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Response to Student Demands

Jan. 20, 2016

Before winter break, my office received a document written by students containing 14 pages of demands for institutional action. This document was addressed to me, Oberlin’s trustees, and our senior leadership. It was written against a backdrop of events at colleges and universities across the country, including Oberlin, that prompted passionate discussions and demonstrations related to structural and systemic racism in American higher education.

I hear the frustration and the desire for change at Oberlin contained in the document which echoes national themes and concerns about racism and justice. Oberlin College and Conservatory are deeply committed to addressing these concerns, and to ensuring an inclusive and equitable educational experience for our students.

We have already taken important steps on many fronts. But we are not where we want to be. So we must commit ourselves to deep study of how systemic barriers persist at Oberlin despite all the substantial efforts being made by our faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, parents, and fellow citizens of our town, and to act based on what we learn. I invite everyone to join us in this work.

Some of the challenges outlined in the document resonate with me and many members of our community, including our trustees. However, some of the solutions it proposes are deeply troubling. I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement. Many of its demands contravene principles of shared governance. And it contains personal attacks on a number of faculty and staff members who are dedicated and valued members of this community.

Our calling as an institution and as a community is to advance Oberlin’s academic mission. That mission is to provide our students with a broad-based, in-depth education which prepares them to flourish in their chosen fields of endeavor, to be engaged citizens, and to meet the challenges of living in our increasingly diverse, complex, and interconnected world.

Our outstanding faculty and staff provide an education second to none. Their teaching, scholarship, research, musicianship, artistry, advising, and mentoring benefit our students during their undergraduate careers and throughout their lives.

Racism and all forms of injustice hinder us from achieving our mission and must be challenged by the College wherever they undermine our goals for academic, artistic and musical excellence. Many of Oberlin’s faculty, students, staff, trustees, alumni, parents, and other stakeholders are already engaged in many efforts to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus.

Achieving these goals will only be possible if we can marshal our community’s intellectual, teaching, and creative skills to tackle the difficult challenges we face on our campus and in our nation. Throughout its history, Oberlin has evolved and grown stronger through a consensus-driven process that includes dialogue in which dissenting voices are heard. That process is central to our educational mission.

We will continue to encourage collaboration and frank conversation. We welcome the challenging, difficult, and ultimately transformative work to achieve academic, artistic, and musical excellence. I will continue to communicate with our community about opportunities to participate in these efforts. I look forward to the work and to making progress together.

It is very true that the proportion of African American students enrolled at Oberlin needs to increase, as does the faculty. In my view and experience as a teacher in inner city schools, the issue goes to the education of Black and Hispanic students, starting with kindergarten or pre-school. Until the schools are prepared and committed to providing quality public education to all children, colleges and universities will have difficulty maintaining academic standards without excluding many young people who deserve the best education. Racism is still with us as a society.

MVC (Feb. 10, 2016)

The first sentence gave a strong hint of the attitude of the document: "Oberlin College and Conservatory is an unethical institution."

I read some of the document and skimmed a bit, but the tone and attitude were clear. Extreme, uncompromising, aggressive, full of demands.

This tone makes me question its validity. (Why aren't the authors names listed?) This isn't to say there aren't legitimate issues around race that need to be examined and discussed, or that changes don't need to be made.

I know college students can be passionate in their feelings and language. I thought Pres. Krislov's response was excellent. He accepts that there is a need for dialog, but not for ultimatums.

Unwillingness to compromise has been the hallmark of Republicans in Congress for 7 years. Those on the left should not emulate that approach.

Unless Oberlin is a vastly different place than when I was a student in the late 1970s, I would expect it to be one of the more open-minded institutions of higher learning in America. Black students demand respect, and of course deserve it. But they must show respect as well. Youth and passion are no excuse. The real world doesn't work when demands replace discussion and compromise.

I wish everyone involved well in working out problems and differences with civilized, respectful, and open-minded discussions.

Eric Beldoch (Feb. 7, 2016)

The Oberlin President's response was much kinder than mine would have been. I've never witnessed a successful education program where students had oversight of basic education practices and methods. The document "demands" Oberlin make certain changes. Obviously the students haven't had a basic course in communication. Demands seldom produce results. Demands tend to get the backs up of those addressed and complicates any productive discussion. If my son, daughter or grandchild participated in this kind of activity instead of honest and old fashioned studying, I'd haul them out of school and put them to work so they would understand the value of an education instead of trying to turn it into a day care center. There is a real danger when the fox is in the hen house. Maybe Oberlin has stayed this for a while.

Mike Ridnouer (Feb. 4, 2016)

The students have legitimate concerns about higher education content. When I was at Oberlin (1965-69) I was concerned that the history and government courses, especially required courses, were skewed to western civilization and it appears they continue to be. I appreciate President Krislov's response in regard to the need for collaborative work, but he neglects to set up any concrete vehicles for beginning to address the students' demands.

Catherine Forman (Feb. 3, 2016)

I have never known Oberlin to be as limited as the black/white paradigm the student demands imply. Oberlin has a great mix of people with extraordinary stories of academic/artistic/personal challenges and accomplishments. I urge today’s Obies to take the time to get to know a wider variety of their peers (and professors) so they can share those stories.

Regarding safe spaces, I thought they were places where students identifying with a particular group could openly discuss their experiences without fear of derision, but the student petition demand for multiple exclusive ‘safe spaces’ around campus for a single group of students brings the purpose into question. All of Oberlin should be a ‘safe space’ for everyone there, in that every person should feel confident of being respected, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identification. Respect is crucial.

No one should be attacked as ‘siding with the oppressors’ because they decline to sign a petition or have their experience or heritage derided because, for example, the Holocaust was ‘just white on white crime.’ That said, no one should be ‘protected’ from having their ideas challenged either, because without that precious little education is possible.

I believe the Oberlin ethos is about a love of learning, a deep commitment to the arts and a determination to make the world a better place. There is great emphasis on the individual, but there is also a deep ethic of cooperative living. Many, if not most, Obies engage in dining, housing or biking co-ops at some point in their Oberlin experience. At the core of the co-op ethos is respectful sharing.

I hope today’s Obies will rediscover that ethos. It would help them build the partnerships and coalitions that make lasting change possible.

The student demands also include divestment from Israel. When I was a student at Oberlin there was a movement to divest from South Africa with a very strong educational component so that those of us who didn’t know much about it could learn and be persuaded by the facts. Has the campus already had an open discussion with everyone listening respectfully to both sides of Israeli/Palestinian conflict? I would love to see Palestinian and Israeli representatives of a group like The Bereaved Parents' Circle (theparentscircle.com) visit Oberlin and educate everyone about the devastating price paid by families on both sides of that conflict.

These are first steps, but if the students making demands reconnect with the ethic of cooperative living, I suspect they will find respect and perseverance can go a very long way.

— Jody Reichel (‘79)

Jody Reichel (Feb. 3, 2016)

Some of the demands were for reverse descrimination. It would seem those who wrote the demands are unaware of their own demands. Descriminating against anyone is discrimination, period.

Some demands were to place people on staff based solely on their color. I understand that there may be more people on staff at Oberlin who are not black than those who are black, but according to the US Census for 2014 for " Black or African American alone," black people are 13.2% of the population. This tells a reasonable person that in most instances there is likely to be a lower number of black people on staff (anywhere) due only to the percentage in which they make up the population. At a school of higher learning I would expect such reasoning to be typical.

Incidentally, while I know in many circles it is not Politically Correct to say "black," I use the term anyway because my black friends tell me that is the term they prefer, including one who appears black but has no African ethnicity at all. He and his family actually take offense to being called African-American.

"Black friends" is also viewed as a cliche, however, I am working on a documentary involving race with a friend of mine who is black, while I am white. We even agreed that our races will be beneficial to the creation of the project and message, as opposed to the project being done by two people of only one race. Yes, I do have black friends.

I am an admirer of Dr. King and I believe in equal rights for all. I feel more young people need to learn more about him and his message. It seems too many just know who he was without knowing his words, his message, and his actions. They view him in a light of their choosing and take on a righteousness that corrupts what he stood for. This is due to a lack of self-education about him.

I have not gone to college (I do well). Does that mean those who are in college are "privileged," or does that mean they are willing to do something I am not? This example is where the definition of "privileded" seems to be clouded to fit someone's concerns when they are not willing to do what it takes.

The authors of the demands don't seem to have an objective view of how US society works. This is demonstrated in some of their demands for which Oberlin has no power nor influence. I fear for the future of the millenials when I read things like this. Too many of them feel the world should be perfect for them right now.

Steve O. (Feb. 2, 2016)

I am disappointed that these student activists demand increased diversity at the institution in the first few paragraphs, but only make mention of black or African American students in their demands. If they truly wanted to increase diversity at the university I believe that they should have gotten the opinion of other races that attend Oberlin and made a few demands on their behalf as well. As a white female, I don't pretend to know what these students' experience is like. I do know this however, a student body made entirely up of white and black students is not diverse.

Cari F. (Feb. 2, 2016)

The president's call for COLLABORATION resonates with me. The students DEMANDS are from the old age of authoritarianism and anti authoritarianism. They remind me of the present situation with students in Greece, where I volunteer. They have managed to so disrupt the educational process that the Universities can hardly function.

Its quite amazing to me that it is the older generation such as our president who have to remind the younger generation that we have moved past the days of oppression and counter oppression! What are we teaching these youngsters if this is their way to try to get shared needs met?

I believe that we might well look at our curiculum and ask ourselves if we are teaching a bit of holistic education as well as liberal arts education.

Holistic education is the education of the future, I would like to see Oberlin pioneering in this as it has been on the leading edge of radical social change in the past. I was lucky to have sat in Finney and heard Martin Luther King articulate his vision in person for the Oberlin community.

jockm 1954

Jock Millenson, '54 (Feb. 2, 2016)

Frankly I find both the student and administration responses somewhat disheartening, if not tepid as also some other responses.

My own college experiences in the 1960s - all "progressive" schools - was good, but frustrating.

I left school in 1966 to become a journalist with the ideal not of editorializing news, but allowing people to tell their own story in words along with incontrovertible facts.

But in the following 50 years, and I'm still practicing the craft daily, I've concluded that one weakness to current American society is that, with all of our ways to learn, we instead coagulate into splinter groups exulting in our own increasingly loud feedback loops.

One commenter wrote with an obvious bit of truth, but just a bit: "What is being taught in the classroom has changed over the last 40 years, and it is your responsibility to catch up lest your antiquated reality be left behind in the dust."

Yes, it sounds only too much like Bob Dylan's The times they are a-changin."

Lessons I learned at my father's dinner table reflect that the times aren't changing.

Dad was en route to a masters in philosophy from Harvard. Yet the skin of his hands was blackened by automobile grease in a postwar career as an auto mechanic. He persevered far better than I in an academic goals where I was too rebellious in the spirit of my college days.

At the dinner table talk was Socratic: "What is virtue? How do you recognize it and how do you know what it is in order to recognize it? When is what is described as virtue, be lacking in virtue as you call it, and how can it then be considered virtuous?"

Those are questions unchanged from the time of Plato, but our education system has left it behind in favor of the crowd voices that condemned Socrates, or if one reads Xenophon as well as Plato, that offered an opportunity for a warrior who by opposing, made irrelevant the call of the "demos" not only in Athens, but still today.

Life is interesting, but since when are epistemology and ontology irrelevant as concepts in daily life? Logic? Grammar? Rhetoric, the Trivium and Quadrivium?

Yes, the Oberlin response was lukewarm. Then again, rational discussion is easily overcome by the howl of those closed feedback loops. The human voice cannot easily find an attentive ear in such noise; an institution designed to lead one out of one's own blindness does require an almost monastic dedication in an ideal far more called for than truly sought.

absit omen

milo dailey (Feb. 1, 2016)

I am curious as to the reasoning why black student leaders should get $8.20. Do white student leaders get paid? Do asian student leaders get paid? If not, I am curious as to why black student leaders should get paid. If it is to help poor students, why tie it to ethnicity?

Alexander Nielsen (Jan. 27, 2016)

As I read the comments following President Kirslov’s Response, they conveyed much anger, descriptions of problems, present and past. What I did not find were well reasoned suggestions on how we can all contribute to solutions. I attend Oberlin as a Senior Audit student. I was raised in the 50’s in Southern Florida by a “colored” nanny. I loved her and her two sons were my brothers. Yes, what my parents did was not right. All I knew was that I had a family that was closer to me than my own. I participated in the Civil Rights Movement. I was to attend Oberlin and visited during graduation. Dr. King was the commencement speaker. I was sent to Viet Nam before I could matriculate. I did not return to the U.S. for 30 years, living in Asia and the Middle East. Everywhere I lived I was a minority different from the general population. The last place I lived before returning was the Virgin Islands. I can, with confidence, state that there are no racial issues there other than those brought from the mainland. When I returned, I visited my brother in southern Florida. I made friends with many people, some of which were of color. My car was stoned and some horrible messages spray painted on it. Skip to 2013 when I began classes at Oberlin. I expected a diverse student body but found self-segregated groups. Sitting is class I watched my classmates enter and seldom were there mixed groups. This confounded me. I made friends with people I liked regardless of any differences. I had several classes with an African-American friend who is involved with student government. I ask him if we could get together and discuss race. Based on my life I had never been involved is racial situations. He agreed but shrugged his shoulders as he walked away. I said to him, “So I will always be seen as an older white man.” His answer was yes. Should that be happening at Oberlin? During the meeting held at Finny during the racial/religious problems, the question was proffered, “What is the difference between unity and solidarity?” There was really no definitive answer. I leave you with this: UNITY IS WHEN DIVERESE GROUPS COME TOGETHER FOR A COMMON GOAL. WHEN THAT GOAL IS REACHED, THE UNIT DISOLVES INTO ITS DIVERESE GROUPS. SOLIDARITY IS WHEN DIVERESE GROUPS SET ASIDE THEIR DIFFERENCES AND COME TOGTHER TO FORM A UNIT WITH A SINGLE SHARED IDENTITY. At Oberlin, as everywhere, there are diverse groups based on any number of things. We can unite for many common goals but solidarity means we set our differences aside and become part of a single unit, Oberlin College. Solidarity means being an Obie. Personally I want to know exactly what I can do to begin correcting the problems enumerated in the responses. I will take any action. Someone tell me what do.

Larry Tunison (Jan. 26, 2016)

I commend the president's respectful, thoughtful, yet firm response to the protesting students. Many of the demands were so risible as to not merit a serious, specific response, and I am glad the president did not stoop to offer such. By declining to do so, he has exercised his role as an educator. It's up to the students to discern the lesson.

Dave hallinan (Jan. 25, 2016)

Sounds like the Oberlin I remember with love. Outspoken students raising important issues in sometimes untactful ways.

DAVID W ROBINSON (Jan. 25, 2016)

My hope is that this document will be seen as a gift for all privileged to read it, and hopefully will evoke positive action in response. I believe it is a harbinger of things to come.

We, current Oberlin leadership and alums, cannot afford to be unreceptive to it. The writers need to be heard, listened to; their demands met, if not to the letter, at least to the spirit, with recognition of the long-buried truths that lie between its lines. It is not only for them, the writers, that we would be responding in this manner, but also for ourselves, for all of us who have to admit we have much to learn and unlearn, as we begin to penetrate the depths of our own deeply imbedded racism. “Demand” is about as strong a word as we have in our language; “demand” goes beyond pleading, more like the Spanish verb exigir (cf English exigency), for me reflecting the impossibility of getting from where we are without responding to what is demanded with action. The threat lies in what happens to all of us, collectively, if we do not listen and act on what we hear. We are not giving in to them; we are all together working out our own liberation.

Since the ‘50’s, I’ve worked with diverse, economically disadvantaged populations in our inner cities, immigrants struggling for a life in our country, and many others from oppressed communities. I’ve benefitted by their presence in my life and from collaboration with them, as well as from the enlightenment of both academia and less formal, oppression-related educational experiences. But it was not until I’d retired from professional life and been blessed with opportunities that have forced me to look more deeply, that I’ve begun to see how much further I need to go. I need to be willing every day to re-examine what I’ve thought of as well-principled premises, to be challenged by those with the conscience and love and hope to do so, to see how my own liberation is inextricably tied to theirs.

I can only imagine the feelings of President Krislov, who has dedicated so much of his professional life to making educational institutions more welcoming and inclusive, at receiving a document like this. Please, go to a White Privilege Conference, study Donald Wing Sue’s Overcome Our Racism, join Showing Up For Racial Justice; find some means to call the entire Oberlin community to accountability in this challenging time in our history.

Please, let us all accept, welcome, the gift of this document and respond in kind, by doing our best to respond to the cry of our students who have demanded our response. Let us do so for all of our sakes. We needn’t fault ourselves for being slow learners, as long as we do respond, now! Let us not reject an amazing opportunity. Responding to these demands will be costly, but failing to do so will cost us for generations to come. “Ten thousand strong,” let’s do this thing, for all of us! --Betsy Lamb

Betsy Lamb (Jan. 25, 2016)

Thank god the president didnt fold! So many university leaders have fallen to the illiberal wing of the progressive movement. Being against racism, sexism, and injustice in general does NOT mean one has to throw away all tenets of democracy, such as free speech and academic freedom.

Natalie (Jan. 25, 2016)

I currently have 13 members on my staff. All of them are Hispanic women. Slightly less than half have college degrees and the others do not. For most of them, life is a struggle - as it is for many people in today's economy.

Anyone attending college, especially a school with Oberlin's reputation, is privileged. VERY privileged in the case of Oberlin. I think that a greater sense of humility and thankfulness would be appropriate.

I don't think the people who wrote the DEMANDS reflect the type of people I want to hire. It's a shame that all students at Oberlin (and Yale and Claremont and all of the other universities being targeted) are being saddled with the negative publicity created by the few. But that is life. You will hopefully have many years on this Earth to learn this lesson.

Jeff Durbin (Jan. 25, 2016)

There is a protocol for publicly distributing a signed document, while keeping the names of those who signed it confidential. If, for example, the document of demands had been signed by, say, 6 students, 1 faculty, and 2 others, the protocol calls for the document to have the following disclosure:

“Signed by: Six students One faculty Two others”

Since Oberlin College did not put this disclosure on the demands document, there were no signatures, and no disclosure was needed.

Floyd L. Smith (Jan. 25, 2016)

I am surprised at the requests from alumni in the comments that students be kicked out. Many of these demands are directly in the spirit of what Oberlin is about. While you may not like their demands and their choice of language, you cannot deny that there are quite a few elements within these demands that are worth discussion (e.g. increasing minimum wage, ending trespassing list, better community relations, renovation of the Afrikan Heritage House, more professors and staff members of color. . to name a few). I encourage President Krislov and the Board to collaborate with students, faculty, alumni and the community to create a more welcoming environment for all students. I am willing to participate in any group that looks at this list with a sincere desire to improve the climate on Oberlin's campus. While all demands may not be met, making a sincere effort to address these grievances will go a long way in making all groups feel more welcome on campus.

