OBERLIN — Opponents of Oberlin College’s no trespass list called on college leaders Tuesday to come down from their ivory tower, saying that reform is needed in administering the list, which they contend has caused a rift between the college and community.
“People in places of power ought to have responsibility,” resident Anita Lock told about 120 people at The First Church in Oberlin, United Church of Christ. “I’m not seeing a balance here. They’ve got power. Where is the responsibility?”
Michael Smith, a 62-year-old resident said in a town of about 4.4 square miles, it is easy to unintentionally trespass on college property.
“It’s totally unfair,” Smith said. “We should look at ways to do something about that to bring the (college) and community together.”
The meeting was organized by The One Town Campaign, a group of Oberlin students, former students and community residents who say the list and secrecy surrounding it has divided the community. They asked meeting participants to sign postcards addressed to Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov, Eric Estes, dean of students and Marjorie Burton, Oberlin’s director of safety and security. The postcards said the list doesn’t prevent violence and they included room to write what a “safer, more just” Oberlin includes.
As late as Feb. 12, Estes denied the existence of the list, which community residents had known about for years. A Chronicle-Telegram public records request to police revealed at least 326 names on the list with some people banned from the campus as long ago as 1982.
College administrators have contradicted each other about why someone can be banned. Estes said on Feb. 12 that bans were only for serious offenses such as harassment, threats or violence, but a day later Burton said people, including minors, could be banned for violating college policies, even if they broke no laws.
The secrecy, indefinite nature of the bans and the lack of a formal appeals process angered meeting participants. They said some people may deserve to be on the list, but the way it is administered contradicted the college’s reputation for equality, inclusion and liberalism.
“This is America. This is not the Gestapo,” said resident Luereacie Holloway. “Anybody who’s on that no trespassing list has a right to know why they’re on there, who put them on there and how long they’re going to be on there.”
However, Ronald Gibson, a 1982 Oberlin College graduate, defended the list, saying those on it were probably repeat offenders and that campus security officers use their discretion.
“It may not be completely fair, and we should probably try to help them improve it, but it’s probably not going to go away,” he said.
First Church Rev. David Hill said One Town members need to do more to verify if the stories told by people who said they were unjustly placed on the list were true, but Oberlin sophomore Alex Riordan said the secrecy makes that impossible.
“It is true we’re basing things on anecdotal evidence, but that’s all we have,” he said.
Estes’ plan to hire a private consultant to review list policies was criticized by participants, but he told them he was open to having an “advisory” group of residents review it. Estes said he’d meet with anyone to discuss the list.
Estes, dean since 2011, said more trespassing incidents he’s dealt with involved students and former students than residents. He said the list was necessary for security but also supported greater transparency.
“There isn’t a lot of trust here, and I understand why that’s the case,” he said. “My hope is that by working together we’re going to be in a better place.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or email@example.com.