A figure "wearing KKK regalia" was spotted at Oberlin College this morning, the culmination of a month of racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic graffiti being discovered on buildings around the Ohio liberal arts college's campus. In response, the school has cancelled all classes and non-essential activities, instead holding "a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks." Update: The vandals have been caught and the KKK figure may have been a person in a blanket.
"A person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit" was reportedly seen near the African Heritage House on the Oberlin campus early this morning. This is the latest in a string of hate-related incidents at Oberlin, beginning with the February 9 vandalism of Black History Month posters, in which an unknown person changed the word "black" to "nigger." These incidents, and more, are catalogued at the blog Oberlin Microagressions, from which the photos in this post are taken:
NIGGERFAGGOT #oberlin— Adolf Krislov (@realMarvKrislov) February 12, 2013
WORDS: the most dangerous things in a small pinko-commie town. #oberlin— Adolf Krislov (@realMarvKrislov) February 12, 2013
The account appears to be one of those 18-year-old-thinks-he's-taking-a-political-stand-by-saying-"nigga" things, and claims not to be associated with "hate messaging"
Feb. 16; Students found a number of offensive notes written around Burton Hall. "Whites Only" was written above a water fountain, "Nigger Oven" was written inside the elevator and "No Niggers" was written on a bathroom door.
Feb. 17; The Office of Safety and Security released a Special Alert of a strong-arm robbery of a student near West College Street and Cedar Street. The student reported that he was approached by an individual who made a derogatory remark about his perceived ethnicity and then physically knocked him to the ground.
Oberlin professor Ann Trubek notes that while hate incidents "happen every few years," this is the first time the situation has reached a level that requires canceling classes:
things like this happen every few years, blow over quickly. Never in my 15 years have they cancelled classes for something like this.— atrubek (@atrubek) March 4, 2013
Update: According to a person with knowledge of faculty and administration discussion, faculty members had been told—"unofficially," (i.e., not through official channels)—that "the investigation into this incident was dropped when it was discovered that the person responsible was someone within the MRC [the Multicultural Resource Center], who would be disciplined internally"; according to conversations with other members of the Oberlin community, this appears to be a widespread, and widely-believed, rumor. (The same source, who asked to remain anonymous, claims that the MRC, whose former director, Eric Estes, is now the Dean of Students, has been criticized for the amount of
student college money it receives, and that its leadership has "had trouble justifying how many campus coordinators they have on staff.") UPDATE: According to the latest reports, the vandals were identified, and are "being dealt with" internally. As of right now, it appears no MRC staff or students are involved.
This source also speculated that the incident is likely related to Oberlin's infamous "no-trespass list," "a list of townies and college alumni who are banned from all college property," managed by the college and kept secret from the town. The college has long denied the list's existence—but last week it was leaked to the local paper by the Oberlin Police Department, with whom the list was shared. This list contains a number of "successful and well-connected" alumni, and we've heard that Oberlin's legal counsel is "reeling" over the leak of the list, which was meant to be kept confidential.
That being said, several—really, several, please stop emailing me—students have emailed to object to our source's characterization of rumors and discussions on campus: "The MRC has not been criticized for the money it receives and there is no campus conversation about the number of staff people in that office," one writes. "I think that what [was] said about the MRC's funding is either BS or seriously taken out of context," writes another. "Every single year, there are campus-wide arguments about... funding. There is a faction of students who basically claims... that anything that has any anti-oppression or political intent shouldn't be funded by the student activity fee."
"Whoever is passing on this information is likely involved and perpetuating these falsities in an act of hate in itself," one student wrote. Another: "But we, the students, are communicators, friends, activists, poets, and our voices are louder. How dare you contribute to the promotion of an oppressive act and the desecration of a sacred space."
Other students have objected to the connection of the hate incidents to the One Town campaign:
I'm not sure what your source thinks the No-Trespass List is, but it has absolutely nothing to do with incidents of hate speech on campus. Protest surrounding the list is concerned with issues of racial profiling and a lack of transparency from College administration - how exactly that has anything to do with a person wearing a KKK hood is beyond me. Incidences of hate speech started before the One Town Campaign gained any steam, so your source really had to stretch to make a connection there. It seems to me that someone upset about the list would be standing in solidarity with minority communities, not terrorizing them.
So: to be exactingly clear. No one has officially been found responsible or reprimanded. A rumor circulating the faculty and administration holds that an MRC member is responsible. It is just that: a rumor. The MRC has a large and vocal backing in the Oberlin community, many if not most members of which fully support it and believe that it receives the proper amount of funding.