Leah Hunter '92 (Jan. 25, 2016)

Positive change is much more likely to come from reasoned argument than from unconditional demands. Doubtless there are things at Oberlin that need fixing, change, updating, whatever. Perhaps some of the ideas in the 14 page student manifesto qualify. But I doubt the drafter or drafters are interested in negotiated change, and I think it would be a bad idea to start down that path with them. It is not clear to me whether the authors of the manifesto in fact signed it. If they did not, that is even more reason to leave them out of the formal discussion of what more, if anything, should be done in the near term to make Oberlin a more “diverse, equitable and inclusive campus.” Bob Service ‘58

Bob Service (Jan. 24, 2016)

When two student pranksters created a totally false impression about Oberlin College, they were expelled. Here we have a document that explicitly defames some current employees of the college, as well as making some accusations totally devoid of evidence to support them. Furthermore, all alumni who continue to support Oberlin financially have "skin in the game." I believe that the student (s) who wrote this may be more satisfied if they pursued their education at some other college or university. If Oberlin College is so oppressive to students of color, then mandatory severance, as what happened to the two white student pranksters, would be appropriate for these authors. While there is always the need for self-improvement, there are always some student actions that are beyond the pale. This list of DEMANDS, with its threat of consequences if Oberlin reacts inadequately, falls into that category. While Oberlin was correct in not naming the students, President Krislov could have been much more forceful in rejecting these demands.

Ben Sevitch '60

Ben Sevitch '60 (Jan. 24, 2016)

One commenter remarked that older alumni "have no skin in the game." As one who has contributed to Oberlin's annual fund over the years I can attest that this is simply not true. In fact, in my particular case, I have continued to support Oberlin despite having dropped out of Oberlin not once but twice and eventually taking my degree at a public institution. That is how much I value my Oberlin experience.

In recent years Oberlin has provided a means for donations to be applied to specific programs. I would propose that Oberlin consider adding a new category to its annual fund request check off list. Call it something like "student initiatives". Provide for an open discussion among the students as to how the funds will be allocated each year and let the current student body engage in a very real exercise in social democracy.

FredBrandes (Jan. 24, 2016)

After re-reading the Black Students manifesto, I would like to offer what I hope will be seen as constructive suggestions. 1. When you make a list of people who, in your opinion,should be fired, you should not be surprised if THEY DON'T LIKE IT. If a lawyer feels that he can prove that they have been harmed, they may bring suit. 2. Your comments about Israel are not supported by any material in your manifesto. How does this demand relate to Oberlin? Maybe you should skip this issue. 3. Your interest in re-habbing local prisoners is heart-warming but most certainly far beyond your skill-set. I suggest you skip this item as well. Good Luck, Ron Greim '57/'58

Ron Greim '57/'58 (Jan. 23, 2016)


I read the demands closely. As someone who believes that Oberlin can and should do better with respect to its African-American students, I think I have some understanding – albeit the white-male version, since that’s who I am – of some of the issues and root causes of the issues raised in the demand letter. AsI am someone who has endowed and is continuing to increase the endowment of a scholarship intended for black men who are NOT among those who are the “usual suspects” sought after by every other institution, I am not satisfied where this institution is and certainly not satisfied with where our society is. There is no question in my mind that institutional racism is systemic and pervasive.

Given that, here’s my question: How am I supposed to attribute credibility to an unsigned manifesto that purports to speak for “the Africana community” but – for all we know in this high-tech age may be the positions held by three people, or even a single person – or even, possibly, a single WHITE person? Maybe a single white person who wants to inflame the college community AGAINST its black students?

I’ll put aside rhetoric that does not appear to be designed to maximize the chances of achieving the demands set forth in the manifesto, though that makes me wonder if this document might be a ruse.

So I’m suggesting this: Demanding what you really want is good. Blunt speaking is good, or at least a good place to start. Speaking your truth is good. But, assuming that this document is the real thing, WHEN YOU DON’T SAY WHO YOU ARE, you defeat the very purpose of your demands, because no one knows WHOSE demands they really are.

Thousands of people came forward, with their names and identification, to support the causes of human rights in the United States, often at personal risk to themselves. From Dashiell Hammett and Dalton Trumbo to H. Rap Brown and Russell Means, people demanding change have stood before their opponents naked in their true identities, ready to pay for the consequences of their speech.

Given these and many other histories, it’s very hard for me to give any credibility to a document until the true authors of the document state who they are.

Richard Zitrin ‘68

Richard Zitrin (Jan. 23, 2016)

Some of you all would benefit from reading this: The Cost of Balancing Academia and Racism.



Current Student (Jan. 23, 2016)

Folks, there is a bottom line. The students are right. Or, I should say, the chances that they are wrong are miniscule, given the racialized structure of this country. Oberlin may handle white privilege better than other colleges; it may be somewhat more aware of the way white supremacy works; it has at times taken distinctly anti-racist positions. In fact, however, Oberlin could be the best college for students of color, and the students would still be right. And they are contributing to the most important movement for racial justice this country has seen in half a century. Thanks to BlackLivesMatter, we could be edging toward a change that, in bringing racial and economic justice closer to reality, would benefit all but the 'One Percent.' Whiteness, in the aftermath of Bacon's Rebellion, was invented to divide and rule unfree, angry, and exploited African, English, and Native American laborers, and it has been used that way ever since. It will continue to be used that way until we get rid of racial inequality. In the face of a health care system that has been declared to contravene the UN Convention on Racism, of a 'justice' system that is anything but just, in the face of a racist backlash against the presence of a black President, with the burning of black churches, the relative impunity with which unarmed young men and women of color are killed by agents of the state, and the way subtle and not so subtle racism is being used by presidential candidates to delude large numbers into supporting policies that would benefit none but the 'One Percent,' in the face of the mass incarceration and detention of black and brown people, in the face of all this, does it make sense to ask the students for 'rational discourse?' And does it make sense that this call for 'rational discourse,' rather than calls for institutional soul-searching, should be the most common response of Oberlin graduates? Should the students be polite, so that power holders are comfortable? Or do we need both polite discoursers and in-your-face demanders? Would Dr. Martin Luther King have gained the white support it took to dislodge the 1950s version of Jim Crow without the Malcolm Xs, the rioters, the Black Panthers, so that Dr. King became the lesser of two evils in many white eyes? This is not to malign Dr. King and his insights, which were very real. Nor am I saying that the Oberlin students who felt compelled to make these demands are 'threatening' in the physical sense that some commenters seem to imply. I am saying, however, that politeness will never overturn white supremacy, and the patronizing tone of many of the responses, and of the Oberlin president, are inappropriate. Oberlin can return to a position of leadership on matters of racial justice, but, as always in movement toward justice and equality, if it does, it will be thanks to the impolite kicking it receives from the angriest of its constituents.

Pem Davidson Buck, '68

Pem Davidson Buck '68 (Jan. 23, 2016)

It was a distinct privilege for us to have been selected to attend Oberlin many years ago, and to have graduated four years later. It is our observation that Oberlin is way ahead of the curve in accommodating the needs and wants of all students, particularly those of color. The demands of the dissident students are deplorable and we heartily endorse Dr. Krislov's reaction. We suggest that the aggrieved students be separated from Oberlin as soon as practicable so that the focus on education can be rekindled.

lib ('51) and les ('51) sherrill (Jan. 23, 2016)

I support President Krislov 100% in his reasoned and humane response to these outrageous demands. I don't know what the atmosphere is like at Oberlin today, but during my four years on campus, by far the most racism I experienced was in the form of African-American students isolating themselves from the rest of the student community when the bulk of the student body wanted constructive engagement. I was even asked to leave a dining hall (where I just wanted to get some ice cream) because of the pale color of my skin. The mood at Oberlin today is probably reflecting the overall mood in the nation as people of all ethnicities are suffering the effects of economic dislocation and technological change, but this does not excuse the over-the-top demands by African-American students.

Robert Naeye, '85 (Jan. 23, 2016)

Sadly, these DEMANDS, with an unspecified ultimatum, are presented in a way that conveys the notion that they are nonnegotiable. It is sad because in reflects what is happening in the society around us and the political and religious polarization that increasingly characterizes our public statements. Democracy is based on the principals of negotiation in good faith and ultimately compromises that both parties can agree to and support. Positions buttressed by ideologies are not negotiable and only serve to increase the alienation between groups. I would hope that an education that Oberlin provides would lead its students and graduates to learn tolerance for differing points of view and a willingness to engage in constructive dialogue with those who hold different views.

Alan Mather, '52 (Jan. 23, 2016)

I was going to comment, but Kent Jones expressed my thoughts admirably. Amen to him and his thoughtful view.

BonTonA (Jan. 23, 2016)

I am not associated with Oberlin. However, I am moved to comment, because the views and vision discussed in my website deal with the basic issue. Nannie Helen Burroughs was a mentor to Dr. King. As a religious, civil rights and educational leader, she taught our children How to think, not What to think. Please see Burroughs' views on race in America at www.nburroughsinf.org. Are her views relevant today, and are they more in line with those of your president or the presidents of Princeton, Dartmouth, Missouri and Oklahoma Universities?

Colonel (US Army, Ret) James Wyatt (Jan. 23, 2016)

I encourage alumni who are accusing these current students of being sanctimonious to check their own sanctimony. While many of the students' demands were illogical at best and absurd at worst, much of what they want fits into the goals of Oberlin being a socially progressive institution. If their tone and scope offends, remember that they are still students. I will be the first to admit that as a student, my own budding social activism did not always lead to the results I intended.

Oberlin is a space where we got to explore, make mistakes, and make changes. Give current students the benefit of the doubt, and allow them to do the same. Remember that their Oberlin experience is not ours. We can defend our alma mater, but we shouldn't tear down our soon-to-be fellow alumni.

Jacob Myers '12 (Jan. 23, 2016)

For the most part our alumni's comments on this emotionally charged issue have been civil, reasoned and constructive. How unlike that is to many of the Comments in other public fora; after op-eds, or letters-to-the editor, to name but two. Why is that?

I'd like to think it's because we Obies are educated; rational, open, and tolerant of diverse opinions.

On reflection, I believe it's more apt to be because there's no option to "Like" someone, or reflexively hurl invective at another's comments. Is there a valuable lesson about the mechanics of our public discourse to be learned here?

Dana Wilson, M.D., '57 (Jan. 23, 2016)

Those who submitted the demands raise issues that are worthy of deliberation, debate and corrective action if justified. These issues come under well-established governance processes that should allow voices for students, faculty, administration and alumni.

The authors of this document, in contrast, appear not to be interested in process. They tell President Krislov that he must comply with their demands—or else. The demanders threaten a “full and forceful response” if they are not satisfied. Oberlin College should not be making decisions under a cloud of intimidation and threatened violence.

Those of us who thought we received a good education at Oberlin, and have supported it financially, are now instructed to be ashamed of this “unethical” institution. Nothing short of a root-and-branch transformation of the college, including “direct oversight” by the Black community over the College’s curriculum, financial and hiring decisions, can redeem Oberlin College from its white supremacist ways.

Awarding instant tenure to a group of faculty based on their race or political views would be an insult to these faculty members, as it implies they would not receive tenure based on the merits of their own cases. The faculty role in these decisions, a long-standing American tradition that supports faculty first amendment rights, would be effectively eliminated. Furthermore, summarily dismissing employees based on alleged misconduct would be equally objectionable, if not illegal.

I do not question the sincerity of the demanders’ views, but if these students are that unhappy with Oberlin College, they need to go elsewhere. Perhaps there are Jazz departments that are more aligned with their preferences. Otherwise they should harness such a strong surge in college reformist sentiment to found a new college that will correct the ills they describe. Rooting out the underlying capitalist evils from society will of course require broader efforts. In the meantime, the stakeholders of Oberlin College include others besides this group of demanders who will also demand a voice in the future of the institution. The alternative the demanders seem to have in mind is perhaps something along the lines of a strike or other direct action to shut the College down. If this is the plan, then I will remind them of the ill-conceived campus strike at Antioch College in 1973, sparked by protests not unlike those contained in the present set of demands. The result was the decline and eventual shut-down of Antioch. Colleges in the capitalist United States operate on the basis of delivering a quality education in exchange for tuition. Too bad, perhaps, but efforts to uproot this system are more likely to drive colleges into bankruptcy than to effect any meaningful change.

Or the students can choose to engage in a dialogue and explore what can happen as a result of shared governance. But this approach is based on tolerance being a two-way street.

Kent Jones, ‘76

kentalbertjones (Jan. 22, 2016)

I'll confess to being shocked by the long list of demands, and very appreciative of President Krislov's response. Reading through the demands made me cringe with recollection of the sanctimoniousness that I and many of my peers demonstrated in our own college years (1969-73). At some point while all the anti-war and other protests were going on, I recognized that a few people's egos were swelling out of proportion and making them say things simply to be provoking. It's a hard line to hold, and youth encourages extremism. I am optimistic that open and realistic conversation will help all of us continue to grow.

It will also be helpful, I think, to work on a few specific requests that might demonstrate the college's seriousness. Wages? Open process for tenure?

Pax, Lynn Kelly '73

Lynn J. Kelly (Jan. 22, 2016)

In regards to demand 6 under Academics and Curriculum has anyone attempted to avail themselves of the non curriculum languages and cultures learning possibilities presented by the Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures?

It would seem to me that a robust program or effort through the auspices of the OCLC would substantiate the argument for a department that focuses on the languages of Africana peoples.

As I poke about the Oberlin website I am finding it difficult to believe that some of the issues raised in the demands document have been consciously ignored or down played by the institution.

FredBrandes (Jan. 22, 2016)

"We will continue to encourage collaboration and frank conversation."

Some, as yet unidentified group of people, have made a lengthy series of demands and promised consequences if these demands are not met.

It appears to me that President Krislov, by posting the his response here, has laid down the gauntlet in the gentlest and most logical way possible.

Have the folks making demands painted themselves into a corner? Are they going to stay silent? Are they too proud of their position to come to the table? Or will they pick up the guantlet and attempt to move forward?

I for one, would like to hear about the facts behind the demand for increased wages and benefits for the townspeople who are employed by the college. Is there a current minimum wage? What are the benefits associated with employment? It is easy to talk in generalities but action usually comes from a discussion of specifics (as Mr. Smith has pointed out in his post regarding Oberlin's budget).

FredBrandes (Jan. 22, 2016)

I read this response. I read the demands as well (a link the The Chronicle). I am concerned about the issues addressed. But I am also concerned about language used in the demands which is not used in the response from the president. The use of adjectives and/or epithets which connote negative imagery also bring about negative response (e.g., imperialist). In my years I have noticed that the use of such quickly divides and galvanizes, making it harder for dialogue and progress. How much dialogue there is and will be, how much progress and how fast it occurs, sadly, will be hindered. Perhaps the use of such is seen as warranted -- part of the exuberance of youth.

Now, as one of multi-ethnic background, I also detect in the demands almost a sense of desire to withdraw from the community or make the community afri-centric (e.g., desire for black safe places in and what seems only blacks to interact with in offices (I could be wrong on that one)). I also got the impression that jazz, or the best jazz, can only be identified by those who are black. Bringing in black faculty and only black students from Africa, Caribbean, etc. also seems a little one-sided (let alone is complex regarding recruitment, qualifications, and finances). What about other ethnic groups? Should they not be included as well? (e.g., Latino or Asian).

But, again, that is just my limited perception of what I have read. I hope they are able to sit and talk with each other and not at each other.

T. Benson (Jan. 22, 2016)

What saddens me is that in all of these comments, many of them coming from tenured professors and college presidents, I have not seen a single mention of the well-documented cases of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Anthony Hill, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, or any of the countless other (black) individuals who have been killed by police or died in police custody. These were societal atrocities which fly in the face of any notion of racial justice in America. The silence – and not only silence, but silence-ing – on the part of the commenters, many of whom make up the donors who keep Oberlin running, is deeply troubling. Failing to place these demands within this larger context, and instead all-too-hastily judging them as examples of "affluenza" or spoiled brats throwing a tantrum, is a sign of a deep complacency and lack of commitment to the values they profess, and, once again, points to the necessity of the demands made by the students.

Austin Emerson ('12) (Jan. 22, 2016)

I agree with my fellow alums that President Krislov's response was vague and appears that he wants to have it both ways. I always told my students that actions have consequences. Collegiality is good and positive; demands and threats are not.

Ben Sevitch '60 (Jan. 22, 2016)

It’s important for everyone to understand the broad constraints on what Oberlin’s administration and board can do. There are two overriding constraints. Expenditures can’t exceed income. And Oberlin must attract applications from high school seniors who have the high level of capabilities needed for Oberlin to continue to be an outstanding college and conservatory.

The budget is already balanced. If a new expense is added, say a new faculty member in the Jazz Department, where will the money come from to pay that additional expense? Existing income is already committed to pay existing expenses.

The main sources of income are tuition payments, gifts, and income from the endowment. All of these sources are vulnerable to decline. Tuition income will decline if Oberlin becomes less attractive to high school seniors who meet Oberlin’s standards and who can also pay tuition. Gifts will decline if alums and other contributors feel Oberlin is less deserving of their support. Endowment income is subject to changes in the financial markets and to reduction of the amount of earning assets in the endowment resulting from using endowment money to pay expenses.

The quality of education provided by Oberlin, the campus environment, the level of tuition, and Oberlin’s financial soundness are critical to preventing Oberlin from gradually deteriorating. They will determine whether Oberlin receives the flow of applications it needs and the gifts it needs.

Someway Oberlin needs to teach its students the economics of running the college. This would help them be a positive force on campus, and deter them from damaging Oberlin with future impossible demands.

Floyd L. Smith (Jan. 22, 2016)

I am 77 years old and have admired Oberlin since I learned about it 60 years ago. Oberlin has for many decades been a leader in American higher education - in scholarship, in music, and of course, in the values it espouses. Whatever the outcome of this current situation, I believe it is important for the Oberlin community to remember what it has meant (and still means) to hundreds of other colleges and universities - a college with a conscience, a college with clear commitments, a college with high standards, and a college with courage. Oberlin has been for me a prime example of a college with high principles, and I urge you to find ways to remain true to these principles while openly engaging with your students, faculty, and alumni.

Arthur Sandeen (Jan. 22, 2016)

Thank you for sharing the unsigned demands document and President Krislov’s response. Some of the demands suggest important areas where common ground could be found. I was under the impression that various on-going multi-party workgroups were in process on campus to address some of these underlying issues. If this is the case, were the authors of the demand document part of these processes? Or, did they withdraw because of lack of tangible progress? Or, did they choose to fight rather than search for common ground? Are they speaking for the bulk of current students of color at Oberlin?

While some of their issues clearly have merit, others are not supported by information in the document for a reader to understand. I understand divestment from prisons, but surely not blanket divestment from Israel. Multiparty communications are essential (the demands suggest to me breakdown and insufficient trusted avenues to check out accurate information). Culturally relevant mental health services are critical. Violence has no place on the Oberlin campus. As I scan the document, I see a number of areas in which practical initiatives can be taken, using practices of active conflict resolution.

I hope people in the larger Oberlin community remember that there are real issues in our society and that Oberlin is not immune. I agree with the alum who wrote yesterday reminding people to read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

I’m proud to be an Oberlin College grad (’62) and expect to hear more as students, concerned faculty, staff, and townies engage in constructive problem-solving. We all have so much to learn as we listen to experiences of others and seek together to improve our common lives in this world.

Beth Ferguson '62

Elizabeth J. Ferguson (Jan. 22, 2016)

All this discussion of race at Oberlin has stirred memories from the 50's. As a white student, I was not aware of any negativity toward black students. However, I discovered that the town had definite strictures toward blacks. I was told by an adult member of the College staff that a black applicant would never be hired by a business in Oberlin. I also did an unintended survey when I frequented a beer joint on the west edge of the city (Presti's) (possibly just outside the city-limits) which served real beer (not 3.2) and wine. (I must have had a fake ID) I never observed a black customer there despite my checking as often as I could. I assume (hope) that the attitudes/actions of the TOWNIES have improved. Ron Greim '57/'58

Ron Greim '57/'58 (Jan. 22, 2016)

With all its faults, I believe that America is the greatest country in the world. With even more certainty, I believe that Oberlin College is this country's finest institution. In America and at Oberlin, far too many young and old people are committed to the pursuit of a much better world to fail. Celebrate this day.

Booker C. Peek, MAT Class of 1966, Emeritus Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Oberlin College

Booker C. Peek (Jan. 22, 2016)

I signed my name to my comment. In today's society there is far too much that remains purposefully hidden and far too little of the transparency that so many laud.

We see it with Citizens United, with feet dragging on FOIA requests, with the constant media spin tactics of politicans, corporations and government agencies.

I would suggest that anyone who expects their comments to be treated seriously should make their identity clear. Respect for privacy is a wonderful thing but I believe it has no place in a public conversation.

To those who have pointed out that the demands were originally posted with a supporting petition that has now been removed from public view I would suggest that they ask the authors of the document and the petition to make the petition public once again. The argument underlying the Citizens United ruling should not be accepted or rejected as one finds it convenient to one's personal situation.

FredBrandes (Jan. 22, 2016)

President Krislov's response seems positive, but I fear that it indicates an intention to hide behind the notion that collaboration must precede action. "What happens to a dream deferred...?"

Katherine Bradley Johnson (Jan. 22, 2016)

Black educators need to be created before they can be recruited. There just aren't that many out there that have the academic credentials that one would want to staff Oberlin with. Those that exist largely have positions already, and it would likely be prohibitively expensive to recruit more than a couple per decade. Having been a professional that has been recruited on occasion, there are times when money is not adequate to dislodge one from an existing professional situation. Non-monetary issues would likely keep the majority where they are currently.

One could wish for a bazillion dollars to throw at accumulating all of black academia into a single square mile, but it would break the institution to even try to accomplish that proposed mission. The true mission of the institution is to provide excellent and inclusive education to all colors of people, with affordable resources. Recall that it was not so long ago that Oberlin was the most expensive private college in America. This action plan will not help that situation one bit. I truly wish what I wrote here was wrong, but wishing won't make it so.

Robert Oelhaf (Jan. 22, 2016)

I remember vividly an occurrence in my "Music Theory for College Students" course at Oberlin. The course surprised me by its focus on non-traditional approaches to the subject matter that included analyzing different sound waves on an oscilloscope, each of us developing our own meta-theory of music, and composing our own musical pieces. I was expecting more like the study of an AABA structure (or is it ABAB or both or neither?) in classical music.

Another student expected the latter too, and loudly expressed his dissatisfaction with the course content during one classroom session. Oh, and he was black, a fact that I did not view as especially significant in that context.

I think one (not the only) laudable goal should be to get to a place where immutable characteristics, such as race, be integrated into our essential humanity, where race and everything else we can think of is taken into account in celebrating our differences and uniqueness as individuals.

If this goal is worthwhile, these DEMANDS are counterproductive. Aside from the immaturity in their tone, they emphasize blackness at the expense of a more global sense of diversity. Had this been the prevailing sentiment when I was a student at Oberlin, my reaction to my dissatisfied classmate's comments would have been filtered very differently, and not in a productive way.

I accept the premise that a dialogue about race and racism is urgently needed at Oberlin--and everywhere else. The DEMANDS represent a clumsy and ineffective way to get going.

Doug Powers '77 (Jan. 22, 2016)

The promise of a "forceful" response if some 50-odd demands are not met can only be characterized as a threat highly inappropriate in any context, no less at an academic institution. Obviously, OC has some complicity here, but it's probably not where the demanding students would place it. I would find considerable responsibility in a flawed admissions process; it is difficult to imagine how a large group of individuals with avowedly racist orientations could gain access to the OC community if it were otherwise. The alternative is that there is something inherent in the campus experience that is transforming open-minded students into intemperate bigots. So far I've heard no evidence to support that, and as a result I favor the first explanation.

William Natale, 1969 (Jan. 22, 2016)

Reading through the demands moved me. Recruitment, academics, financial health and so on... it touched on so many critical aspects comprehensively. Many things could be enacted right away even within the current shape of the institution. It's no secret that the Conservatory is old school and that the Jazz Department threatens its imperialist roots. Black history and music should be part of everyone's curriculum, and the Jazz Department is a center for Black Empowerment and Pride. Krislov should show his commitment to "concerns about racism and justice" by accepting some easily-implemented demands immediately. Then I think Alum and students are more inclined to believe that he is here to facilitate necessary changes to an old institution. And what about the Conservatory's response? Let's recruit more black female musicians in the Jazz Department, have Black Financial Aid Advisors, Black Student Health Administrators, a networking for Black and African students at Orientation. And so on! If you haven't read the full list, you should.

Lil Boots - Class of 13 (Jan. 22, 2016)

This response is vague.

Admittedly, it does its job very well. I cannot possibly criticize anything Krislov has said here. Of course I support working for equality. Of course I support academic, artistic, and musical excellence.

The point remains that the students who wrote and signed the petition put forth clear demands, and Krislov has responded with vagueness.

I see comments critiquing how the students were vague, how the demands were not thought through. But when I read Krisolv's response, all I see are promises of effort with no specifics, no direct responses to any of the students' concerns--frankly, no respect.

Academic, artistic, and musical excellence are all wonderful goals.

Moral excellence, social excellence, excellence of honor, and excellence of equality are all superior virtues. I wish Krislov spoke more of them.

Taylor "TJ" Hobart (they/them/theirs) (Jan. 21, 2016)

I am guessing that the signatures were left off of the linked document out of respect for the students. When the original signatures doc was online and publicly accessible in December, certain unfortunate corners of the internet were bragging about harvesting the personal information contained therein. As I recall, students weren't too happy about that. So maybe, just maybe, the signatures were left off here to avoid a repeat.

B (Jan. 21, 2016)

Alum: As a current student, I think that you are receiving a very one-sided view of things. Are you aware that students have been trying to engage in "collaboration and frank conversation" for many years, and have been totally disregarded and patronized by the administration? This letter is a clear example of this; Black students at Oberlin, particularly ABUSUA, spent a lot of time and energy making a very specific and detailed list of demands. This response to those demands is incredibly vague and does nothing to address the very real issues they brought up.

Also, I would like to note that hundreds of students of all backgrounds signed this list of demands to show support. The petition with signatures has conveniently been left out of this response, but do not assume that you are being given the whole picture.

KA (Jan. 21, 2016)

Well of course they DEMAND, they're students, aren't they? When I was a student I would never have dreamed of SUGGESTING that Oberlin take an "institutional stand against the war in Vietnam". (Whatever the heck that meant.)

I think any fair-minded, reasonably progressive person could look at the list of demands and identify truly excellent ones (like the improvement in wages and conditions of campus workers and the ones that expand the educational range that Oberlin offers-- like African and Caribbean languages-- and ones that expand support for internships of students with financial need), cosmetic but harmless ones (renaming buildings-- oh why not?), worthy but perhaps almost impossible to achieve demands (do the students have any idea what African-American PhD production is like? how about making them take an oath to promise to go to grad school and get a PhD?) and a few ridiculous and even hurtful ones.

I hope President Krislov continues his excellent initial response by working resolutely with the Oberlin community to implement as many of the reasonable demands as quickly as is feasible.

There is no point in negotiating with folks who start out by saying there is nothing to negotiate. And much of the tone reflects identity politics at their worst. But that doesn't mean that a lot of what they "demand" isn't worth doing.

(Oh-- and about that food thing. Fuhgeddaboudit. Do you think every time I see, when traveling in the Heartland, a blueberry dough-blob shaped like a bagel I flip out and shout Oy Vey, culinary misappropriation?)

Good luck, Oberlin.

David Arnow, Class of 1973 (Jan. 21, 2016)

Dear President Krislov,

Thank you so much for demonstrating leadership and respect for your position. I am from Ohio. We grew up proud of having the Underground Railroad in Ohio and specifically Lexington, Ohio. My great grandmother was a graduate of Oberlin. I myself graduated from The OSU. I always found Ohio to be very inclusive, very kind, loving, creative, generous, and welcoming state. I am opposed to the misplaced aggression and false accusations that are pummeling our universities and belittling our character. Where is this hate coming from? Why are these people being permitted to threaten innocent people? Who is encouraging these young people to make these false accusations? I hope to see you represent the honor and dignity that has me be proud to be an Ohioan. These false accusations and threatened assaults on our fabric have to stop.

Product of the Great State of Ohio (Jan. 21, 2016)

Common sense based on any human experience should dictate that demanding respect leads to a lack of respect in those from whom it is demanded. It does not require a degree from any school to comprehend the silliness of these students' attack. 14 pages of nonsense is hard to take seriously, and President Krislov is very kind not to laugh it off.

FH, class of '10

Fiona Hughes (Jan. 21, 2016)

Several thoughts and questions have come to me in the day or so since I read the demands document and the response. In no particular order...

The demands are made on behalf of the Africana community but there is no indication that the demands were made by the Africana community. The demands are unsigned and unattributed to any specific person, group or organization. This casts doubt on the document's claim to represent the Africana community. It also makes it difficult to engage in any meaningful and productive conversation with the authors of the document.

The tone of the document reminds me of the tone of many "conversations" going on in this country at the moment. Us against them, my way or the highway, I'm right therefore you are wrong, compromise is to betray one's cause, etc. I believe that such a tone serves no one's goals and only inflames the situation and hardens the hearts of those in a position to do something constructive. I think that President Krislov has done an admirable job in attempting to change the tone of the conversation the document has initiated.

One of the exercises my daughter was given as a freshman in high school was to write a short essay outlining something she wanted from her parents. The essay was to include responses to questions and objections she thought we were likely to have regarding the request. Becoming a parent at a rather advanced age I am continually surprised by how much more advanced the educational system seems to have become and this assignment impressed me deeply. I plan to watch the unfolding story of the student demands and I plan to show my daughter the document as an example of how not to advance one's agenda.

Fred Brandes (Jan. 21, 2016)

How do we know this was even written by Oberlin students? How could the college be expected to respond if we don't even know if a single Oberlin student is among the authors?

John C. (Jan. 21, 2016)

I'm not associated with Oberlin, but don't these students need to be concentrating on their education? Reading through the document, I think they need to do that instead of spending their time in activism.

Lee Crittenden (Jan. 21, 2016)

I am heartsick at hearing about these demands. Martin Luther King would also be heartsick. These students want to be judged on the color of their skin, not on their character. I am so grateful that I attended Oberlin in the '50s. I loved Oberlin for its variety of students who all mingled together. I had black and white, Christian and Jewish friends. We're all humans under the skin, and we belong together, not in separate groups.

Jane Coryell (Jan. 21, 2016)

Good Luck one and all. Perhaps 2016 will end on a more positive note for those of you directly involved in and affected by the turmoil on campus, I hope for everyone's sake it does. As noted by others, we alumni living elsewhere may deeply care, but we aren't there, so thus the good luck wish from me (and likely no more comments).

Martin Hochman '62 (Jan. 21, 2016)

The African American students of Oberlin college are to be commended for the courage and intrepidity to pen such a challenging document. Might it be suggested that their case could be further strengthened by co opting faculty and staff.

Dr. Japhet M. Zwana (Jan. 21, 2016)

I commend President Krislov. I am troubled by the constant publicity Oberlin receives over what students perceive as injustices and inequality at a school that has an excellent track record of promoting diversity. Are things really this bad on campus? While I believe in freedom of speech, you still can't yell "fire" in a theater if there isn't one.

Allen Class of '74 (Jan. 21, 2016)

Congratulations to President Krislov for walking a fine line in his response. I am appalled at the communal effort that has gone into responding to these intemperate demands, both by the President and those commenting here. We are all imperfect, as individuals and institutions, with room for improvement. But I find it ironic, that of all the institutions in this country the authors of the letter have chosen Oberlin to attack in this way. How are they going to survive after Oberlin (assuming they graduate) when they are going to find real problems in racial and gender equality? They would be well-advised to start now to develop those skills in logical thinking, constructive criticism, advocacy presentation and cooperative persuasion that will be necessary to make a difference where it really counts!

Robert H Palmer, MD. '53 (Jan. 21, 2016)

I think President Krislov's response is the appropriate response.

After reading the students' missive, it occurred to me that a course on conflict resolution should be required at freshman orientation.

Andy Zvara (Jan. 21, 2016)

I reread the demands document. It’s unbelievable that group with a bona fide expectation of creating change would write such a document.

However, it is believable that someone would write this document who wanted to cause turmoil, get attention, and revel in the results. They’ve been very successful and are greatly enjoying the entries on this blog.

Floyd L. Smith (Jan. 21, 2016)

As an applicant to Oberlin, my first reaction to the petition and your response wasn't, as my mom expected, anxiety. Rather, I was excited by the fact that the students at this school are able to voice their discontent and problems to the administration so vehemently and actually get a civil response. I will definitely be watching closely to see what actions the administration takes.

As a white kid from an affluent town in Massachusetts, I cannot pretend to truly understand the struggles and problems of the petitioners. What I can understand, however, is the pretense of their argument. I did not realize until now how westernized my education has been, or that I have only been educated in black culture only through the lens of slavery and the civil rights movement. That being said, the petition's Malcolm X like tone of separation of the races caught me off guard. They can't expect funding from the administration to build segregated spaces. Overall, I think that the petition's call for immediate change of culture was justified, but the extremity of some of its demands (such as all black spaces or their direct involvement in the appointment of a new president) were over the top and detracted from its message.

William Cramer (Jan. 21, 2016)

It would seem to me that if the accusations in the letter are legitimate, they need to be addressed. It's too bad that the tone of the letter is so adversarial and disrespectful, and therefore, not likely to arouse sympathy in the reader. It would have been much better to have asked for a dialogue. However, there is also the charge that these demands have been made in the past and have gone unheeded, so perhaps some frustration is warranted. All of this needs to be looked into regardless of how one may feel about the letter's tone.

It is disappointing that the writer(s) do not identify themselves. Are they writing only for themselves or do they represent others as well? There should have been a petition or list of signers attached.

While bemoaning unequal treatment of persons of color, the writers seem to be asking for more rather than less segregation. They ask for "safe" areas, but safe from what? From more engagement with whites? How are white people to understand the perspective of "others" if the "others" don't want to engage with them? The writers might also be enlightened by the "white" perspective they encounter.

I wonder if the writers empathize with a college president, administration, and staff trying to create a first-rate educational institution. Making decisions about curriculum, staffing and policy in general must be terrifically challenging. The writers seem to feel that this can be done with the flick of a finger.

As for President Krislov's response, I applaud him for refusing to respond to "demands," but he should have offered an opportunity for engagement, inviting the letter writers into a dialogue. Even if they did not propose this, he could have. He does not give any indication that he will look into the specific allegations made.

Clarification of the "immediate action" referred to in the final sentence is needed.

Deborah Hoff Friese, '65

Deborah Friese (Jan. 21, 2016)

I am so deeply saddened to see fellow alums, namely graduates from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, fall into a troublesome rhetoric of branding current students, specifically students of color, as "crybabies" having "temper tantrums" because they suffer from "affluenza." Seriously? I agree with previous commentators who have suggested Oberlin offer continuing education opportunities for alumni. When was the last time you stepped into the classroom? Have you EVER taken a class in Africana Studies? Think critically: did that department even EXIST when you went to Oberlin? Just because current students are the age of your children, or grandchildren, does not mean that they should be treated by the institution as children, that they should be ignored until they present a document without a single grammatical error, that they don't know what it is like out there in the "real world" (what even is this real world? Did we not all grow up in the real world? Do you really think students don't know that complaints about racial prejudice, requests for gender neutral bathrooms, etc. wont be ignored by many in this so called "real world"? Do you really think this should keep them from fighting for justice?)? For those of you that do not understand the term "respectability politics," I extend to you this piece for self-education: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/the-rise-of-respectability-politics . It is a practice of respectability politics to ignore the DEMANDS because you find them too harsh, or rude, or poorly written. Do not fall into the trap of ignoring content, the comprehensive and intersectional concerns of CURRENT Oberlin students of color, because you do not like the manner in which they are presented.

The ABUSUA DEMANDS stem not only from students' personal observations of and experiences on Oberlin's campus, but also from the classroom, where students are exposed to one of the most critically engaging and forward-thinking educational experiences available in the world right now. Oberlin would not be Oberlin without our incredible, prolific faculty, without the education that students are THERE to participate in. These DEMANDS are a result of education, not a lack of. What is being taught in the classroom has changed over the last 40 years, and it is your responsibility to catch up lest your antiquated reality be left behind in the dust.

To those of you who do not wish to be affiliated with Oberlin anymore, given the state of today's student activism, how did you end up at Oberlin in the first place?

Let us be love, and let us hear the voices of those struggling and do all we can to lift them up.

Isabella McKnight (Jan. 21, 2016)

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

  • Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963
Will Meister (Jan. 21, 2016)

We live in a world where perception is reality and opinions are facts.

I agree that there needs to be a discussion among all affected parties. But, before the formal discussion begins, I believe that the demands should be sent back to the group that drafted them with the advice that J.F. Oberlin gave, when he said "Look at it from the other person's perspective." With that advice in mind, the drafters should be instructed to remove from the table any
and all of the demands which by any stretch of the imagination could possibly be considered racist or sexist by any non-black Obie. If they can't find any such demand among those drafted, I'm sure many in the Oberlin community would be willing to help them, as racist and sexist demands of any kind are not appropriate.

Let the discussion then proceed to the relevant reality and facts surrounding the perceptions and opinions, and remove the remaining demands that seem to be imaginary or without basis in fact.

With whatever demands then remain, the discussion could move to feasibility, and removable of those demands which seem to be not feasible.

Since racism and sexism in any form are real problems, the remaining demands should be vigorously implemented by the Oberlin administration with the hope that such implementation will improve education while students are at Oberlin and prepare them for an increasingly diverse and globalized life after college.

It is my hope that the implementation of these remaining demands will prepare students for adjusting to future demands of (as may happen to some) living and working with people in or from other places (i.e. Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, or Japan) who may have perspectives alien to Obies'.

Bruce Nelson OC '63

Bruce Alan Nelson (Jan. 21, 2016)

One last thought. Would it not be better to reclaim your history and revel in your success. Even Beethoven was Black, but who among now despise his work? Rejoice instead in the glory of his symphonies, concertos, sonatas and quartets. Start here. Dig deeper. Change the World. And if we must change building names, Let's start with "Oberlin College Conservatory - Beethoven Hall"…


William Logan (Bill) Fry '66 ('67)

Bill-Fry (Jan. 21, 2016)

Note - my brother is alumni and I spent a week visiting Oberlin in the 80s.

