Oberlin College students have finally joined dozens of other colleges in releasing a Mizzou-inspired set of demands for their administration, and while the demands come a month late, they make up for it by being very numerous and remarkably extreme.
The list, which bubbled up online over the past three days, is no less than 14 pages in length, and includes a staggering 50 demands, many of which divide into several sub-demands. Not only are the demands numerous, but they are quite severe and are paired with stern rhetoric. The document opens as follows:
Oberlin College and Conservatory is an unethical institution. From capitalizing on massive labor exploitation across campus, to the Conservatory of Music treating Black and other students of color as less than through its everyday running, Oberlin College unapologetically acts as [sic] unethical institution, antithetical to its historical vision. In the 1830s, this school claimed a legacy of supporting its Black students. However, that legacy has amounted to nothing more than a public relations campaign initiated to benefit the image of the institution and not the Africana people it was set out for … [T]his institution functions on the premises of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy. Oberlin College and Conservatory uses the limited number of Black and Brown students to color in its brochures, but then erases us from student life on this campus. You profit off of our accomplishments and invisible labor, yet You expect us to produce personal solutions to institutional incompetencies. We as a College-defined “high risk,” “low income,” “disadvantaged” community should not have to carry the burden of deconstructing the white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist system that we took no part in creating, yet is so deeply embedded in the soil upon which this institution was built.
After continuing in this manner for a while and outlining some broad goals (such as “the eradication hegemony in the curriculum”), the document begins to reel off demands, warning that they are “not polite requests, but concrete and unmalleable demands.” If Oberlin doesn’t capitulate, the document warns of a “full and forceful response,” though, despite the detailed demands, what the “response” would be remains entirely undefined.
Some demands mimic those recently seen at other schools, like Dartmouth College, Yale University, and the University of Missouri. The students want more black enrollment, more black employees in various offices, and so forth. Other demands stand out, though, including:
- A 40 percent increase in the number of black students in the school’s jazz department by 2022 (demands related to the jazz department are in general very numerous).
- The elimination of the school’s No Trespass list, which bars certain individuals deemed unsafe from entering campus, because it includes blacks in disproportionate numbers.
- The creation of a bridge program that will recruit recently-released prisoners to enroll at Oberlin for undergraduate courses
- “A more inclusive audition process in the Conservatory that does not privilege Western European theoretical knowledge over playing ability.”
- Adding Africa-centric course requirements for all departments that have existing Western civilization-themed course requirements. For example, history majors are required to take a U.S. history course, so they should also be required to take a course on African history prior to 1800.
- The establishment of special, segregated black-only “safe spaces” across campus, including in the central library and the school’s science building.
- An $8.20/hour stipend for black student leaders who are organizing protest efforts
- The creation of a school busing system for Oberlin, Ohio’s K-12 schools, paid for by the college.
- The immediate firing of eight college employees for various offenses, including music theory professor Allen Cadwallader for “the racist undertones of his course as well as the way in which he treats black Jazz who take his course, which is rooted in white supremacy.”
While the long list of demands clearly involved a substantial amount of effort, one interesting aspect is its authorship is not totally clear. The original Google Docs post of the demands (which has since been deleted) credits them to ABUSUA, a black student group, but that group doesn’t appear to have much of a public online presence, and there’s also no outside evidence of them taking credit for it. But some other Oberlin organizations, like its pro-Palestine group, have publicly endorsed the demands, and there was also an online document collecting signatures which, according to the blog Legal Insurrection, surpassed 400 before also being taken down.
Whatever the demands’ origin, it’s not a huge surprise that they’ve popped up at Oberlin. Two years ago, the school had a series of hate crimes faked by liberal students, and earlier this year an appearance by feminism critic Christina Hoff Sommers prompted students to create a special “safe space” for students who felt emotionally traumatized by her lecture.
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