very seriously, and I am proud of the Oberlin administration and Oberlinians for doing just that. This is a sign of a kind of sickness which needs to be rooted out and somehow either removed or "cured", and those in its path need to be made safe and kept protected from the disease of hatred and intolerance. Thank you, Oberlin for seeing this for what it is, and not looking the other way, hoping it will go away, or rationalizing that this is freedom of speech or that it could possibly co-exist with what Oberlin stands for.

Deborah Swanger Fortier '72 and parent of '13 (March 4, 2013)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/04/oberlin-cancels-classes-racist-homophobic-incidents

Justine Neuberger (March 4, 2013)

I believe acts of racism and hatred have been committed. I think appropriate actions were taken today to show solidarity and that hatred will not be tolerated. That said, why do we know so little about what happened regarding the kkk regalia incident? Who saw it? Where did he go? What was he doing? He was just walking around in KKK regalia in the middle of night, not confronting anybody, and then when a call is made, he disappears? Why are we satisfied with so little information? I'm not.

Justine Neuberger (March 4, 2013)

"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me" was a Coke commercial in the activist Sixties. We overlooked the materialism because there seemed to be so few of us to do what was needed then. Now there are millions more of us, yet hate can always draw our attention away from our missions. That is when we turn to each other for support, for ideas, for actions, for spiritual reaffirmation. This is the cycle of good/evil. Don't be discouraged and remember that one small candle can light up a whole lot of darkness.

Cendra Lynn (March 4, 2013)

Al, yes we are giving them what they want -- and more. by shining a bright, intense and unrelenting light on these events we make it impossible to hide. Unlike the internet, Oberlin is a small, close and like-minded community, where such individuals will find little support or comfort. I was a child of the 60s and experienced much of the hatred and abuse of overt racism first-hand, and in my opinion we cannot ignore such expressions of hatred without allowing them to flourish. Address them; expose them; run them to ground and remove them from the fold -- it is the only way to show them that their attacks will not be tolerated.

kirk warren (March 4, 2013)

These "situations" would not be happening if I was still RA in the House! The administration needs to review the history of acceptance and progressiveness that made Oberlin, Oberlin!

Jonathan R. Green (March 4, 2013)

No, I wonder that too, Al, but I can see both sides. Obviously police resources should be directed to the incident and to prevent/protect future ones, and a public statement from the college is warranted. Beyond that, I'm not sure how far to go. But I also do think more intercultural education is always a good thing, whatever event prompts it. Assuming the perpetrators are not among those who will be at the teach-in, there's a certain element of preaching to the choir to that, but OTOH, it's always good to be reminded of other cultural points of view, and there's always more to learn about them. So I guess I don't have a hard position on the response, and I'm not there, but I certainly see your point.

  • John Brooking, Class of 1990
John Brooking (March 4, 2013)

Al, I can't agree with you. I understand the strategy you mean, but I don't think it's applicable here.

The outrage, on an immediate and individual level, is inevitable: reactions to seeing slurs graffitied on a wall or someone wearing a KKK-like outfit are necessarily going to be distressed. But the college and its student body, on an official and collective level, aren't responding in fear or outrage. They're responding, in your words, with sympathy, support, and solidarity. To have convocations, demonstrations, and talks is a way of coming together, not a way of panicking or disrupting or dividing ourselves. The collective events the college is organizing seem to me the best - and only - way to respond to what's been going on: by banding together to remind each other of our basic rights and the progress we (thought we'd) made in terms of respect across cultures, ethnicities, and anything else.

You say "we KNOW what we stand for" without doing any of this, but it seems like someone, or some people, have either forgotten what we stand for or dismissed the significance of that. We SHOULD say it out loud every once in a while, particularly in the face of these kinds of hateful acts.

I think the college is responding in a mature way. If that still fuels this/these individuals(s), then at least the rest of us will have renewed our confidence in one another, and it will be very clear that whoever's doing all this is in the vast minority and doesn't belong. Whether or not any of us know who that is, (s)he'll know.

Molly Bradley (March 4, 2013)

Professor Porterfield, I would argue almost the opposite.I see your point, but I think a strong outward showing of love in the face of hate is worth some time. We may know what we stand for, but how often do we come out of our ordinary lives, from behind our computer screens and actually show each other?

I'm extremely grateful that Oberlin's administration is doing this.

Anna Ernst, '10 (March 4, 2013)

I wouldn't compare Oberlin's campus to the internet. Nobody ever pretended that the internet was a safe space, but our campus should be. I agree that we should respond with peace, but the student body and the administration needs to be there for those most affected by the hate. A response is necessary.

Joseph Simmons (March 4, 2013)

Why have alum not been informed of the events on campus? Especially when most alumni have connections on campus and are receiving information through social media? I'm not saying that we have to be informed right away, just as alumni and investors in the Oberlin education, we have a right to be informed.

Jennifer Sees (March 4, 2013)

Am I the only one who thinks that we are giving this (these) despicable individual(s) exactly what he/she/they want? Rest assured, the individuals and groups that have been targeted by these disgusting attacks have my complete sympathy, support, and solidarity. But what the person or persons behind these actions wants is fear, outrage, and disruption; and the more we, as a community, provide these, the more we cede power to him/them. "Don't feed the trolls" is the operative rule on internet comment forums. In my view, we should adopt the same stance as an institution. The hollow, hateful individual(s) behind these events is not worth one iota of our time and attention. We KNOW what we stand for without having to cancel classes, hold convocations, and stage rallies. Going about our important business would, in my opinion, be the truest expression of our community's solidarity.

Al Porterfield (March 4, 2013)

By having this whole big day of events and making such a big deal out of this situation and canceling classes, you are giving more power to this creeper racist. I'm not saying to ignore the situation but how about maybe beefing up security at night or installing some surveillance cameras around campus to record this guy instead of having everyone gather around and hold hands and sing kum bay ya.

jim bob (March 4, 2013)