I'm shocked at how entitled, narcissistic and delusional the students have become. I applaud the official response and think it is too restrained to be honest.

Not every "demand" should be taking seriously or requires extensive historical discussion or over analysis. If students from Oberlin think this is the case the world will have a very harsh reality for them.

The southpark episode is satire, but unfortunately it seems to accurately capture the nonsense occurring on the campus where political correctness is first and foremost at the expense of real critical thinking and discourse.

Isn't this a perversion of the ultimate goal of an education?

A true liberal arts education should teach critical thinking and how to be adaptive and effective in the real world...isn't that the true goal?

Jay Es (Jan. 21, 2016)

Your response to the students is excellent, except for your implicitly surrendering an unclear amount of managerial prerogative to the students' demands. It is great to want to work with the students and listen respectfully to their input, but you did not explicitly state that the final decisions in matters such as hiring, firing, promoting, or demoting faculty must and will be retained by the college.

I see nothing in the tone of the demands that shows that the dissident students understand that these demands cannot be blindly accepted.

I concur with Tom Elden's comments below about the absurdity of worrying about culturally polluted food. The dissidents should grow up on this point. For example, I know of no Jewish person who would make a federal case out of someone culturally polluting a kosher hot dog just by putting French mustard on it. May this kind of tolerance become the order of the day at Oberlin once again.

MisterChips (Jan. 21, 2016)

The signers of the Declaration of Independence signed their names to the document, John Hancock famously so. While facing possible arrest or reprisal, they did not sign: "angry [white] merchants, farmers and smugglers." David Walker published "An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World." Despite knowing that he could be kidnapped and remanded to the South, he did not hide is name. Nor did Frederick Douglass, Charles Henry Langston and John Mercer Langston, the later two of Oberlin. The Suffragettes, of both races, were not embarrassed to express their views openly, and let their identity be known in their struggle. Dr. King, who proudly spoke on this campus 50 years ago, put his face and body and life into the battle. So did Chaney, a Black Mississippian, and two Jewish New Yorkers, Goodman (20) and Schwerner (24). Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person (she did not demand that a white person leave their seat so that she could sit down). Cassius Marcellus Clay had the courage to even change his name, and that "slave name" is nearly lost to memory, while only Muhammad Ali survives in our collective consciousness. Would only the Oberlin professors, staff and students who wrote this anonymous petition have that same courage to reveal themselves in their appeal. And the courage to walk out and leave the college en masse if their -- if your -- demands are not met. That is the only threat worth discussing -- and the only threat that will yield transformative results. Have courage in your struggle. Come together. Negotiate. Overcome.

And to the Conservatory students among you, demand, proudly, that the work of Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, be added to the repertoire. Accept no excuses. In fact, demand that it be played for the upcoming Commencement, and our 50th Reunion. I will love it…

William Logan (Bill) Fry - '66 ('67)

Bill-Fry (Jan. 21, 2016)

Very stimulating discussion. Every reader should find SOMEONE with whom to agree!

How many 1000 responses did you receive? Ron Greim '57/'58

Ron Greim '57/'58 (Jan. 21, 2016)

Dear President Krislov:

I commend you in the strongest possible voice for your response. When I went to Oberlin in 1955 I could hardly believe my good fortune. I was not seeking a "safe space;" I had that at home. I wanted to be challenged in as many ways as possible so I could grow and begin to fulfill my potential. The only "safe space" that matters is that which you create for yourself. My time at Oberlin helped me to achieve this and much more for all the reasons others have so eloquently stated. As an Emeritus Academic Administrator and Music Professor I have seen daily how collaborative discussion and shared governance ensure the principles to which the best academic communities aspire. Please accept my thanks for responding as you have.

Robert Danes, B.M. Conservatory of Music 1959 (Jan. 21, 2016)

Thank you for not caving in to the demands of this group. I hope, if they cannot work with you on workable issues, they will leave the college. There are other Americans waiting in the wings to attend your college. God bless and continue your good work.

Angela Hardy (Jan. 21, 2016)

I think it's worth just pointing out that Oberlin is coming to the end of a strategic planning process (with a final draft about to become a public document), and that the specifics of the College's response to many of the demands of students, faculty and staff of color are in that document. Issues of recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color, campus climate, professional development around diversity, student support on campus, etc. are all addressed in the Strategic Plan. Certainly the responses won't go far enough for some (and will go too far for others), but it is in that document that we should be looking for the specifics of how Oberlin is responding, not President Krislov's much shorter open letter. The latter should be read as a preface to the work the College is now engaging with through the strategic planning process. It would be a mistake to conclude that many of the very important issues raised in the student document are being ignored.

Chris Howell (Jan. 21, 2016)

My immediate reaction to the open letter is that it should be sent back for major revision. It lacks a clear statement of the problems it purports to address. It is openly antagonistic, even hostile and mildly threatening, always an effective way to discourage cooperation. It substitutes jargon for facts and analysis. It lacks focus. It demands specific changes to resource allocation, curriculum, and staffing that most people would consider the province of the administration, the faculty at large, academic departments, or individual instructors. It demands specific personnel actions that certainly conflict with faculty and administration rights and duties and may conflict with academic or professional standards, legally binding contracts, or the law. It does not identify the authors with precision, although the the monetary demands give a clear hint. It is far below the quality I would expect from Oberlin students.

At bottom these students seem to need reminding that they are responsible to become educated and the college's to provide an appropriate environment and academic resources, and to guide and assist them in doing so. Unless things have changed greatly in the last 50 years they will easily find, if they try, faculty members who will encourage, support, and assist them in their intellectual interests and pursuits, within and beyond the confines of the standard course offerings, although they will continue to insist on intellectual honesty and rigor.

There surely are things worth discussing between Oberlin College and its students, but the "petitioners" approached that, perhaps intentionally, in a way almost sure to be unproductive. A revised paper with a clear statement of perceived problems, and proposed solutions that have a chance of adoption, would be a good start and might lead to beneficial changes. At the least it would set the stage for rational discussion of defined problems.

Some may think President Krislov's response bland, vague, or otherwise inadequate, but in the circumstances it is difficult to imagine a better one.

Tom Dial ('64) (Jan. 21, 2016)

It is easy to dismiss the complaints listed in the DEMANDS because they are strident or poorly written or what other excuse you have.

It is even easier to dismiss quietly voiced requests.

Did your education end at graduation at Oberlin? In this list is an opportunity to learn, to see the world through other eyes. Get out of your comfortable arm chair and look around you.

Phil Curry '63

Phil Curry (Jan. 21, 2016)

Dear President Krislov:

I urge you to commit to creating an environment where intellectual debate is encouraged, there is freedom of expression and students can be free to disagree on issues.

Alas, those concepts seem to be alien to those who have handed you a list of "demands".

The University of Chicago policy regarding freedom of speech comes to mind as a model to follow: http://tinyurl.com/uchicagofreespeech

I am sure prominent Oberlin past alumni such as William Grant Still, Robert Millikan, Johnetta Cole and Dorothy Day would agree that freedom of expression is more important than censorship and that patronizing separate, but equal race-based policies and programs are an insult and a barrier to equality.

Regards, Mark J. Benedyk, PhD

Mark Benedyk, PhD (Jan. 21, 2016)

Dear President Krislov:

As the former president of Wesleyan University and the President Emeritus of Emory University, I write to commend you for the clarity, force and reason of your message. No college or university can function if it jettisons collaborative discussion and a commitment to shared principles. You are right in what you have said to the students; you are right in championing collaborative engagement. Let your stand at this moment be a message about Oberlin's deepest principles and let it be a message to everyone concerned about the standards to which higher education in this country must be committed.

William M. Chace

William M. Chace (Jan. 21, 2016)

Hi all,

As the nature of comments recently submitted has begun to take a turn towards the antagonistic, just a quick reminder that house rules require comments to be civil and productive. Comments judged to be more hostile than constructive will not be posted. Thank you.


Moderators (Jan. 21, 2016)

Spot on. If the public's positive reaction to your response wasn't enough, the restrained (and positive) comments below should give a wake-up call to the so-called entitled students that seem to dominate higher education institutions everywhere. Have we grown so over protective that we now demand "safe spaces" so that we can insulate ourselves from any and all criticism? Do we now need earmuffs and blinders to shield ourselves from anything that challenges our viewpoints?

Instead of working together as a collective, these types of pointless demands seek to only divide. It's only a very small group of students who seek out these ridiculous demands and isn't representative of the student body as a whole - and it should garner an equal response: nil.

I thought the recent South Park season, which mocked our increasingly political correct society, was satire. In the episodes, safe spaces were elaborated as a way to shield a student (Cartman) from "harmful" words on the Internet - but I never realized that satire would fall into the realm of existence!

Sherman Cahal (Jan. 21, 2016)

Glad to see this debate is bringing to the surface the many un-questionably self-righteous racist Oberlin Alumni from across the generations. Interrogate yourselves Oberlin College, not the anger of your brown and black students who are tired of living in a world that ignores their personhood and intelligence.

Oberlin Townie (Jan. 21, 2016)

Maybe it's just time to recognize that not everything is racist, not everything is sexist, not everything is homophobic, and trying to make everything sound like one or more of those adds nothing to the conversation.

Scott Malcomson (Jan. 21, 2016)

This response is a breath of fresh air (tbough the bar for that has been set very low in wake of recent national events). The letter you received was no list of complaints. It was something just this side a declaration of war. The students involved have explicitly stated they are finished with dialogue, with debate. Respond in kind. Give them a taste of true conflict and then see if they don't prefer a state of mutual respect and conversation. I do admire your calm, but let's not mistake what is being said here.

Jesse Paine (Jan. 21, 2016)

Any white person interested in discussing the list of demands can contact me on Facebook (Maura Sternberg) - I would be happy to help anyone understand the social constructs that preempt these demands. I would urge us to be critical of our (white peoples') tendency to invisibilize the experiences of people of color. I'd also like to point out that neither Krislov's response nor the majority of the comments here actually reference any demands specifically. What does it mean to demonize a document that is asking for more people of color in Oberlin's administration, faculty, staff? A document that asks for better housing options for international students of color during breaks? For productive critique and conversation, let's try to avoid generalizations like: 'this generation of students is spoiled,' 'temper tantrum,' or 'this is radicalization like Malcom X instead of MLK' etc, especially given that many of us here haven't located our arguments in the text we are discussing. I would call on Krislov to practice better close reading and responding here - what grievances specifically make him uncomfortable? What demands does he really think he and the administration have already worked to address? Many of the demands are about more transparency and communication - but Krislov and many of these responses aren't actually communicating with the specific ideas presented in the original document. Again, please reach out to learn more.

Maura Sternberg '14 (Jan. 21, 2016)

This might be a good time to suggest (request?) that all parties, especially the reputed students who wrote the original document, read Marshall Rosenburg's "Non-violent Communication." At least then the "students" might better understand the futility of making demands and therefore resort to a more constructive list of requests, which are defined as doable actions that can be accomplished in a reasonable time frame. In addition, the students might also understand that when making a request, they need to accept and be comfortable with the possibility that the answer might simply be, "no." About a year ago a similar type of request was made to an Oberlin faculty member, and the word "no" was employed to great effect. But after reading this list of demands, I honestly believe that "no" would be giving them too much credence. Oberlin should not feel singled out. My continuing education alma mater has similar problems, and from what I understand, Portland Community College's Diversity Council is requesting that I spend the month of April being "less white," whatever that means.

Robert M. Slugg Ph.D. '79 (Jan. 21, 2016)

I commented at length. Reactions are running heavy on dismay. I applaud any who can be forgiving of this nonsense. We should respond with tweet-like brevity so the mood can be measured. I fear the impact on a collegial environment. I suggest safe zones for the rational. I fear this virus will cause bright applicants of all colors to give Oberlin a pass. Toughen up President Krislov. No tolerance for intolerance. My other fear is if there is some legitimate institutional defect that needs to be remedied it will die in this scattergun blast of virulent demands. Oberlin's proud traditions and viability are under siege and the goose may quit hatching. Toughen up President Krislov. You hold the high moral ground and this shall pass. The best response so far other than mine of course was that our admissions process has failed.

Tom Elden 1962 (Jan. 21, 2016)

To those expressing the opinion that alumni should not be involved in current campus matters, here is one practical reason to provide a mechanism like this for alumni to express their opinions. Oberlin College wants and needs alumni donations to help pay for expenses and financial aid for students. Alumni do not have to make these donations. Alienate too many alumni and the donations go away. There tend to be consequences from actions. We all have choices, better to make wise ones than stupid ones.

Martin Hochman (Jan. 21, 2016)

The African American students who called for major changes in Oberlin's policies and practices presented a divisive and destructive list of Demands to benefit one group of students. That's not the way to win changes in curriculum, housing, and financial issues, or to express other concerns. Those seeking change always have to show they understand where others are coming from. In this instance that means being able to get into the shoes of the trustees, faculty, staff and students who together are responsible for the quality of the entire college. It means being able to recognize that there are numerous varied races, religions, and ethnicities in the Oberlin student body and that they are part of that larger whole.

This is a form of political understanding. These protesting students seem unaware that "politics is the art of the possible." Their approach drives away others in the college community and alumni rather than enlisting their support. Some of the issues seem worthy of attention, but to find solutions beneficial to the college as well as to themselves the protestors will have to collaborate with others.

President Krislov's good response recognizes continuing racial discord on college campuses, calls for learning more about it at Oberlin and asks for collaboration toward finding solutions.

Amy W. Meyer '53 (Jan. 21, 2016)

As an alum (class of '83) who was lucky enough to have enjoyed life long friendships with classmates of many colors, races, ethnic backgrounds, and sexual orientations, I learned a LOT at Oberlin about diversity and its benefits, and how to effect practical change in a world where "fear of the other" is a part of everyday life. One of my dearest friends from my time there is the recently retired director of the conflict resolution center, which was recently dedicated in her name, Yeworkwaha Belachew. I can't help but think that had she not suffered a serious stroke last year, real and constuctive dialogue - as opposed to this list of "demands" which is, for the most part, immature vitriolic spew with some valid and important issues sprinkled in there somewhere - would not have become an the issue that it has.

This year, my daughter is applying to colleges, among them Kenyon, Barnard, and Georgia Tech. I am saddened by her choice not to consider Oberlin, but honestly given the reputation that we are earning from "events" such as this one, I actually support her decision. I shudder to think what will happen to the applicant pool for the class entering in 2016 and beyond, and pity the admissions committee as they work to recruit a well-rounded, diverse, and highly qualified class of students who embody the philosophy of the college and it's acceptance of productive, progressive change. Good luck with that.

lisa tosi (Jan. 21, 2016)

I applaud President Krislov's restraint.

Though I think the list of demands contains some legitimate grievances, my overall reaction to it is not positive. This is because I am Ageist (and because I'm in sales for a living). This presentation reads uncomfortably close to a tantrum. It contains zero thought about the ramifications of the presented solutions; zero thought presented will lead straight to zero probability of implementation. This is a great way to vent but a lousy way to effect actual change, because it allows those with legitimate grievances to be dismissed. President Krislov, to his credit, is not dismissing everything he read.

Allow me to discuss one of the more obscure examples in terms of ramifications: the demand that a classical music education requirement be dropped for jazz students on the grounds that jazz education is not required for classical students.

Most professional classical musicians will never be asked to improvise. Because they don't have a choice as to what notes to play, their attention is given to making the combinations of notes they are given sound musical. There are reasons for where you get louder, where you get softer, what you stress, where you ease off, how you phrase. It's based on theory - what note performs what structural function, where harmonic tension is, where to relax and resolve. The result is a line that sings, that flows naturally like speech where which words are stressed is based on content.

The demands placed on jazz players are very different. The big extra one is that improvising entails composing on the fly in real time. The concentration is overwhelmingly on note choice.

In other words, how both sets of musicians express their creativity is different: classical through interpretation, jazz primarily through real-time composition.

However, the principles of harmonic structure, of where tension and resolution come from, are the same in both repertoires. Adding the interpretive skill set to jazz musicians makes them better musicians by increasing their ability to engage their audiences. Classical interpretation is a more useful skill to jazz players than jazz interpretation is to classical players. The asymmetry of requirements makes sense based on the asymmetry of usefulness, not on the asymmetry of culture.

I chose an obscure example. Others will choose more obvious examples, like what fooling with tenure would do to the faculty/administration balance of power and what it could do to the institution in terms of racism and academic excellence if we ever end up with a really bad president; or do to faculty recruitment.

There are a lot of reasons for the procedures that are in place and most were not put in place to further the cause of racism, nor is that their primary effect. Perhaps some current procedures are doing more harm than good but none of that analysis is included in this list.

For God's sake, if you want specific changes, make a real case.

Steve Taub '76 (Jan. 21, 2016)

Thank you, Marvin. I am so thankful that there is an adult in the room. Students have a lot to learn about how to make lasting change. This was a "teachable" moment, for sure.

SwimWaters (Jan. 21, 2016)

I am not a graduate of Oberlin, a school that my mother and several of her sisters attended fairly early in the 20th century. We have always, in our family, had the deepest respect for the institution. The response by the administration to the 14 page list of 'demands' only strengthens that respect. The behavior of student groups, generally, which has resulted in demands of this nature -- in both approach and content -- is deplorable. I wish I was able to feel more confidence about the willingness of certain students to be more civilized, and respectful, in approaching things which they feel are not right. I am afraid this behavior very much reflects the spoiled attitude of young children, rather than that of near adults who are fortunate to attend a first class institution. John Garber Boston Massachusetts

John Paul Garber (Jan. 21, 2016)

This reads a little like "we will not negotiate with terrorists." Maybe if these students of color don't turn to enlightened dialogue it is not due to their naivete but to something you (Oberlin as an institution) have taught them about the ruses of that ideal. Maybe you will "encourage collaboration and frank discussion" but I see none of that on display here. These students have done you the courtesy of not only voicing their concerns (about the experience of continued inequality and violence experienced by people of color at Oberlin despite the ubiquitous college-brochure language of our progressive history) but setting out a list of solutions that point to ways these experiences can be addressed. As Jennifer Jolly and others here have mentioned, in the spirit of dialogue it would have been nice to see a direct response to the original demands, or an outline of the ways in which Oberlin is "already engaged in" an institutional response. And rather than the unempowering gesture of "invit[ing] everyone to join us in this work" how about providing a way for alumni to concretely support students of color at Oberlin today and into the future?

Jesse Miller '10 (Jan. 21, 2016)

I have read both sides of this productive event and to both I say "failure is the new success"! I applaud the students and the administration and have every faith that there will be continued growth and learning on both sides. Both have failed and both will succeed as that is Oberlin.

Kim (Jan. 21, 2016)

I don't particularly agree with everything from the original list of demands, but COME ON Marv! That was the most blatant non-answer in Oberlins' long, proud history of not truly caring what its students think.

NT '13 (Jan. 21, 2016)

One of the more rational president responses to the emotionally combustible malcontents on campus.

