Oberlin College’s president released a statement refusing to even consider a 14-page list of demands submitted by Black Lives Matter activists, one of the most significant shows of defiance in the past few months to a wave of intense campus activism.
The list of demands at Oberlin, released in mid-December, is one of the most extreme seen at any college in the past two months. Among other things, the list demands the firing of several school employees, creation of segregated black-only safe spaces, a school stipend for protest leaders, and the creation of a bridge program to educate released convicts at the school. The list’s authors are anonymous, but several hundred students signed a Google Doc endorsing it.
Now, over a month later, Oberlin president Marvin Krislov has responded with a harsh tone. In his response, Krislov says the tone of the demands is utterly unacceptable, even if the document raises some valid concerns. As a result, he simply refused to directly engage with any of the list’s demands.
“Some of the challenges outlined in the document resonate with me and many members of our community, including our trustees,” Krislov says. “However, some of the solutions it proposes are deeply troubling. I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement. Many of its demands contravene principles of shared governance. And it contains personal attacks on a number of faculty and staff members who are dedicated and valued members of this community.”
It remains to be seen what the response, if any, will be from those who created the demands. In the original document, they want any refusal will provoke a dramatic response.
“These are demands and not suggestions,” the document warns. “If these demands are not taken seriously, immediate action from the Africana community will follow.” So far, Oberlin has avoided the mass demonstrations and occupations that have rocked schools like Princeton University and Dartmouth College.
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