April 18, 2014

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Oberlin College to hold safety forum to address hate incidents

OBERLIN — The Oberlin College Student Senate will host a forum today to discuss campus safety in the wake of the college’s “Day of Solidarity” on March 4 to address reported hate incidents that have plagued the campus the last two months.

“We are encouraging students to bring their questions, opinions and concerns (about) safety measures that Oberlin (College) needs to adapt in order to best adhere to campuswide comfortability, and how these issues (affect) Oberlin’s town members as well,” an email sent to students on Thursday said.

The college canceled classes last week to hold its “Day of Solidarity” after student Sunceray Tabler reported seeing a person wearing a hood and robe of a Ku Klux Klan member near the college’s Afrikan Heritage House while she was a passenger in a car.

Campus security officers didn’t find anyone in KKK robes, but they did find a woman wrapped in a blanket, according to Oberlin police, who have said they can’t say whether the robed figure and the woman in the blanket were the same person.

The possible KKK spotting came after a month of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic fliers and graffiti appeared around the college campus and online. Police have said two students have been identified as being responsible for the hate literature, but Oberlin College officials have refused to discuss the status of the investigation.

In a March 6 open letter to the college community, college President Marvin Krislov wrote that because of federal law, the college can’t confirm what law enforcement has said about the investigation.

“To maintain the fairness of the ongoing internal judicial processes and to protect the privacy rights of everyone involved, we cannot disclose details of our investigation,” Krislov wrote.

The college has said that the FBI is investigating the hate incidents, and Oberlin police have forwarded their investigation to prosecutors for review.

Even after the “Day of Solidarity,” there have been hate-tinged incidents, including men who allegedly shouted homophobic slurs at students late the day classes were canceled.

In the email to students announcing today’s forum, student leaders wrote that there has been an ongoing conversation “about how the campus community and culture needs to be rethought, recreated and changed.”

“These discussions have included topics like curriculum changes in both the college and conservatory, more diversity in faculty, staff and administration, and what ‘safety’ at Oberlin looks like and what it means to all of us,” the email said.

The forum will be attended by faculty including Dean of Students Eric Estes and Director of Safety and Security Marjorie Burton and is not open to the public.

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