At a school known for its hardcore liberalism, Oberlin College has made national headlines due to race-based incidents that have left a cloud over campus.
Two students are now being investigated for possible involvement in incidents where racially offensive graffiti was scrawled on various parts of the campus, including the school’s Afrikan Heritage House. As of press time, no criminal charges were filed and Oberlin Police Chief Thomas Miller said that it wasn’t clear if the students in question were serious about their bigotry or if it was just a misguided prank.
Prank or not, the incidents have rattled the student body and administration so much that classes were cancelled last Monday following reports of someone donning a white, hooded robe on campus. Before that incident, the word “nigger” was painted on several campus buildings and a swastika was found painted on a classroom window. The FBI has agreed with Oberlin College’s request to investigate the incidents.
In an open letter signed by Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, Arts & Sciences Dean Sean Decatur, Conservatory of Music Dean David Stull and Student Dean
Eric Estes, the school asked the students to look to the campus’ history as inspiration on how to handle the past month worth of negativity.
“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,” wrote the letter. “Indeed, the strength of Oberlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all and enhances the educational mission at its core.”
One famous Oberlin alum, Lena Dunham, has taken to social media to respond to the incident. Dunham, whose HBO show “Girls” has come under fire for its whitewashed depiction of Brooklyn, wrote about the students and administration staying strong in the face of adversity.
“This really saddens me,” Dunham stated on Twitter. “The school I remember was the safest place to do you. Hey Obies, remember the beautiful, inclusive and downright revolutionary history of the place you call home. Protect each other.”
Oberlin College, 30 miles outside of Cleveland, has a student body close to 3,000 and stands as a liberal oasis in a part of Ohio that’s considered conservative. It was one of the first non-HBCUs to admit Black students almost 180 years ago. Some of the school’s alums include the first Blacks elected to public office and George Vashon, the first Black lawyer allowed to practice in the state of New York. The college was also a stop along Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad.