Dear Oberlin community, family and friends,
Over the course of the last two weeks, tremendous effort has been made by various student communities to address the recent attacks of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic hate speech on campus. As Oberlin students, we are proud of the ways in which the Oberlin student community particularly has reached out and organized in light of most recent events on or around South Bowl early Monday morning. That being said, we are very uncomfortable with the rhetoric used by the administration, certain members in particular, to discuss the series of events that led to the cancellation of classes and the dedication of the remainder of Monday as a “Day of Solidarity.” In an effort to encourage administrative transparency, we seek to provide a more accurate accounting of the significant events and conversations that occurred in Afrikan Heritage House between students, faculty and staff on Monday morning. This summary of events is a result of the analysis of multiple time-stamped text messages and status updates as well as minutes from the emergency meeting in Afrikan Heritage Lounge. It is these events listed below that truly led to the Day of Solidarity on Oberlin’s campus, an event that was advocated for and organized by students present at the gathering called to order shortly after the incident was reported. We have provided a timeline that narrates the events of that morning and the topics discussed, clarifying how the Day of Solidarity that happened on Oberlin College campus was a direct result of student endeavors, with support from the Africana Studies Department, the Multicultural Resource Center and the Office of the Ombudsperson, and the demands made of the President, Dean of Students, Dean of Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Conservatory.
In Solidarity, Students of the Africana Community, residents of Afrikan Heritage House and their (many) allies
–Before 1:15 a.m. An unidentified suspect is spotted walking on south campus near South Hall and the Edmonia Lewis Center in what appears to be traditional Ku Klux Klan regalia.
–1:19 a.m. One of the Resident Assistants of Afrikan Heritage House, Gifty Dominah, texts her Co-Resident Assistant of Afrikan Heritage House Michelle Ellison stating that one of their residents sighted an unspecified person wearing what seemed to be KKK regalia.
–1:25 a.m. Bria Marcelo, area coordinator of program houses, is notified about the sighting by the RA, Michelle Ellison. Shortly after, Bria Marcelo arrives at Afrikan Heritage House along with Safety and Security officers.
–1:26 a.m. A student, Eliza Diop, contacts Eric Estes, dean of students, about the sighting.
–Approximately 1:30 a.m. Resident Assistants of Afrikan Heritage House wake up their residents and assemble in Lord Lounge.
–1:40 a.m. Eric Estes arrives at Afrikan Heritage House.
–Between 1:30 and 1:45 a.m. private conversations among students about the sighting are disseminated and other Oberlin students begin to meet with the residents of Afrikan Heritage House in Lord Lounge.
–1:50 a.m. Caitlin O’Neill, Africana community coordinator of the MRC, arrives in Lord Lounge.
–Approximately 2:20 a.m. the Oberlin Police Department arrives and, along with Oberlin College Safety and Security, addresses questions surrounding future safety initiatives (both personal and wide scale) and the current investigation of the apparent KKK sighting and other events from the past month.
–2:49 a.m. Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College, arrives after being notified by Dean Estes of the sighting.
Dean Estes opens the floor for students to ask either President Krislov or himself any questions.
When the first question asked by a student about the incident is directed to Marvin Krislov, he looks straight at Dean Estes for a response.
–3:14 a.m. President Krislov discusses the measures that have already been taken against the “biased” incidents, mentioning that they have removed students from campus.
Yeworkwha Belachew, the ombudsperson at Oberlin College, and Ehrai Adams, the assistant director of wellness, are present during the following discussions.
Students ask for clarification of the process of canceling classes. Dean Estes and President Krislov respond by saying that “all of the deans have to be notified and meet before canceling classes, including the Dean of Arts and Sciences and Dean of the Conservatory.”
Students ask for the other deans to be called and brought to the meeting in order to cancel classes the following morning. Initially, there was a refusal to contact the other deans because of the time of day. Around this time, Marjorie Burton, director of Safety and Security, arrives.
–3:40 a.m. Meredith Gadsby, chair of the Africana Studies Department, in a conversation with students, cancels all classes held by the Africana Studies Department and expresses her intention to meet with her department in order to organize a Teach-In at Afrikan Heritage House at noon on Monday.
Later on, Eric Estes returns to the room with Sean Decatur, dean of Arts and Sciences, on speaker phone.
–4:22 a.m. The students are speaking with Dean Decatur on speaker phone about canceling classes.
After speaking with students about their reasons for wanting class to be canceled, Dean Decatur declines the option of canceling classes, stating that it would be “giving in” to recent events and would “disrupt our commitment to learning.” At this point, Dean Estes, Dean Decatur and President Krislov are aware that the Africana Studies Department has canceled classes and organized a Teach-In. Students point out that since these actions were taken already, a lack of a similar response from administration would be seen as a sign of disrespect to the department. Student responses are many, but overall the room is not satisfied with the apparent refusal to cancel classes. Student points brought up included: This is a residential campus, there is a difference between giving in and fighting, we are not asking at this point but demanding, and we cannot simply brush these events over anymore. Dean Estes takes Dean Decatur off speaker phone and then leaves the room to talk privately.
After the phone call with Dean Decatur, John Harshbarger, director of Counseling Services, arrives.
–4:39 a.m. Discussion among students is facilitated by Michelle Ellison regarding what student action will occur on Monday. These discussions focus on what to do if classes are not cancelled and a proposal to block all entrances of all academic buildings.
–4:44 a.m. Plans for a Rally and Blockade solidify and working groups form. One working group maps out the exits of academic buildings such as King and the Science Center for the Blockade. Another working group compiles a letter to faculty members asking them to cancel classes in solidarity with students. An additional working group creates signs and flyers for the blockade and another working group organizes the rally to take place at 2 p.m. During the planning, a student requests that Marjorie Burton leave to allow the students to plan.
–Approximately 4:50 a.m. David Stull, dean of the Conservatory, arrives at Lord Lounge. Upon his arrival Dean Stull is apprehensive to speak to students until it becomes apparent that it is impossible to avoid student questions and demands.
–5:10 a.m. Students go to Dunkin’ Donuts to get coffee and food for organizers. Dean Estes gives students money for this purpose.
–5:12 a.m. President Krislov, Dean Estes and Dean Stull state that classes will be canceled.
After the announcements, working groups realign to focus on the rally, creating posters and sending out an e-mail to faculty to come and support students at the rally.
–5:20 a.m. Dean Estes says that any student who does not show up for their campus job tomorrow will not face any consequences. “I can guarantee this for student life jobs, and I will be in contact with other employers.”
–5:34 a.m. There is an announcement made that the Wednesday Convocation will be moved to the current day, Monday at 3:30 p.m.
–7:30 a.m. Students go to Walmart to purchase posters sponsored by Residential Education for the rally at 2 p.m.
–8:30 a.m. Students head to Audiovisual Services to pick up equipment.
–9 a.m. Students start showing up in the MRC to make signs. Eventually, sign-making is expanded to Wilder Main and two other rooms in Wilder due to overflow.