Students, faculty and staff received emails this morning from administration and the student center, letting them know that classes and activities were canceled for planned solidarity demonstrations and a teach-in. "When faced with difficult situations," writes President Marvin Kislov, "Oberlin has consistently met the challenges and affirmed its commitment to the highest quality of education and the noblest aspirations of its community members."
The emails are below.
To the Oberlin community:
Early this morning, there was a report of a person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit between South and the Edmonia Lewis Center and in the vicinity of African Heritage House. This report is being investigated by both Safety & Security and the Oberlin Police Department. This event, in addition to the series of other hate-related incidents on campus, has precipitated our decision to suspend formal classes and all non-essential activities for today, Monday, March 4, 2013, and gather for a series of discussions of the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks.
We hope today will allow the entire community-students, faculty, and staff-to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual. Indeed, the strength of Oberlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all, and enhances the educational mission at its core.
We ask that all students, faculty and staff participate in the events planned for today:
12PM | Lord Lounge, Afrikan Heritage House
Teach-in led by Africana Studies Department
2PM | Wilder Bowl
Demonstration of solidarity
3:30PM | Finney Chapel
Community convocation: "We Stand Together" (previously scheduled for Wednesday 3/6 at 12PM)
When faced with difficult situations, Oberlin has consistently met the challenges and affirmed its commitment to the highest quality of education and the noblest aspirations of its community members. We believe that today's events—and our ongoing work and discussions—will strengthen Oberlin and will strengthen us all.
Dean, Arts & Sciences
Dean, Conservatory of Music
Dean of Students
From: Oberlin College Student Senate
Date: Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 7:41 AM
Subject: All - Campus Events Today in Response to Race and Bias Attack
We are here to notify you all that there has been yet another bias and racist event on campus. A person wearing KKK regalia was spotted on South Campus around midnight near the ELC and South. This has been another event in a string of several reflecting a terrible pattern of racism, prejudice, queerphobia, anti-semitism and other bias attacks that are happening on Oberlin's campus. At this time, advocacy, support and solidarity are necessary emotionally, physically and spiritually.
There will be several events taking place on campus tomorrow in response to this event. First, all classes and student organization meetings on campus have been cancelled (both College and Conservatory). Several students will be rallied around campus buildings like King, the Science Center, Peters, and other class buildings in a constructive effort to notify students of the event and lobby fo support and solidarity. At this time, solidarity between all us Oberlin students should reign supreme and it should be our main objective to inform our fellow students and our professors and administrators about this event and the effect it is having on valued members of our community. Beyond that, it is important to strongly encourage others to take part in the programs scheduled for the day aimed at community building and support. We have the opportunity to unite as a body without limits and without the distraction of classes in order to focus on how we as a community play a crucial role in changing and revamping the way Oberlin's campus culture has looked and is looking now.
In addition to the cancellation of classes, there will be a Teach-In/Sit-In in Lord Lounge at 12 PM hosted by the Africana Studies Dept. Following that, there will be a campus rally beginning in Wilder Bowl at 2 PM, and extending throughout the rest of campus via Main Street. We would strongly encourage all of the student body to attend both of these events to further support the effected community and make strong and constructive effort towards the unification of Oberlin's campus through awareness and advocacy around these events that have previously gone far too unnoticed.
In addition to all of the following, there will be students meeting all morning in the WOBC Radio Station to make announcements on radio shows about the bias event and about the actions taking place on campus in response to the event.
Finally, the all-campus convocation that was originally scheduled for Wednesday at noon has been moved to Today at 3:30 PM. All student attendance is highly encouraged. It will take of all of our support to rethink Oberlin's campus culture and to take significant strides in reshaping and renewing it.
In all, the following movements are happening tomorrow:
1. Radio Show announcements at WOBC all morning
2. Cancellation of ALL CLASSES ON CAMPUS - Con and College
3. Action Planning/Banner Making in MRC at 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM http://www.facebook.com/events/581714131841521/?notif_t=plan_user_invited
4. Teach-In/Sit-In in Lord Lounge at Noon hosted by the Africana Studies Dept.
5. Campus Rally at 2 PM starting in Wilder Bowl
6. All Campus Convocation in Finney Chapel at 3:30 PM
6. Dinner for Solidarity in Afrikan Heritage House
We hope to see all of the student body present at these events tomorrow to stand in unity and in collective awareness.
In Unity, Advocacy and Support,
Oberlin College Student Senate
Eliza Diop '14
Liaison to the Student Senate