EK (Jan. 21, 2016)

For me the idea of Oberlin College is very important. I believe it should be thought of as a special place where freedom of speech, and the freedom to discuss all sorts of ideas are intertwined with mutual respect. And I admire the respect-- undeserved, in my opinion-- accorded these "kids" by President Krislov who had the audacity to make "demands" Of any kind. Respect should be given to those who show it in return, and disrespectful demanders should ideally be slapped down by those in positions of authority and responsibility. Sounds to me that the very concept of making DEMANDS of any kind, especially from an institution these shameless kids applied to join and be educated by is contrary to the role of being a good student and a good person. Do these "demanders" want to embrace dialogue and learning or be dictators, power-hungry, political bullies? Their method and language proved the latter, and engaging in dialogue with power-hungry, politically arrogant brats might only encourage this childish power-tripping to continue, and invite the next wave of self absorbed gangster wannabes to apply. Their attitude is unworthy of being an Oberlin College participant. I would have preferred they be ignored till they had the moral courage to reveal themselves, and then be shown the door. Oberlin College needs to be a place of tolerance and respect. Those "demanders" showed none and belong elsewhere. I would want my child to be in an environment filled with learning and thought, and where bullying is not only not engaged but dismissed. RESPECT to all willing to engage in dialogue. No respect to those making demands, and, I would respectfully hope they lose the opportunity for an Oberlin College education. They don't deserve it.

steveunpro (Jan. 21, 2016)

As a volunteer and alum, I am dismayed by the racist, anti-semitic, illogical, and slanderous content in the demands document. When you are unable to sign your demands, they become unworthy of the community's serious consideration. As a former member of the Oberlin 59 who successfully advocated for divestment in the 1980s, I am for constructive protest & dialogue. This is not it.

D. Smith '89 (Jan. 21, 2016)

I don't think this response quite "gets it". The administration is being threatened, in ways that are not clearly defined. What the "immediate action" is is not clear, if the demands are not met.

The people making the demands know they are demands. They are "not suggestions". This response seems to believe they are suggestions. This response, in effect, does not give proper credence or cognizance to what is occurring. In that respect it is dismissive.

The student writers know what they are doing. If the administration is not prepared to meet all these demands and provide a timetable for meeting them, then there will be action from the Africana community (I have no idea what that action is).

Based on this response, we can expect action by the Africana community. I say that because Krislov wants conversation and collaboration. That is not what these students demand. They are making demands, and are not interested in conversation.

Krislov should therefore prepare for the inevitable "action". First, try to find out what the action will be. Is it lawful or unlawful? I would respond to the students with a question: what is the action proposed? It is not clear that the Oberlin administration can meet the demands. Maybe they can, maybe they can't. Better to assume there will be problems, and that action is forthcoming.

If the actions are not revealed, then perhaps prepare for the worst. I am not on the campus, so I have no clue as to what the threatened actions are. I would assume they will happen. These students are serious. They know what they are doing.

Due diligence is to try and find out what actions are planned. If no information is revealed, then I am not sure what to do, but I would prepare for action from the students.

The response above does not mention preparing for the almost inevitable actions to come. I think that's a mistake.

I am sorry things have gotten so extreme. The perception of Oberlin from the students is rather far from how Oberlin sees itself.

Anthony Mannucci (Jan. 21, 2016)

I find Marvin's response quite resounded. I am actually surprised that the student document is being published and taken seriously given that the document is ridiculously inflammatory, poorly written, and poorly thought through.

I am not sure how many students participated in creating the document, but they lost my support in the first paragraph-- the inflammatory first sentence followed by the lack of correct grammar and word usage. It is difficult to take the demands seriously when the writing is so poor. Assuming that most Oberlin students are able to write basic English, my conclusion is that the author(s) did not value their material highly enough to proofread and thus the document is not a serious beginning for a discussion.

Janine Winters, M.D. (Jan. 21, 2016)

Thank you Dr. Krislov, Your response is right on the mark and much appreciated by myself, an Oberlin Alumni, 1960...

Donald Nelson (Jan. 21, 2016)

How about commissioning a couple of sociologists or historians to write a book on how Oberlin has evolved from once being the first college to admit women and African Americans, into now being the bastion of white supremacy and imperialism that this 14 page document describes? I would buy a copy. I would love to know! When I read the current document, with all of its demands and threats, I wondered if we will see these threats carried out. What sort of threats are we talking about here? Will these actions be more upsetting than the hate incidents of 2013, that resulted in a disruption of classes and an FBI investigation? Will the 2016 Oberlin College campus indeed provide safe rooms for black students? And safe rooms for white students? And Asians? And Jews? And Muslims? And members of the LGBT community? What about the Native Americans? And the Yupiks? Will we see walls constructed on campus, delineating sectors where only certain types of students can tread? Will we see the conservatives build a "2nd Amendment House", outside the city limits (near Johnny's Carryout), where students in fear of their safety can bear arms on the premises? Will the physical education department offer karate classes taught by Japanese professors? Taekwondo taught by Korean professors? And wrestling taught by tough farm kids from Iowa? Will Asian art and religion classes have to be taught by Asian professors? Will English literature have to be taught by white people? Can white people teach jazz? Can black people teach bassoon? Will tenure cease to exist? Will prospective professors be told in their employment interviews that they run the risk of being fired, any time that a certain number of students sign a petition demanding their termination? Will students be expelled if a certain number of other students sign a petition demanding their expulsion? Who will be in charge of Oberlin College? Will we see more quotas of all sorts in all areas of the institution? Will we see Oberlin become ruled by petitions? What if a 15 page document - with equally strong, but OPPOSITE demands to the ones in this 14 page document - comes into being? And it makes its DEMANDS in a larger font? Which petition will be accepted into college law? Will some people in journalism, social media, etc, go crazy, accusing Oberlin of becoming segregated? If I were returning to college today, I would bypass Oberlin and apply to Stanford. The kids are just as talented there, and Palo Alto has much better ethnic restaurants.

Don Berman (Jan. 21, 2016)

I fail to see any semblance of the Oberlin from which I graduated in 1960. I see a bunch of spoiled brats deciding that they are all victims and can make the so-called adults in the College administration bow down to them. The so-called goals were on a track to be reached before the whole country was torn apart by a feckless non-leader who apparently, in spite of lovely rhetoric, actually wanted to divide rather than bring together. My suggestion to these "students" is that instead of being so in love with yourselves, learn to listen and love and learn from those who have opinions differing from yours. Then you will be prepared to make suggestions as to how to cure your supposed problems, rather than contributing to everyone's problems. To the College President: Become a strong leader and demand that dissenting voices must stop shouting and misbehaving before there is any intention of allowing them to be heard. To be heard you first must have something to say, other than "I am supremely right, you are always totally wrong, and it is my way or the highway." Some of these so-called students should be shown the highway.

Michael Z Lowenstein (Jan. 21, 2016)

I support Martin Krislov's response and I hope the writers of the demand letter will rethink their tactics and the reasoning behind their demands. The demand that the head of the jazz vocal department be both black and a female is both racist and sexist as well as ridiculous. Singling out Israel for criticism in the context of real-world situations is anti-semitic. The accusations leveled against specific faculty members are especially troubling and constitute workplace bullying. Being a member of an oppressed minority does not give one license to oppress, bully and persecute others or to spread racism and sexism. Time to go back to the drawing board and compose a more positive and productive letter.

lorifredrics (Jan. 21, 2016)

As an Oberlin alumnus and working class person of color, I applaud President Krislov for his measured response to this list of demands.

The authors of original letter will make more progress if they actually engage with the administration and the wider community. In their list of demands I see a lot of personal attacks and virulent rhetoric. I see little in the way of constructive solutions.

Students, there are very legitimate grievances to parse out, but when you ignore political realities and constantly put people on the defensive, when you demonize people and refuse to listen to them, you aren't going to achieve anything. Ironically, many of you come from wealthy backgrounds, and do not feel the sting of your political failures. The rest of us do.

Please, do us a favor. Put in the hard work of building relationships and trust with the College Administration and the wider community. Measure and prioritize your demands instead of inundating us with flowery rhetoric. I am from the area, and these lists of demands make Oberlin students look like a joke to the working class people whose voices you appropriate.

DJ '12 (Jan. 20, 2016)

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with friends and one of them asked, "Didn't you graduate from Oberlin?" When I said I had, he asked if I had seen the list of demands that had been posted on the internet by a group of Oberlin students. Then he pulled out his laptop and we all began to consider a few of the funnier ones. We didn't spend much time analyzing them nor did we pay attention to the racial makeup of the malcontents. These demands are a perfect example of why students need a liberal arts education. It made hilarious dinner conversation at the expense of students who possibly should not have been admitted to Oberlin in the first place. My observation is that like so many in our society, these students have a false sense of entitlement. Instead of trying to get the best education possible from one of the premier colleges in the country and being grateful for the opportunity given them, they present a list of demands that expose how self-centered they are and how much they need that education. I think no one ever told these kids "NO" in response to temper tantrums. If they don't like Oberlin and feel they can't exist in her environment, they should transfer to a college that caters to their agenda. Or they should stay, try to change aspects of the College they don't like in a loving, civilized manner, and have their minds opened as the result of a liberal arts education! At least, President Krislov didn't resign, as some college administrators have done when confronted by the mob. Perhaps these students will learn, if they observe his rational approach to communication, that calm logic beats emotional outburst every time...

Barbara Fetrow Suhrstedt, Conservatory grad, 1967 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Patronizing acquiescence to a wordy treatise of tripe diminishes Oberlin. The home of Tommie Smith. Do we need greater freedom in Academia? Yes! Do we help our youth if we do not challenge them? Racist and prejudiced attacks should not be accommodated. Fight The Power, Yes! But, come on, bigots in Oberlin? The definition of affluenza.

Robert Leurck (78) (Jan. 20, 2016)

I wonder what led to the anger manifested in this bizarre, destructive document?

It saddens me, having seen firsthand what happened to Antioch College as a result of intransigent student activism. Oberlin has been a champion to minorities throughout its history. Its record speaks for itself. Kudos to President Krislov for his diplomacy and openness.

And yes, I'm old, but not quite old enough to have helped personally with the Underground Railroad.

Dana E. Wilson, M.D., '57 (Jan. 20, 2016)

I'm impressed and encouraged by the hard work and attention to detail reflected in the Demands. I understand why the powers-that-be can't accede to all the demands, especially the ones around firing, but overall, I find plenty of substance, logic, and imagination in the document, to go along with the obvious passion and commitment of the authors.

Do we not remember how radical it seemed for Oberlin students to confront the military recruiters on campus fifty years ago? As an alumnus, I was proud of those Oberlin students, just as I am proud of these Oberlin students now.

Bruce Frishkoff '63

brucefrishkoff (Jan. 20, 2016)

So sad to read of the BDS comments, like a lethal poison within a dish of otherwise some possible merit. Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism = Racism. The Lady Doth Protest Too Much, me thinks. David Kirkpatrick MA, MD FRCP C Oberlin College '61 West Vancouver, BC

David Kirkpatrick MA, MD FRCP C (Jan. 20, 2016)

I agree with President Krislov that the tone of the student group's demands is not conducive to dialogue. However, I agree with Alex13 below that "the president should have explained line-by-line where he disagrees and where he thinks progress can be made." He gives credence to their complaint that further dialogue is useless when he refuses to engage. Educating students should be Oberlin's first concern. Some of the most important learning students do at Oberlin is learning how to engage in productive change through civil discourse, dialogue and, when necessary, protest. They may not be skilled at it, but they will only learn to do it more skillfully, more effectively, if they have a partner in dialogue (or a worthy opponent, as the case may be.) Of course the administration and faculty won't see eye to eye with the student group on everything. (I doubt the students all see eye to eye with each other on everything.) But, as Israeli poet and peace activist Amos Oz said, who else are you going to make peace with besides your enemy? That's a message for both the administration and the students, by the way. Don't say you're being silenced and then refuse to engage in further dialogue! That's the very time you need to be raising your voices and insisting on being included in the ongoing dialogue. And speaking of Israeli peace activists, of which there are many, I implore the activists at Oberlin, and the presenters of this set of demands in particular, to learn more about Israel and Israelis, Palestine and Palestinians, and about the complexity of the politics and history of the Middle East before getting sucked into the very problematic, one-sided analysis of the situation represented by the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement. It's not as easy to assign good guy/bad guy roles in that conflict as it looks at first. Better to support the Israelis and Palestinians who are on the ground working for peace than to add fuel to the fire and further polarize the sides.

Alex Borns-Weil, '87 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Folks, I am a proud Oberlin Graduate and Proud Conservative Republican, a Free Market Progressive where my deep seated belief in social justice and the proud tradition of Oberlin to stand against any tide that would diminish the aspirations or opportunities of any American. I am unfortunately an old white male, and I am afraid, as such, one whose opinion is dismissed as a matter of course by those who proffered the hateful and racist treatise against the character of my alma matter in an attempt to address affluenza perceived crimes against the vital and serious aspirations of all Americans and particularly Americans of less means and historically discriminated origins. I call on Barack Obama to speak to this hate and shame these affluenza's who have no knowledge of the real struggle to achieve freedom and democracy in America.

Robert Leurck (Jan. 20, 2016)

I thank Marvin Krislov for his balanced and temperate response, which represents me well as an alumnus of the college. My classmates had some moments in the 1970s which are embarrassing in retrospect. Fortunately, there was no social media to broadcast our immaturity to seven decades of Oberlin alumni, stretching back almost to the class of 1900. Perhaps some of today's students will be involved in discussions with the Classes of 2058, 2059, and 2060 forty years from now, when I am long gone. I hope some of these problems will be solved in our society.

One thing that made Oberlin my first choice in 1974 was the high degree of engagement that recent classes at the time had had in the anti-war movement, the New Left, the Civil Rights movement, environmentalism, and other activism. But I remember very few incidents that involved demonizing persons with different points of view.

Howard Metzenberg, Class of 1978 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Follow the proper process of communication. TALK TO FACE TO FACE. So far this is all just 'paper talk'. Those persons who support the DEMANDS are protesting anonymously on paper and should identify themselves, support their views, give facts, and agree to meet with the College President & Conservatory Dean & discuss the issues.

I don't agree that President Krislov's response should been only 'on paper' - I wish he had indicated some intention to meet with those who initiated the demands.

Ron Kershner, '60

Ronald Kershner (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am disturbed by some of the January petition's sentiments about the Jazz department and Jazz. As a jazz performance major, 2002, I have many criticisms of the education I got at Oberlin. But I think the petitioners' position is really unfortunate. I have spent the last 14 years studying classical piano and piano technique privately. This study has made me a better pianist, in general, and a better jazz pianist specifically. The common-place dichotomy of Classical vs Jazz that the petitioners accept, uncritically, is a really unfortunate paradigm, all to prevalent in our culture. It is anti-intellectual to demand that Jazz majors not take theory courses, or not take classical lessons. Many of the greatest and most influential jazz pianists in history were also accomplished classical pianists. Why must Oberlin student's insist on pursuing such a simplistic and arbitrary dichotomy?

I wish I had time to reflect on, and respond to, all of the content of the document, but I don't. I do however, admire the audacity of the demands.

Brendan Cooney (Jan. 20, 2016)

Now that the esteemed President Krislov has failed to implement these unmalleable demands wholesale, I am riveted to see what the vague but promised "immediate action" will be. Please don't disappoint, unknown authors. We need a news story out of Oberlin to drown out media references to Bon Appetit's inauthentic ethnically-inspired cafeteria fare.

Jeremy Cooper, '04 (Jan. 20, 2016)

It is amazing to me that those who decry racism themselves and suffer from demonization by others themselves succumb to being racist and demonizing others by asking the college to divest from Israel. It is the demonization of the other that should be resisted at all costs. It is clear that anti-Semitism is OK with this group of students who would pick on only one country for divestment despite the tremendous abuses of human rights in many countries around the world. Shame.

Haya Rubin (Jan. 20, 2016)

Also to slightly rephrase from a current student perspective, please make sure you are up to date with articles from Oberlin students and/or have made a real attempt to understand the root of issues before making accusations. As an alum, you are intrinsically disconnected from the issues on campus. Furthermore, I am in full support of starting a pen-pal alumni-student project.

On a separate note, Krislov's response came off as insensitive on some of the issues, but for everyone's sake please assume best intentions and work from there. I hope many of the demands made by ABUSUA will be implemented.

Lastly, to Mr. Boyd--something tells me that the students of Oberlin College don't particularly care about adhering to your predetermined systems for change. The list of demands wasn't meant to be pretty and easy to swallow. I was not one of the contributors, but I would guess that the goal was to show that students here are tired from a system that will not put students first. We have not requested, nor do we require your help. One way or another, students will get the change they deserve.

In solidarity, Henry

Henry Aberle (Jan. 20, 2016)

As an attempt to reblog. PLEASE READ:


I want you to always have an opinion about the state of your Alma Mater and how it can be Better. HOWEVER, it is difficult to have an INFORMED opinion about issues that are raised at the institution when you completely disconnect yourself from the college campus, community, and people who reside permanently and temporarily in Oberlin, OH.

How many of us check-in with and talk to current students? Or rather, how many of us actually know names and intimate (things they are struggling with physically, academically, socially, culturally, emotionally, and economically in obieland) details of current students? How many of us are still communicating with residents of the town of Oberlin?

How many of us actually try to make ourselves an available resource to students? (Because it would be beneficial to receive advice, constructive criticism, experiences, wisdom, tools, unused books, etc. from folks who successfully completed their journey at Oberlin College with flying colors or by the skin of their teeth.)

How many of us are sharing knowledge of our gained skills, ups and downs, strategies, and tools of moving from "Professional Student" to "Working Professional?"

Why are we so quick to separate ourselves from the "bubble" when it is clear that Oberlin still very much intersects with our lives outside of its bubbly walls? (Even after we graduate)

The more you know, the more you grow, right?

So how about we as Alumni STOP with the silence, condescension, generalization, and assumptions about students and their issues on campus and start ASKING the questions to current residents, students, staff, and faculty that will keep us INFORMED about and CONNECTED to the overall state of the community of Oberlin. AND most importantly how we can help to contribute to the institution and make it BETTER.

So, I want to start a Mentoring Program for Oberlin College and Conservatory Students, where Alums of the college and conservatory are paired with current students based on academic and career interests as well as taking into account personal and professional interests to help students navigate their experience and be an active sounding board. This will help us as Alums to stay connected to the campus and the issues that reside within it and it will provide students with a resource that has “been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt.” I have a lot of ideas and frameworks of how this could be moderated and implemented but I would love ideas from other Alums (AS WELL AS STAFF AND FACULTY) on how to make this happen.

We are a LARGE resource, so let’s start acting like it. Contact me if interested.

— ajp2014

Henry Aberle (Jan. 20, 2016)

I wouldn't have even addressed the "list of demands" any more than I would give in to a 5 year old child throwing a hissy fit. When these students become mature, rational adults in 20-30 years, I might find what they have to say mildly interesting. As it stands now, they are far too irrational and hyper-emotional to even try and have a constructive discussion.

