Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, was the first college in the United States to admit women into coeducational classes, and one of the first to admit non-white students. It’s reputation is first and foremost as a liberal school with “progressive values.”
But over the past few weeks a string of incidents that attack the sensibilities of blacks, gays and Jews have risen to a crescendo, with the final straw being the sighting of someone in what looked like a Ku Klux Klan outfit near the school’s African Heritage building this Monday morning, March 4.
In response, the school cancelled classes for the day and instead held a “day of solidarity” to discuss what Oberlin’s president, Marvin Krislov, called “the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks,” according to The New York Times. The schedule of events included a “teach-in,” a “demonstration of solidarity,” and a “community convocation.”
“It’s been very personally upsetting,” said Krislov, who, according to the Cleveland Jewish News, is Jewish. “Some things have taken aim at me because of my religion. I clearly abhor these expressions of bigotry.” Krislov has served in leadership positions in the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, and was actively involved while a practicing lawyer in defending affirmative action cases.
The prior incidents included the scrawling of swastikas over gay pride posters, crossing out of the word “Black” on Black History Month posters and replacing it with a racist epithet instead, the destruction of a Chinese calendar used to celebrate the Chinese New Year, a sign over a water fountain that read, “Whites Only.”
According to a website that tracks events and trends on campuses, there was also an allegedly racially motivated attack on a student on February 17, where the victim was subjected to racial epithets before being thrown to the ground. The student newspaper, the “Oberlin Review” has a full list of the incidents.
Oberlin is about 4o miles southwest of Cleveland, Ohio.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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