December 17, 2014

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Oberlin College resumes classes

OBERLIN — Classes resumed at Oberlin College on Tuesday, a day after classes were canceled in favor of a “Day of Solidarity” in response to reports of hate-filled graffiti and posters that have plagued the campus in recent weeks and the reported sighting of a person clad in the hood and robes of the Ku Klux Klan.

Oberlin police and the college’s Office of Safety and Security are still investigating the reported sighting of a person in KKK regalia early Monday, but so far haven’t turned up a suspect.

Oberlin police Lt. Mike McCloskey has said that when college security responded to the area near Afrikan Heritage House where the hooded figure was spotted by a student in a car, they didn’t find anyone matching that description. What they did find, however, was a woman wearing a blanket.

“We can’t really confirm it was the same person. It could have been a coincidence,” McCloskey said. “There’s really no way to substantiate it.”

But Oberlin College student A.D. Hogan, who serves as president of the class of 2013, said she’s spoken to the student who saw the robes and there was no question in that student’s mind about what she saw.

“From what I understand, it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity,” Hogan said.

The problems also don’t appear to have been completely resolved.

Several students reported that they were harassed late Monday, according to an alert posted around campus by Director of Safety and Security Marjorie Burton.

The alert stated that a male in a vehicle described as an older model silver Toyota Corolla yelled “obscenities and remarks of a disparaging nature toward sexual orientation” at a student walking on North Main Street between 9:30 and 10 p.m.

A similar incident happened around the same time in the area of West Lorain and Professor streets, Burton wrote.

Around 10:30 p.m., she wrote, two people got out of the Corolla and approached a student walking on West College Street and “shouted an unknown statement toward the student.”

The student fled the area and reported what happened, according to the alert. By the time police and campus security arrived, the vehicle was gone.

Burton wrote that the college has taken steps to address security concerns, including increased visible patrols in the area, something that is being done in conjunction with Oberlin police.

In an email sent to students Tuesday afternoon, Dean of Students Eric Estes reminded them that security officers would escort students and that a new student initiative also would provide escorts across campus.

Estes wrote that the college takes safety issues seriously.

“We ask that you continue to be aware of your surroundings and be in close communication with us,” he wrote. “We are here to work with you. We are in this together.”

College officials have been mum on the status of the investigation into the slurs posted around campus, but McCloskey has said his understanding is the college has taken action against two students suspected of being involved. The case has been forwarded to prosecutors for a review of possible charges, he said.

Scott Wargo, the college’s communications director, did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Hogan said that Monday’s events, which included a teach-in, a rally and a convocation, were a step toward addressing racial inequalities and “white privilege” on campus.

She said even before Monday’s “Day of Solidarity,” the campus had been discussing racial, homophobic and anti-Semitic slurs that appeared last month and other, smaller issues of racism that people encounter every day.

“This is a culmination of those efforts that have been going on,” Hogan said.

For instance, she said groups of students are meeting nightly to come up with solutions to provide to the college’s administration.

In his email, Estes wrote that the college community had been impacted by the events leading up to the “Day of Solidarity.”

“I know this has been and continues to be a very stressful, deeply upsetting time for many of you especially over the past few days. Many of you have sacrificed and dedicated tremendous amounts of time and energy to make the events of recent days, especially yesterday, possible,” Estes wrote. “Others have found it much more difficult to focus on the everyday. This will undoubtedly continue. This is physical, mental, and emotional time and energy that has been diverted from typical activities especially academic work.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.