Sarah Evans (Jan. 20, 2016)

As a former dean of students at two liberal arts colleges, and the chair of a large, research department at a major university, I find it somewhat difficult to get to the kernel of truth that MAY be ensconced in the document, because it is so surrounded, camouflaged, actually, by all the sturm und drang. One of the approaches to the document that might be considered would be to handle it as an example of student research and writing. Frankly, it is poorly written, with few, if any measurable definitions or data to support its overstated claims and demands. In short, it lacks substance, because it is so heavily laden with particulars that may or may not be true. Isn't it the responsibility of the college to teach these young people that reliability and validity elements should accompany any list of complaints, lest they not be heard, much less resolved. By its generalities, it loses any hard particulars. Any freshman English class would immediately highlight these simple errors. Perhaps it should be returned to the writers with instructions to make it readable, reliable and valid, before they make demands. It does not accomplish this level of clarity, much less the hall marks of sound research. Instead of data, it presents accusations. As a debate, it fails almost across the board. Who is going to teach these excited, over-reaching, over-stating young people how and why to present their grievances, preferably in dialogue, instead of fiat? The document works against its avowed intent by its lack of data, as though accusations, alone, are enough. Good luck, Oberlin, but neither swat at the fly with a cannonball, or treat the camouflaged kernel of truth as though it permeates and is convincing. What is clear is that it is not.

L. Adlai Boyd (Jan. 20, 2016)

To start with, I find it preposterous that the voices dominating this discussion are from class of '79 or earlier. You have no skin in this game and your insistence on flooding the comment feed with nostalgic reveries about days gone by only aggravates tensions and lends credence to the arguments put forth in the list of demands. Now onto the grievances:

I criticized demonstrations of racial solidarity as being empty gestures when I was a student on campus in '12 and '13. Now I have to reverse my position and praise these demands for enacting an actual division. Are they over-the-top? Absolutely. Do they employ "scorched-earth" rhetoric? Absolutely. Do I doubt for a second that there are, to cite an example, racist undertones in Conservatory courses? Absolutely not.

We live in a time when college tuition and student debt are skyrocketing and professorial contracts are being traded for temporary, precarious adjunct positions. The only ones who are benefiting in all this are the college administrators and bureaucracy. The commentators who are woefully asserting that this list of demands is evidence of the decline of Oberlin College should realize that the expansion of college administrative bureaucracy is a far greater threat to the liberal arts campus. Rather than view this as the death knell of the liberal arts college, I would instead read it as the writing on the wall that things need to change. And for that I would again praise the authors of the demands. It's not too early to change course and have college be something other than an extended summer camp for the 1%, but to do so we need the sense of urgency and radicalism put on display here.

Finally, I must thank the administrators at Oberlin College for sending this email out to all alums and providing a link to the full list of grievances and providing a place to comment. They could have chosen to sweep this under the carpet, but they didn't.

Austin Emerson (Jan. 20, 2016)

Good for these students for organizing and for making demands and pushing for change. I'm going to guess that the use of the word "DEMANDS" in all caps is a reference to Frederick Douglass which I think is warranted. To paraphrase: There is no progress without struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. Never has and never will.

Also good for Oberlin Alumni Association for sending out an email, without which many of us would probably be oblivious to these events.

Finally, I would just question why people are allowed to comment anonymously or hide their identities on this discussion thread. Maybe in some cases there are good reasons for people to hide, but I think there are an awful lot of cowards out there. Especially those criticizing the students struggling for justice & liberation.

Lars Negstad (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am startled by some the comments I'm reading here, which, to my mind, illustrates exactly what these student activists are concerned with. Allegations of reverse racism and self-segregation, using MLK quotes out-of-context, suggesting the president should kneel down in front of these students and inform them of their irrationality like that of a parent to a child; this kind of condescension and belittlement smacks of white supremacy. (I should also add that much off this language is quite similar to the discourse you see on the far-right at the moment. Take a look if you don't believe me). I would invite my fellow white alums - particularly the older ones- not to succumb to racial prejudice. You do not know what it is like to be a person of color at Oberlin these days and you didn't know when you attended Oberlin. Many of your comments prove the educational deficit these students are concerned with is real.

Perhaps alums should undergo some of the educational programs outlined in the document. The misunderstanding of American history, for example, is simply baffling. Many alums are decrying the act of making demands. Excuse me? Making demands is probably one of the main engines of history. Do you seriously believe MLK never made demands? What about the entire civil rights movement? When folks were getting their heads bashed-in for the right to vote, were they politely asking the establishment to be treated as human beings? Progress is not made through polite disagreements in academic seminars.

That said, I don't agree with many of the student's demands - but I will not presume that their basis is illegitimate. The president should have explained line-by-line where he disagrees and where he thinks progress can be made. Responding with no substance is unacceptable.

Alex13 (Jan. 20, 2016)

President Krislov's response was 'right on' in both tone and substance. Although I believe that a public response to the specic demands - especially those dealing with particular professors - is inappropriate, I do hope that the administration and faculty have private, perhaps 'collaberative,' discussions with the students on some of their issues. Strong opinions on social issues are part of the Oberlin tradition, even though they sometime need to be tempered and channeled into a more productive direction. If students were always wise and well informed, they would not need college.

Jim Carlson (Jan. 20, 2016)

Oberlin has always been a "hotbed" of competing ideas and forward thinking, but reading the list of demands truly saddened me. It is impossible for me to believe that the Oberlin I knew in 1976 could have somehow turned into such an oppressive, racist, morally bankrupt "cissexist heteropatriachy" (LOL). While the students who wrote this are certainly impassioned, they are also woefully ignorant of what real racism looks like. And of course...the kicker. A healthy dollop of anti-Zionism. Apparently, the woeful ignorance extends to the role Jews played in the civil right movement and Israel's position as the only democracy and true friend of the West in that corner of the world. Rave on Obies, rave on. Lance Lubin '76 (Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh, NLF is gonna win)

Lance Lubin '76 (Jan. 20, 2016)

While I agree that some of the means the students suggest contest issues like shared governance, I am saddened to see President Krislov's response. I am grateful that these Obie students are so engaged in trying to make my alma matter more inclusive and just. The administration should engage the students in a deep and meaningful change making process.

Debra Guckenheimer (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am glad the administration is not giving in to outrageous demands simply because the squeaky wheel is having a fit.

The goal is to prepare students for the real world and for them to learn how to continue to learn and grow throughout their lives while gaining skills in their chosen field.

I don't think the goal is for colleges to give into cry bullies so that the only thing they learn is how to be a pimple on the rear end of society.

If the students continue to cause disruptions and do not want to use the opportunity they have been given to learn then expelling them may be a go forward option. This would free up space for deserving students who do not have the same privilages as the cry bullies.

Sunlight78 (Jan. 20, 2016)

I found the student's comments lacking in knowledge, empathy, broad cultural issues, immaturity and a host of other problems. As a previous person stated it is the content of character that counts, not color. However, it is difficult for anyone to deal with temper tantrums. I think the authors of the complaint should identify themselves and take responsibility, as they are asking others to take responsibility, while they hide behind anonymity. That is not how you start a conversation, from hiding places making vague threats and bizarre demands. There is reverse racism present in the comments, which is abhorrent and vile.

kirtley thornton PhD 1968 (Jan. 20, 2016)

While there is much to criticize in the Demand document, to my mind use of the term "demand" is not one of them. Labor negotiations for example usually start with a list of labor union demands. As I recall in the 60s, dissident groups issued "demands" to universities that sometimes led to productive changes (though almost never exactly what was originally demanded).

Therefore I am disappointed in President Krislov's response. A much better response would have identified those demands which were within his power to negotiate, and other demands that were within the faculty's reasonable power to negotiate, and proposed a procedure to begin discussion. As is, President Krislov's response amounts to a complete rejection of the entire document. That leaves the impression that he is fundamentally dismissive towards the students and their complaints. I do not view that as a productive way for an educator to further the education of his students. This was a teaching opportunity that he missed.

I also do not view that as a productive way to deal with racism. The President is saying, in effect, that the experience of these students provides no new information that needs to be considered. That strikes me as almost the definition of how "New Jim Crow" racism works: people in power or in comfortable circumstances define the race problem as indeed serious but already being adequately addressed, and hence no new information is needed. --David Burress Lawrence KS Oberlin College '66

dburress (Jan. 20, 2016)

Is it known how many students were the authors of these demands? I was upset when I read them because I feel that Oberlin is a unique place - a perfect place - for making substantive changes in racial equality. Yet these DEMANDS felt too heated and elicited alarm! I hope people can work together because I cherish the spirit of freedom and acceptance I felt when I was a student at Oberlin. I support the president and also the efforts by students to have their concerned addressed. But I feel shaken by what I have just read. I believe this brilliant institution will come together in "unalarming" truth to become a leader in furthering racial comfort. This is a fantastic learning experiment - the seeds are being sown to bear a more subtle nourishment for every single student who would never have appeared on "Father Knows Best". Patience, work, listen, and more patience. The shoots of new seeds are tender. Walk softly.

Judith Jones '76 B Mus (Jan. 20, 2016)

Mr. President and trustees,

The drafters of that embarrassing document have no idea what they will face after they have left the warm embrace of Oberlin. The Oberlin I knew in the early 1970's had plenty of diversity, the student body was permitted to express its feeling on the issues of the day (primarily the war in Vietnam), and the faculty often joined us in our protests. We did not consider we were in the position to demand anything. We were there for one reason, to benefit from a superior education. I got that from my teachers and my classmates.

Were I to demand anything, it is that Oberlin adopt a color-blind admissions policy. The best candidates should be admitted on merit alone. Does the drafter of this ridiculous document want to put a limit on Asians and Jews?

The real world awaits and those making demands instead of suggestions will find themselves unprepared for the world of work that awaits them.

Gary Isaacson (Jan. 20, 2016)

It was was depressing to read the "demands", satisfying (to me) to read President Krislov's considered response, and delightful to read the many responses. They reminded me of the ranging sessions informally debating or otherwise addressing all manner of current issues that obtained in my student days. Specifically, no matter how impassioned, they were generally articulate, grammatical, internally consistent BUT COURTEOUS. Oberlin got good people. I was born in Texas but "grew up" in Jim Crow Oklahoma. My real development was nurtured in Oberlin. I capitalized on so many things there and this issue requires me to revisit a lot of them. An important one was "hosting" an exchange student from Hampton during my junior year as roommate. I learned a lot from him about what just having black skin can mean and evoke in a variety of situations. I joined the NAACP and am now a life member.

Now "Demand" reminds me more of MalcolmX than Dr. King, rather like the difference between diplomacy and the threat of war. I think President Krislov's defense of the faculty, staff, mission and all were appropriate and I wish them all well in productive resolution.

Donald Layton M.D. and Phyllis Layton OC '50'50

Donald Layton (Jan. 20, 2016)

Okay. A body of students organized their collective discontent into an invective using a format used by others sharing similar observations, experiences and frustration. Frankly, I'm more concerned by the lack of originality in expressing the ideas than by the ideas, themselves. President Krislov responds not with an itemized analytical response, but by posting it for all alumnae (nee' potential donors) to see, thereby lessening its import and substance by turning it into a public relations opportunity. Oberlin cares. Well, as I believe Buckminster Fuller, the creator of the geodesic dome I remember outside the Allen Art Museum, said: "the medium is the message."
I have thrice been solicited for response and contribution by similar sleight of hand. When the campus was shut down after a shadowy figure was seen crossing the green, I had problems with our sainted liberal institution rushing to call in the FBI. We, who had problems with restrictions to our civil rights and liberties, were equally outraged by calling in the Feds to skulk through private matters. When I sent my postcard from the Freedom Museum in Cincinnati in response to a request from the alumnae association to invite incoming freshpeople to speak with graduates, I heard not a whisper. And when I asked whether the College was returning William Cosby's financial contributions or merely stripping him of his honorary degree, I received only the promise of an answer. Now it seems the rush to judgment on that score may have come without deference to law and proffer, no matter how egregious his conduct. I am not one to throw stones. I congratulate and encourage these young minds for their passion, their vision, and their ability to speak truth to authority. For that, I give latitude to its tone. Sometimes, we must be strident. As for the College and Dr. Krislov, I expect a full and complete investigation to determine whether and where there are isolated or systemic problems to be corrected, but I am not impressed with the decision to use the angst of our best and brightest as a veiled means to increase donations to the annual fund, which after similar exploitation, I suspect it is. It gives credence to the students' demands. I thank the Oberlin I attended for nurturing in me a healthy critical mind. Richard Wolfson, '81

Richard Wolfson (Jan. 20, 2016)

Growing up as I did in the '50s in the northeast, I had certain prejudices. But as a white teenager, the first band that I led was mixed, and throughout the rest of my 76 years as a college student, musician and teacher, I have worked hard to rid myself of those. Having toured for many years as a member of the horn section for the Four Tops and Temptations, backed black artists such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, James Brown, Nancy Wilson, Tina Turner, and Natalie Cole, and played in dozens of black churches, I have observed that people of color have developed their own society.

In discussions with some of these artists, other black musicians, and church members, and reading, it's readily apparent to me how and why the disparate societies evolved. People of color have, from the outset of their arrival in America, suffered a disenfranchised position. Denied educational opportunities, a practice that continues to today, many, despite their desire to improve their position, have succumbed to the 'easy'way out (but fraught with danger), and do and deal drugs, often committing crimes to pay for the acquired habit. Now, many white people fall into similar routes, but disproportionate numbers of jailed inmates happen to be black. It

As an educator who grew up in a privileged suburban situation, I realize the 'luck' of my birth, the support of caring middle-class parents, and especially the fine education I experienced in public scbools, Oberlin, and other institutions of higher education. But as a teacher, I have witnessed the dumbing down of the educational process, beginning in kindergarten, all the way through high school and in many undergraduate colleges.

There is no 'easy' solution here, but as education is unfortunately turning more and more into a business, not enough is being done to prepare young people of any race for either advanced education or for acquiring adequate technical skills, either route coupled with the development of societal skills enabling the doing away with racial prejudice.

These routes must begin with parental support of their children, and participation in their education. But the process also must depend upon wisely thought-out financial assistance from local, state and federal agencies, that includes decent pay for teachers, and the provision of better facilities. Idealistic, sure! But unless serious efforts are made, the prejudices that mar our society will continue unabated, and perhaps increase leading to more and more frustration, and that resulting in difficult-to- control attitudes resulting in ever-increasing violence, something the colleges must work at dispelling among its own educators, staff and administration. Oberlin has often been at the forefront of change over its almost two centuries of existence, and if time is made for civilized discourse among all parties, I feel certain it can again set an example

Dr. John Harding. '61 Conservatory (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am saddened (though shouldn't be surprised) to learn of the challenges today's generation of Black students are facing at Oberlin. I am also saddened that President Krislov, despite acknowledging that some of these demands resonate, insists that "I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement."

Please do consider engaging these demands directly--they represent very real concerns and are remarkable in their recognition of many of the systems that shape their experiences at Oberlin. I certainly recognize that there are good reasons for not acceding to all these demands. Students may benefit for the chance to learn about how their demands are up against principles of tenure or shared governance. Yet I can imagine that it could be productive to both acknowledge and engage issues raised about, say, curriculum, even as we reaffirm that curriculum is the domain of the faculty. After all, faculty need to be able to be accountable for their curriculum decisions, even as they remain our decisions (I say this as a faculty at another institution grappling with similar issues).

In short, please don't dismiss this out of hand because it is framed in militant terms. These concerns are legitimate, and can be a starting place for difficult, but hopefully productive, conversations.

Jennifer Jolly (Jan. 20, 2016)

I haven't read all of the comments below, so this may have been already addressed, but there are some fundamental misunderstandings of academia represented in the document. Some of their suggestions sound excellent from my standpoint--e.g. a Black student session at orientation, creation of a bridge program, adjustment of funding for internships, and a large-scale reconsideration of the Western bias in the curriculum--but curricular issues (including my last example here) are VERY complex. You can't, for example, fund professorships in a wide range of African languages if you don't have the (new! tuition-paying!) students to fill all of their classes--unless you hire adjuncts, which is the textbook example of academic labor exploitation.

I also question the omission of other minority ethnic groups from the document. If Western History and African History are required, what about Asian History? Indigenous American? etc.... This is why it seems to me that a reconsideration of the curriculum's Western bias would be appropriate, but the document's solutions on this matter are not the best answers.

For these reasons (and others), I worry about the all-or-nothing attitude of the demands. Some of the demands are impossible (and would be financially devastating to the College). Some of them are actually good ideas. But--while I get that these students are frustrated by what they perceive as lack of institutional response--framing their ideas in this way is intrinsically combative and they are guaranteed NOT to get what they want (because they can't). So what next?

And students should not want to give administrators the power to fire tenured faculty at will. That way lies real hegemony.

Jessica B. (Jan. 20, 2016)

President Krislov is far too timid in his response. I understand a desire to defuse nonsense but saying he knows we aren't where we want to be is nuts. Oberlin encouraged diverse thought when I was there 53 years ago. The school's first president was a major figure in the religious life of this country. The school pioneered in admitting black students and women and the town itself was a key location on the underground railroad. When I was at Oberlin students began to head south at risk to their safety to bring down segregation. But first and foremost this is a school of high academic standards. One goes to Oberlin for an education. Giving from alums is critical and will be harmed by political correctness gone viral. 50 demands. Why not 100. Why not 150. I laugh when I see at Oberlin and other schools criticism of the food. If the food isn't tasty or full of nutrients protest all day. But going to the mattresses because cuisine designed to be multicultural doesn't have the right recipe is crazy. I got a huge benefit from Oberlin. It was my way station between prep school and Stanford Law. I learned about other races and other ideas and developed a sense of obligation to serve others but I also acquired conservative ideas that actually thrived in a crucible of liberalism. All lives matter. If students are so over the top with impossible demands they should be asked to depart. And shades of anti-Semitism is not tolerable. Better the administration says not that we have a ways to go but that Oberlin is right where it wants to be. If students don't feel welcome in this place with a healthy liberal tradition and an unfortunately suppressed Christian tradition then drop out. If I were president I would say thank you for your 50 demands or 100 demands or whatever and classes will proceed as scheduled. Bowing to this nonsense will kill reduce alumni contributions and hurt the school. Education is not a game where you spend your time railing against the school. Education means hard work and growing up.

Tom Elden (Jan. 20, 2016)

It seems that Oberlin's admissions process is flawed. Why are we admitting students who are making violent threats against the rest of us who may not succumb to their demands? I demand that my donations go to those who come to Oberlin to learn & go on to help change our world for the better.

donald bloom (Jan. 20, 2016)


I want you to always have an opinion about the state of your Alma Mater and how it can be Better. HOWEVER, it is difficult to have an INFORMED opinion about issues that are raised at the institution when you completely disconnect yourself from the college campus, community, and people who reside permanently and temporarily in Oberlin, OH.

How many of us check-in with and talk to current students? Or rather, how many of us actually know names and intimate (things they are struggling with physically, academically, socially, culturally, emotionally, and economically in obieland) details of current students? How many of us are still communicating with residents of the town of Oberlin?

How many of us actually try to make ourselves an available resource to students? (Because it would be beneficial to receive advice, constructive criticism, experiences, wisdom, tools, unused books, etc. from folks who successfully completed their journey at Oberlin College with flying colors or by the skin of their teeth.)

How many of us are sharing knowledge of our gained skills, ups and downs, strategies, and tools of moving from "Professional Student" to "Working Professional?"

Why are we so quick to separate ourselves from the "bubble" when it is clear that Oberlin still very much intersects with our lives outside of its bubbly walls? (Even after we graduate)

The more you know, the more you grow, right?

So how about we as Alumni STOP with the silence, condescension, generalization, and assumptions about students and their issues on campus and start ASKING the questions to current residents, students, staff, and faculty that will keep us INFORMED about and CONNECTED to the overall state of the community of Oberlin. AND most importantly how we can help to contribute to the institution and make it BETTER.

So, I want to start a Mentoring Program for Oberlin College and Conservatory Students, where Alums of the college and conservatory are paired with current students based on academic and career interests as well as taking into account personal and professional interests to help students navigate their experience and be an active sounding board. This will help us as Alums to stay connected to the campus and the issues that reside within it and it will provide students with a resource that has “been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt.” I have a lot of ideas and frameworks of how this could be moderated and implemented but I would love ideas from other Alums (AS WELL AS STAFF AND FACULTY) on how to make this happen.

We are a LARGE resource, so let’s start acting like it. Contact me if interested.

ajp2014 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Could someone please explain, as Paola Muggia claimed, how this document could be racist? Honestly, without an agenda, looking for someone to explain. Thank you!

John Regan (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am a 1960 graduate of the college and the kind of college these students describe is no where near what I experienced when I was there. I associated with a lot of African Americans who seemed pleased with the education they got and they were a joy to be with, in my classes and in my dorms. If I wanted to present a list of grievances to an institution that I was a member of, I certainly would not use the word "demand!" "Ask for" is more likely to get the kind of remedial action they want. Why do they, or any college student, think they have the right to "demand" anything? They certainly knew what the curriculum contained when they applied as well as the number of black professors and administrators at Oberlin. If they didn't like what they saw, why did they apply? Furthermore, I sounds like that prefer to be segregated. Some of the things they are asking for would further segregate them from the community they want to be more included in. Dialogue is important, but it will not happen when it is prefaced by "demands!"

Jane Pierce Baker (Jan. 20, 2016)

To all students of color, and our allies, reading this: You are not alone in your struggle. There are many generations of students before you that have struggled with navigating Oberlin's campus for many reasons. There are ally alums who consider these demands a courageous and bold attempt to bring change to Oberlin College.

Although I do not agree with all the demands on the list, nor really the tone, I nonetheless find many parts I do agree with. I find that President Krislov's response was not a response at all, but a stock answer that does not in the least actually address the demands.

To my fellow Black Obies, you are not alone. Do not be ashamed for unapologetically demanding your voice be heard.

Brandon Brown, '14 (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am glad to read Krislov's temperate response to an immature, uncivil and unproductive attack. It saddens me to read a list of "demands" and reminds me how corrosive and counterproductive this approach to problem solving is. Any "us vs. them" approach to change creates a win-lose scenario and my experience negotiating with people suggests that win-win solutions are more robust and more likely to endure as successful social forces. The student demand letter is devoid of empathy which make successful negotiation even less likely, not more. This group of students have not learned some of life's basic rules nor have they assimilated the essence of the Oberlin community. Though difficult, I will try to remain optimistic that these students can learn how to be change-agents in a world needing change. This first attempt, however, wont fly. I hope they will learn, in time, that successful negotiation is about creating value, not taking it away from others.

jacobsonr (Jan. 20, 2016)

Is it known how many students were the authors of these demands? I was upset when I read them because I feel that Oberlin is a unique place - a perfect place - for making substantive changes in racial equality. Yet these DEMANDS felt too heated and elicited alarm! I hope people can work together because I cherish the spirit of freedom and acceptance I felt when I was a student at Oberlin. I support the president and also the efforts by students to have their concerned addressed. But I feel shaken by what I have just read. I believe this brilliant institution will come together in "unalarming" truth to become a leader in furthering racial comfort. This is a fantastic learning experiment - the seeds are being sown to bear a more subtle nourishment for every single student who would never have appeared on "Father Knows Best". Patience, work, listen, and more patience. The shoots of new seeds are tender. Walk softly.

Judith Jones '76 BMus (Jan. 20, 2016)

Having attended a predominately black high school, I found Oberlin's whiteness problematic. However, I do not believe that Oberlin was in any way racist, nor do I believe that the solutions proposed are fair or sensible. I believe that minority access to higher education is a serious problem in this country. I do not know the solution, but a quota system is not a solution. I hope that Oberlin emerges as a leader concerning this issue, as it has for many others. I firmly believe that oversimplified demands and personal attacks will not solve the problem. Smart, passionate people working together and creating dialogue may. That is the Oberlin way. For what it's worth, I'm a straight, cisgender, white male, which has inevitable colored my experiences, but I believe I am decent at reading people and situations.

Daniel Kane '07 (Jan. 20, 2016)

There was only one problem with the student's letter.

Instead of "demand" they should have said "suggest."

Otherwise they deserve an A+ for a solid piece of work and serious consideration and community discussion on how some of their suggestions might come to fruition.

At least we know they aren't dummies. And soon it will be their world.

Then they will have to deal with such letters! That is the best revenge.

Thanks for sharing this matter with friends of the College.

Robert Field (Jan. 20, 2016)

I welcome legitimate discourse and the openness of Oberlin's administration and faculty to continue its mission of fairness in all repects to all races, religions and genders. I also must applaud the patience of Dr. Krislov and others who are doing their utmost to separate legitimate demands from juvenile outbursts. For me, the bottom line has always been that it was and is a great privilege to be accepted into Oberlin. What an inspiring environment to surround four years of a student's life. Before the demands and the standoffs, how about some expression of gratitude from the student body to the institution that agreed to let them share in the wealth.

Thomas Z. Shepard (Jan. 20, 2016)

This document is as racist as the allegations it raises.

Paola Muggia (Jan. 20, 2016)

Unbelieveable and depressing stuff! I would remind those who "demand" of J.F.Kennedy's message: "do not ask what your country will do for you, but what you can do for your country".

Judith Liber class of 1961 (Jan. 20, 2016)

The tone taken in the "demands" is unnecessarily accusative of the very people who are trying to help the situation.

Enid Cleary (Jan. 20, 2016)

Oberlin is a business, a non profit higher education business. It is in existence and has accepted money from thousands of supporters who believe in and have invested in the philosophy to run the institution as stated in agreements, missions, corporate documents, etc. in accordance with even higher governing bodies that accredit Oberlin and the educations earned here. Students and their dreamy DEMANDS are not at liberty to change all that. Students applied to come here based on what Oberlin is, not what they want it to be. They have missed the point of education if they think that an education will affirm who they came here as. Oberlin empowers them with perspectives, knowledge, and skills to change who they think they are. One does not step to a McDonald's counter and DEMAND an exquisite Italian meal. Oberlin is a laboratory to see their talents, history, the world, people, and the possibilities for their future and the world. It is a short term stop in students' journeys of life. Their DEMANDS reflect what they see wrong in the world to THEM. If that is the case, then learn how to be an intelligent, respectful, and educated Oberlin alum, take your lessons and your quips into your future and (work to) make changes. Oberlin is the place to make changes to yourself, not the institution. College is also about relationships. The pages of Demands reflect that these students have not learned healthy relationships. They are burning bridges and losing respect from those who they will someday ask for jobs, assistance, advice, and support. Respect is not demanded.

Jboone (Jan. 20, 2016)

These black power advocates will get much farther if they would grow up and learn how to communicate without making veiled threats for special treatment. It's fine to be treated equally and fairly, but to have special places for black people and other special privileges is exclusionary and will alienate many others on campus. As a caucasian who was stirred by Dr. King's message many a timea, and who fully supported the civil rights movement, I find the regressive demands particularly offensive and counter productive, and not consistent with Oberlin's progressive history of social action. The "demands" read more like a vendetta than a constructive instrument of change.

john Heckenlively MD '68 (Jan. 20, 2016)

I was not surprised to see “Demands” from students of color at Oberlin. I read “The New Jim Crow” and was shocked and ashamed – today we continue to victimize blacks through institutional racism. I thank the “Black Lives Matter” movement for waking white society – myself included --up from the unconscious slumber of complacency. I helped start a “white privilege workshop” to educate us about our unconscious assumptions.

My memories of Oberlin are full of hallway discussions of philosophy, coop dinners and bread baking, arguments about the value of “rational discourse”. Memories of other students, not faculty, not Administration. Education is not the exclusive domain of professors. I thrilled in the intelligence, strength of ethical conviction, and creativity of those students. We spoke, we listened, we empathized, we compromised. I learned egalitarian principles by doing.

May I humbly suggest that, at Oberlin, education is the answer, and students should both drive education and deliver education.

Ruth Rowan, '72 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Thank you Martin Hochman and Fred Cohen for your recent comments. It is sad that this"petitions of demand" have occurred . As a 79 year old conservatory graduate and still teaching at a California Community College, the answer from President Krislov was most appropriate. Anne Lloyd Young '58

Anne Young (Jan. 20, 2016)

In my eyes, to truly disarm white supremacy, those in power must relinquish some of that power. This means if one is part of a group that is privileged, it's difficult to know what it feels like to lack privilege -- to be kept out, to be "other", to be marginalized. Intention to do the right thing is not enough. Real change comes in using one's position of power to do what the "other" says is needed (or what Black students are demanding in this case). If it feels awkward and scary, it should, since that's what giving up power would feel like. What does Oberlin have to lose by giving in to these demands? I'd say the continuation of white supremacy.

Sarah Caplan (Jan. 20, 2016)

To me, this seems like nothing more than a response for response's sake. It fulfills the President's need to respond, without saying much of anything substantive. If Pres. Krislov really wanted dialogue, he would have started a dialogue with his response, and not used it to simply lament the lack of dialogue.

There are parts of the demands that I agree with, and parts of it that I disagree with. I am not alone in this; in fact, I don't know a single student on campus whose support or condemnation of these demands is unequivocal. If I were Krislov, I would have very clearly stated which parts I agree with, and which parts I don't. Simply put, I would have been unafraid to put myself squarely in the middle of the debate, and make it clear exactly where I stand.

Krislov does not want to foster dialogue. He wants the dialogue to come to him, on his terms. And students, especially the scholar-activists who have been fostering dialogue about these demands for as long as I've been at Oberlin, see right through that.

Nick Canavan '16 (Jan. 20, 2016)

The original demands document is linked in the first sentence.

CF (Jan. 20, 2016)

"Racism and all forms of injustice hinder us from achieving our mission and must be challenged by the College wherever they undermine our goals for academic, artistic and musical excellence." When does racism NOT hinder those goals?

Isaac Chabon (Jan. 20, 2016)

Can you send me a copy of the original demands. The variety of comments read like responses to an open ended personality test. Also please define 'be nice." Unbelievable?!?

Louis M Smith '50 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Oberlin was founded by the followers of a man famous for, among other great qualities, his ability and desire to see both sides of a situation; there's even a statue dedicated to his conflict resolution skills. I believe that what the president is saying is that he is striving to find the root cause of the anger behind the demands and wants to address it with the skills not available to 20 year olds but that he will not give in to unilateral demands. Like a parent he takes a knee, looks us in the eye, says, "you are saying you are upset, I hear you, but you still have a bed time. Here are the reasons why your petition to stay up late are unreasonable and have been rejected." Just because he doesn't capitulate to demands doesn't mean he isn't going to factor them into his decisions. Take a look at oberlin's history of dissatisfaction and the wonderful alumni this has produced. Have you ever read a better, more reasonable comment section? With such good grammar and spelling? With such passionate but respectful ideas. We shake things up, we challenge authority, we should also try to find the good in others because seeing things from the other person's perspective can help us come to terms with our own dissatisfaction.

Amy (Jan. 20, 2016)

As I read the “DEMANDS” document, I wondered: who are the authors; what percentage are they of the entire body of black students at Oberlin; and how representative are they of that entire body. I thought certain their names, and maybe their class, would be listed at the end of the document, but they weren’t. Without these data points, the document carries little weight.

F Smith

Floyd L. Smith (Jan. 20, 2016)

Before responding, I looked up President Krislov's biography. His activities over the years reveal him to be a defender of affirmative action and a tireless worker for a more inclusive society. Oberlin, in my day, was an imperfect institution, and I am sure that it is today, and will be in the future because that is the nature of institutions and human beings. I am sympathetic to the students because nothing can atone for the historical institutional racism in American society (and the world at large) and the harm that it has caused countless individuals and families throughout the ages. At the same time, I am reminded of some remarks that I heard Joe Kline make to the California Economic Club in which he contrasted the obligations of citizenship vs. a culture of entitlements. I think the same applies here. I hope these students will find constructive outlets for their hopes and dreams and through their various accomplishments bring about a better America.

Allen Juris (Jan. 20, 2016)

If I had so many major problems with Oberlin College I would "vote with my feet" and find another educational institution more to my liking. There are lots of choices out there; none of these "demanders" is being forced to remain at Oberlin I can reasonably assume. Oberlin is a college, not a government (neither local, State, or Federal). One has a choice with educational institutions. Trying to help Oberlin College improve as a college is one thing, threatening violence (for that is what the demand document sounds like) is not productive here and not something a private educational institution has to put up with nor should.

Martin Hochman '62 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Today, too much of the discourse in this country seems to push people further apart rather than bring them to a meeting point – the point at which meaningful change can take place. In President Krislov’s response to the students’ letter I hear an effort to overcome this trend: Some of the issues the students address ‘resonate’ with him, but solutions must come from ‘collaborative engagement.’

Suki Robins (Jan. 20, 2016)

What we really need is a new dining experience on campus called "Collaborative Co-op." Here students could mix, blend, knead, stir, froth, bake, cook, gather, wash and digest meals and ideas together. Who knows? Perhaps they will publish their recipes after their experiences together. Hang in there, Marv. Think your calm hand on the rudder is what Oberlin needs now.

Ann Goodman Rapson '77 (Jan. 20, 2016)

As a graduate from the class of 1957, I have passed my 80th birthday and should have realized that reading the student DEMANDS would not be good for my blood pressure, but read them I did. I also know that I will be considered too old to understand by those students, however I must comment.

President Krislov used remarkable restraint in his comments. The demands were so "over the top" as to be almost unbelievably written by rational Oberlin students. They are almost all self-serving, and far removed from the intelligent and articulate Black leaders of my time. The leader of Cleveland CORE, when I was a member, was one of the brightest and inspiring leaders I have ever met, and was an Oberlin grad. She knew how to get things that needed to be changed, changed.

One very small point in the diatribe, struck a personal sore point. I personally have spoken to many refugees in Israel from Ethiopia, who are very grateful to be in Israel. All is not perfect but worlds better than their homeland. Many were moved to Israel by a massive air campaign.

I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail in the Black student body and that constructive appropriate changes will be made where appropriate.

Thank you Marvin Krislov, Oberlin is lucky to have you as president.

Fred Cohen '57

Fred Cohen (Jan. 20, 2016)

If I were president of Oberlin, I would, in consultation with the black student leadership, create a panel of faculty, students 1/2 black and 1/2 white, and a couple of retired trustees who have time to devote, to review each demand, obtain facts and reply. Let's face it, most people in the USA are white. The tail (the blacks) should not wag the dog (the whites), but the tail is an integral part of the dog and should be treated the same as the dog.

Roger M. Whiteman (Jan. 20, 2016)

As a recent alum (OC '15), I am embarrassed to associate myself with an institution whose student body displays such egregious levels of entitlement and lack of awareness of reality. The fact that students, ANY students at the age of roughly 20, think that they are in a position to call for the "immediate firing" of multiple respected, long-term faculty/staff members and arbitrarily demand the renaming of major buildings on campus is absurd. Not to mention how outlandish some of the ideas were, like demanding that Oberlin enroll prisoners recently released from Grafton? How are people fresh from prison equipped to succeed in an environment as academically rigorous and demanding as Oberlin? If you want to do real activist work, get involved directly with the community surrounding you - volunteer for programs that work with people getting out of prison to help them redirect their lives and equip themselves to succeed in realistic ways. While not all of the content in that letter was without merit, the attitude was over the top and offensive to me; I appreciate the response from the president's office and wish it had been stronger.

Meredith W. (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am saddened by the imperious and threatening tone of the letter submitted to Oberlin's Board and leadership, which unfortunately overshadows the message in the petition. The lack of compassion and faith in each other exhibited in the document stands in marked contrast to the approach of the American hero we celebrated earlier this week. Last night my six year old daughter told me what she had learned yesterday in kindergarten about Martin Luther King, Jr. She asked if he was a hero, and I told her that Dr. King was a hero because, when he saw unfairness in the world, that people were treated differently because of their skin color, he said, "No. That's wrong." and he refused to accept it.
What I couldn't communicate is the genius of how Dr. King's righteous defiance was also informed by his compassion for others, and how his faith in their compassion allowed him to build a lasting coalition for justice and change in America. I hope the Oberlin community can 1) accept, a priori, that the petition is an earnest, if flawed, effort by passionate young people to fulfill the highest ideals of Oberlin by calling for justice and fairness; and 2) teach, learn and model how rational and respectful moral arguments can combine with that passion to produce the mortar that binds broad coalitions together to produce lasting change in society.

wkasper87 (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am disturbed, not only by the 'demands' of the students, but by the fact that neither the official college response nor that of any of those who have commented so far, including a rabbi, have pointed out the incredible, sad and unfortunately all too common interjection of blatantly anti-semetic and anti-Israel rhetoric into a discussion which, whatever its merits, has absolutely nothing --NOTHING--to do with Israel! What in heaven's name is going on here? (I think it is also sad that students at what I still hope to think of as an elite institution of learning in the English speaking world are, even in the context of a letter to the president and board of that institution, apparently unable to write coherent, correct and grammatical English. Once again, whatever the merits of their case may be, this proves that something is seriously seriously wrong with the education they are 'taking advantage' of. )

Jonathan Silk (Jan. 20, 2016)

President Krislov,

I am deeply troubled by your statement, "I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement." By making that blatant refusal, even more barriers are set up than those already being experienced by the students, faculty, and staff of color. I could perhaps understand if you were stating that you would not automatically cede to demands that were presented with a rejection of collaborative engagement. But, to say you will not even respond seems to me a rejection of the aspirational ethos of Oberlin and a rejection of our responsibilities as educators.

The average undergraduate likely doesn't fully understand how college governance, labor law, or tenure systems work -- or the historical basis for why they are structured the way they are. Instead of a blatant refusal to engage, I would like to see evidence of efforts to communicate respectfully to students why some of their proposals are not feasible. I would like to see the administration respond directly, opening a door to listen to why the students feel as though collaborative engagement isn't working, and facilitating conversations about how to establish such engagement. And, I would like to hear more about the "important steps" that have been taken on "many fronts."

I don't doubt your sincerity in wanting to address the issues of racism, privilege, and injustice on campus. I also don't believe that refusing to respond directly to this document is a fruitful step forward.

Kathy Liddle, '89 (Jan. 20, 2016)

The authors of the ‘demands’ appear to me to say two things: that the African-American experience and ethnic culture is devalued by the Oberlin curriculum and Oberlin does not serve their unique individual needs very well. What’s missing is an indication of whether this extreme alienation is widely representative of minority students. Whom do the authors represent? It is certainly true that Oberlin is primarily a creature of western culture, and it is appropriate to have a campus-wide discussion of the extent that Oberlin should focus more than it currently does on other cultural traditions., I doubt the outcome would be what the ‘demands’ envision, but it would clarify the underpinnings of the curriculum. I know nothing of the current state of campus student services, but the College can certainly examine, with the help of students, whether the current services appropriately address the unique needs of minority students.

John Henretta '68 (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am an alumnus (double degree - College and Conservatory) who found aspects of the document created by the 14 students of interest but also seriously flawed. Some of its sentiments seem valid and I am sure, as President Krislov has indicated, that the larger subject merits further consideration, conversation, and action. However, the tone of the document is way too strident and divisive, and many of its propositions ignore the long-standing reasons underpinning Oberlin's educational traditions. Furthermore, I fail to see what Israel has to do with this discussion. If the signers of this petition are concerned with greater inclusion and balance in Oberlin's educational offerings, there is plenty to discuss....not demand. I would encourage all parties to focus on the real issues here and find common ground through dialog, listening and openness. The goal of this exchange should be to make Oberlin a better school for all who attend. Thanks for listening. Richard

Richard M. Kesner (Jan. 20, 2016)

As political commentators have noted, the divide between those of differing opinions in the United States has deepened in recent years. People tend to listen only to those with whom they agree. It seems to me that the next stage for Oberlin's tradition of progressive engagement is to help students learn how to listen to each other and to be productive in trying to change the world. Thank you to President Krislov for attempting to move the conversation forward.

Laura Davidow Hirshbein '89 (Jan. 20, 2016)

The students' demands and President Krislov's letter in response, made me think about the question of what leadership around important, and difficult issues, looks like. It also made me think of this NYTimes piece from a few weeks ago. From the article: "Anger can have a noble dimension — as a response to injustice, as the grist for change — and neither Trump nor Cruz projects much nobility or tries to, for that matter. They’re not so much angry as petulant, impudent." http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/opinion/sunday/obnoxiousness-is-the-new-charisma.html

Oberlin, like all college campuses, is a place for young people to try on new roles and identities when addressing the challenges that we face as a society. But how we address those challenges makes the difference between leadership and petulance.

Kris Grabarek '96 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Rereading the list of demands - and trying to overlook the confrontational language - makes it clear that each DEMAND has implications that require deeper discussion, data, comparative research, and input from Oberlin's multiple layers of constituents. Recalling my student years - I well remember the presumption that things (my issues) must lead to change quickly and that from my perspective everything at Oberlin was about the current student body. What the authors of the DEMANDS may need to understand better is that many of these DEMANDS have long range implications for the vision and goals of the institution and that requires a thoughtful, well-studied, deliberative process about Oberlin's intellectual and artistic place in the world and how all of us in the Oberlin family want to conceptualize that. Perhaps if that process can be well designed for inclusion and carried out in a fair and strategic manner, the students will have learned something very valuable about the political process within all collective bodies.

Patricia Gray (Jan. 20, 2016)

I'm saddened, but not surprised, to hear the anger in the demands of Black students in reaction to their experience on the Oberlin campus. However, I'm extremely disappointed to read the several hostile, judgmental responses by alumni whom I assume are white. Oberlin is not an oasis in the sea of our society's racism. I urge President Krislov to step back, listen to the message underlying the students' demands, and initiate a dialogue that restores mutual trust and respect. Unfortunately, white privilege, while completely invisible to the benefactors, creates a power imbalance that continues to permeate our society in this supposedly "post-racial" era. Read Ta-Nahisi Coates -- and Naomi Klein's The New Jim Crow -- if you think we've made significant progress against racism since the civil rights movement. We white people all have a lot of soul-searching to do.

Helen Schietinger, '70 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Kudos to President Krislov. As has been so aptly addressed by other college presidents in response to the demands of a gang of ill-advised and naïve students, our Oberlin College President is correct in stating that any change in policy and procedure requires a joint discussion. Oberlin College remains one of the most inclusive and liberal institutions in this country, yet hibernating behind a wall and demanding what many would claim unrealistic (ie increase by 4% enrollment of students of color from island nations) sets up a no-win scenario. I support the current administration at Oberlin College and hope they can find calm in this storm and perhaps appeal to a more mature approach to student interests. Perhaps those demanding students would do better at another college or university.

jondavid pollock (Jan. 20, 2016)

Just in case you didn't make it all the way to the end of this, I offer a summary:

Um, hi! I’m Oberlin president Marvin Krislov, and you seem sort of upset? Let me guess: You're probably acting out because of that weird national meme where all those black people keep getting shot all the time! Yeah, I thought it might be that. Well, let me tell you: I care, too (big time) and so does Oberlin College and everyone who even ever worked there or was ever associated with us. Without us caring, very openly, about people like you, how would our stable of wealthy white liberal alumnus be able to find the much-needed moral relief that accompanies their annual pooping of money into our Oberlin endowment? I’m going to list several words in order to emphasize my point: diverse, equitable, inclusive, interconnected, aesthetic, musicianship, transformative, and structural racism. These are words which I thought of myself. I know what they all mean and I’m including them here on purpose. In fact, there’s a black person right in the building with me now, changing filters as part of the annual HVAC maintenance, and I’m so confident that I’m not racist that didn’t even ask him to proofread this for me prior to posting! No joke!

To be even more serious, though: Here at Oberlin, we're absolutely dedicated to not literally shooting anyone, especially if they have the financial resources to cover our tuition, spend heavily in the ever-growing college-owned commercial sector and—if we’re lucky-- eventually contribute to our endowment. If they happen to be black, that’s perfect. If they happen to be black, in fact, we’re going to make a very big deal about how wonderful it is that they are black. I am very proud when black people give me money. I really, really am. That process is central to our educational mission.

But this business about “demands,” well… let me put it this way: In order seriously and meaningfully address your concerns, Oberlin College would have to really take on some financial risk, positioning ourselves and a leader in the fight against racial justice in higher education. But, at this point, I’d like to ask you: Did we or did we not literally let that black lady come here in freaking 1837 or whenever? I mean, wasn’t that, like, before people were even that upset about slavery? It’s sort of like yelling at Al Gore leaving the water running while he brushes his teeth even after he made that awesome “Global Warming” movie.

So, in Summary: Good luck with these demands; we’re all in this together #notgonnahappen #myblackfriends #thebuttonundermydesksummonscampussecurity

Z. Cooper (Jan. 20, 2016)

You told us to be fearless. You told us to believe one person could change the world. Now you're telling us to watch our tone. So much for that proud history of activism.

Becky Strauss ('11) (Jan. 20, 2016)

When I finished reading this article, I was briefly unsure whether I had actually reached the end because it read like an introduction to a much more serious and informative response that, sadly, does not seem to exist. Where's the content? Where's the engagement with the specifics of student grievances, even those that are troubling to the administration? Here, I wrote a shorter version: "Yeah we've got some work to do, racism is bad, but calm down, students, and be sure not to complain about anyone by name! Oberlin is totally awesome so I bet we can fix this if we work together. I promise I'll continue listening to, uh, whatever it is that your problem is, as long as you're polite about it."

ESM '11 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Item number 3 on the "Financial Health" page 9, raises an important real world issue, which is the effect of student loan indebtedness on students (of all colors). Indeed, many of these same young people who are so troubled by educational issues during a few brief years at Oberlin will go on to be saddled with student loan debt for decades.

This phenomenon goes beyond race or gender or religion or any other characteristic. Student loan indebtedness has ruined the finances of tens of millions of Americans. Student loan indebtedness is generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy, which means the obligation will never be erased unless paid in full.

There is a strong possibility that a student's Oberlin bachelor's degree from will not generate income sufficient to satisfy the Oberlin debt. Only very disciplined and very mature graduates will understand the actual effect of interest on their student debt, as well as the need to pay quickly.

Oberlin tuition has grown dramatically since I graduated 20 years ago. I treasure my Oberlin experience, but young people (of all colors) should not have to incur crippling debt to have the same experience.

Stephen Barnes (1996) (Jan. 20, 2016)

As a White member of an active and outspoken chapter of the NAACP, I am taken aback that these Black students seem to have no awareness of the presence and needs of Mid-Eastern, Asian, Central and South American peoples, and, for goodness' sake, the Tribal Nations of North America and Australia and New Zealand - and LGBTQ people of all colors. All is not Black and White, which the over-reaching demands of the document fail to recognize. To cut one self off from the community, whether on campus or among the alums, is self-defeating and self-centered. My class of '63 was among the first to make many "demands" throughout the 60s and into the 70s. At Commencement I was very angry when the then President of the College said in his farewell address that "it will take longer than any of you think." Now, at age 75, I know that he was right, right in ways that I was not yet ready or able to understand. But I did learn from my mentors at Oberlin never to give up in pursuit of justice and mercy. I believe that over a lifetime I have never given up, even in periods of deep depression, and I think this is true of most of my classmates and of the other Oberlin alums I know. How much we get accomplished and how well, that is always open to question. But I do know that authoritarian, fundamentalist, absolutist, "our way or no way" approaches tear apart society from top to bottom and invite narcissistic, sociopathic leadership to take hold. Whatever Oberlin's faults or lackings, that is not what the College and Conservatory stand for and seek to be.

Robert E. Stiefel, Class of 1963 (Jan. 20, 2016)

This is a reasoned response to the demands set forth.I was very disturbed by the tone of the demands, even when I thought some of them had merit.

Esther Riley (Jan. 20, 2016)

Where do I start. I wish President Krislov had been stronger and clearer in his defense of Oberlin values. Sure these people are a angry, but anger isn't an excuse for rude behavior or worse. And the rhetoric! Oberlin is no more imperialist, racist, et cetera than the snow outside. The demands and the personal attacks! So a few things might be reasonably addressed in a reasonable way after a reasonable discussion, but not this way. My generation protested a war, death, and destruction. That's not the case here. These kids are privileged and lucky. I'm depressed about this stuff and discouraged to have much to do with Oberlin if these kinds of demands are accepted and entertained in this manner. To

Paul M Kaplan (Jan. 20, 2016)

Many emotions are raised by the communication from the Oberlin Black community, among them sadness for their experience of being sidelined from a meaningful role in the college's community and curriculum, and pride in the brave voices that demand empowerment. The hopefully youthful misstep of a threat at the end of the note is a terrible miscalculation however. Oberlin is an obviously sympathetic institution whatever its shortcomings. It is home and family for students and faculty who presumeably choose to be there. Hopefully well-meaning, mature parties on both sides will use this communication as a starting point that anchors one extreme end of the discussion and strives diligently to meet at a place where meaningful, constructive change can take place in a realistic timeframe without destruction of careers, property, and institutional legacy.

Maren Laughlin (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am disappointed that President Krislov dismisses and devalues the voices behind the document in his response. If the privileged don't recognize and validate the challenges faced by others less privileged, Oberlin will become a one-dimensional campus as prospective students speak in the only way left to them: with their feet. Please engage with these students and listen to their concerns. Please start the process now.

David Smith 1981 (Jan. 20, 2016)

So basically, the students are demanding that individuals be judged by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character. Somehow "irony" doesn't seem powerful enough as a descriptor for these events.

Robert M Slugg Ph.D. '79 (Jan. 20, 2016)

I appreciate President Krislov's measured response to the outrageous students' demands. I hope Oberlin College will stay a safe haven where dialogue and respect for differences are encouraged and supported by all. I came to Oberlin as an international student on a scholarhip in 1972, fleeing a military dictatorship that was then ruling my homeland. The freedom of expression and and tolence of dissent I found at Oberlin were a gift I will never forget. I hope the same spirit continues to exist for future generations of students.

Marina Kasdaglis (Jan. 20, 2016)

I am dismayed by the current student outcry. The dissenters are in an institution known for acceptance of all colors. This college opened its doors to Afro Americans and students rescued runaway slaves against federal laws of the time. As a graduate of Oberlin I have taken great pride in their principles, as well as dealing with racism. I stand for an integrated society, and while I recognize that no one is perfect, the opportunity is there, and has been forged by courageous and fair-minded men and women. I ask the students to listen to Dr Krislov. Honor Dr King; don't shame his memory.

George Shambaugh III '54 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Good to see Mr. Krislov has some balls! Those demands were asinine, delusional and embarrassing for so-called intellectuals. Although tbh it would have been funny if he'd have agreed to all of the demands, just for the irony of having the black community enforce "black only spaces" (i.e, segregation).

Michael Calb (Jan. 20, 2016)

I appreciate President Krislov engaging with the students' demands on both levels - their admirable, incredibly important message, and their incoherent, proudly unproductive methods.

Tommy La Voy '13 (Jan. 20, 2016)

Suppose a certain Oberlin staff/faculty and a specific incident involving an Oberlin student warrant a legitimate grievance. How should the student go about registering that complaint? If there are already resources at Oberlin that handle these issues, perhaps people need to be reminded about those resources .

Jon Smith (Jan. 20, 2016)

To whom it may concern: I've spent over a half-century as a civil rights advocate, beginning actually at Oberlin, picketing the Oberlin phone company for its racially-biased hiring/firing practices during my 1961-62 Freshman year. While I am crystal clear that American society is full of racial inequity, and seems to have taken several steps backward from the achievements of the 60s-70s civil rights movement (in which I was actively involved), I find this student list of demands to be so far "over the top" as to be extremely offensive and a slap in the face of the work and philosophy of my hero, Martin Luther King. Their platform is so obviously racist as to far surpass the evidence of racism they cite at the College. Not only Oberlin, but virtually every institution of higher education in America would benefit from further evolution beyond the historical European model. Note my use of the word "evolution". Unless the students making "DEMANDS" [their capitals] are willing to join with faculty, administration, and students of every other racial background to help build a more wonderfully inclusive and comprehensive Oberlin social and educational experience for all, then it is difficult to take them seriously, even - as I and my predominately African-American family do - while one yearns for an American society with equal opportunity and respect for all.

Richard Cameron-Wolfe (Class of 1965) (Jan. 20, 2016)

I would address the dissenting students who are tied up in themselves an dare failing to see a broader future for all. The community of color has chosen to isolate themselves rather than to integrate. This is a mistake and is doing the black community a grave injustice. Here in Atlanta, GA we have a black mayor, black hospital administrators and black colleagues, all of whom want their children to succeed. Our world in Atlanta, GA is an integrated world. Oberlin students and the college have chosen integration since their doors opened, and have physically rescued escaping slaves. Why don't you honor this institution.

George Shambaugh III (Jan. 20, 2016)

The evident passion in the list of demands makes it obvious that Blacks, even on a "progressive" campus like Oberlin, still suffer profound disadvantages and frustrations of which we privileged whites can have no idea. What I hear in President Krislov’s response is, “We’re working on it.” What’s missing from that response is any evidence of a plan – a concrete process to work through the list of demands, along with a schedule on which that will happen. Also, while some of the demands may present significant obstacles, there are many on which the College could take immediate action, by way of demonstrating good faith and a genuine commitment to these serious issues. “We’re working on it,” can be reasonably expected to be seen as a continuation of the same reassurances (but lack of action) that have led to the document in the first place.

Christine Buss (Jan. 20, 2016)

Many of the demands seem like important goals, not necessarily achievable immediately, but I hope students' urgency will make them happen more speedily than otherwise. However, Krislov is absolutely right to point out that many of them violate the principle of shared governance. Students are not always aware of how they may be supporting the corporatization of the university: many administrators would love to have the power to fire faculty at will.

Elizabeth Freeman (Jan. 20, 2016)

I agree with President Krislov on the essential need for deep listening and collaborative dialogue with all elements of the Oberlin community to tackle the continuing challenges at Oberlin and in our country of all forms of racism including entrenched institutional racism and all the roadblocks to equal opportunity and for each group and person to be able to freely express and to be seen and supported for who they are. The one important constructive suggestion I would make to the president's remarks is that we also need to be true to the spirit of Oberlin's motto of Labor and Learning which to my understanding includes the praxis of learning from what we do and how we live in the world, which includes a commitment to heal our wounds and injustices and to help everyone become more fully developed people living in a just, better world. In Hebrew we call that Tikkun Olam, and that surely includes the deep challenge we all face to counter racism in all its forms.

Rabbi Jeff Foust AM '73 & Danforth Relgious Intern (Jan. 20, 2016)

Thank you, President Krislov, for your perfect response to the over the top demands of a group of students.

Christopher Cascketta (Jan. 20, 2016)

I would welcome a detailed, clear, specific exposition of the societal end-state the authors of the original demands have in mind. It's more efficient and productive to have a goal in mind if one is working for positive change, as opposed to thrashing about in a swamp of subjective aspirations.

Charles Stewart (Jan. 20, 2016)

Oh for heaven's sake. I am speechless. I had read in the papers about these student demands but had no idea they were so--well--vitriolic. I am embarrassed to be an alumna. Life is difficult and the older and more mature you get the more demands upon your strength and maturity there are. You can start in college when things do not perhaps go the way you like and you will have to learn to surmount these things, just as others do. I hate to say it, but ALL people have hard things in their lives. The students have no idea, at their young ages, just how much hard stuff life can throw at you. Whatever. At this point I think I really don't want to have much more to do with Oberlin. sorry.

Hilary Hopkins (Jan. 20, 2016)

I wholeheartedly agree with President. Krislov's response. I find it deeply disturbing that in an academic institution, which is based on collaborative engagement, we find instead vituperation, personal attacks, false insinuations and demands. It is a sad moment, reflective of the general political climate; hopefully the Oberlin community will reject this trend, and work together to re-establish a world characterized by mutual respect and kindness.

Eva Sandis class of 49 (Jan. 20, 2016)

OC '99

In my opinion this is not an acceptable response. This is carefully chosen language to provide excuses for inaction.

When we ignore and dismiss the concerns of students of color, which is a reasonable interpretation of this response from Mr. Krislov, we find that in retrospect we are nearly always in the wrong and have to come back and make apologies and restitution for our previous behavior. Lets not make that mistake for the 3000th time here.

I have read these demands. I can't do the math on the enrollment figures , but many/most of the demands seem eminently reasonable and would be good ideas for improving the experience of all students at Oberlin. At the very least, the president could have responded to each in detail and offer to meet some demands immediately. This failure is glaring.

Most importantly, given this kind of (in my view) inadequate response from the president, I think that the final demand is the most important for administration to meet.

Henry Wood (Jan. 20, 2016)

I think Marvin Krislov missed a good opportunity to suggest other venues to continue this discussion in a more constructive matter.

Darrin Schultz (Jan. 20, 2016)

Ah, too bad. It is fine to have students who care about things but this sort of scorched-earth often even incoherent rhetoric is both unrealistic and so categorical that it's hard to see where reasoned discussion can even occur.

If American campuses generally can become more politically aware and activist, and less complacent, that will be good and societal change will result, hopefully in a sane way. Top-flight institutions like Oberlin often pay the agonizing price of being in the forefront.

A small institution can address, but can't, fix a large society's faults. Some specific adjustments, based on rational and measured discussion, not inchoate demands, seem important to make. But beware of the fate experienced by Antioch College, a once-sterling institution that tried to address all societal ills itself, and achieved nothing except its own extinction as a result.

Ken Weiss (Jan. 20, 2016)

Thank goodness Marvin Krislov stands for the principles of constructive engagement and integration rather than segregation. His response exhibits the patience of a mature individual.

Kathleen Stone (Jan. 20, 2016)