OBERLIN — Oberlin activists — some of whom had been placed on Oberlin College’s controversial “no trespass” list — gathered at the Oberlin Public Library to draft what they hope will be a change to the college’s current policy.
Those in attendance agreed that a change had to be made to the policy in which the list is handled solely by the Safety and Security Office. The list hadn’t been provided to the public until the Oberlin Police Department released its list of those banned from the college to The Chronicle-Telegram.
But some, like the Rev. David Hill, questioned the group’s tactics.
“Who is leading the One Town group? We all know who the college officials are, but we don’t know who you are, and I think we need greater transparency here,” he said.
Hill had criticized One Town’s organization, which members described as “fluid.” One Town formed in February as a way to speak out against the trespass policy. Since then, the group has 10 or so members who drop in and out of meetings designed to rewrite a new policy for Oberlin College.
Hill said it is important to have a leader to be the point person for college officials, but One Town member Kevin Gilfether said being a flexible group without one designated leader gives the group more merit.
Gilfether, who was placed on the controversial list while in middle school, said he joined One Town with the hopes of helping juveniles who may end up on the list for something petty, like skateboarding. Gilfether eventually appealed his ban from the college, which he declined to discuss, and later went on to graduate from Oberlin College, but he said other kids have remained on the list.
“I want to pay it forward and make it better for people who are worse off than me,” he said.
Gilfether said there are numerous problems with the policy. He knew a person who was legally banned from his residence, which was owned by the college, but the ban wasn’t actually enforced.
Dean of Students Eric Estes has said the college was considering revisions, including looking at ways to challenge bans. One Town’s revisions were designed to address some of the perceived problems in the policy, including problems with banning a person from the entire property owned by the college.
One Town’s proposal would ban a person only from certain areas — something members believe is more probable.
The proposal would look at each possible banning on a “case-by-case basis.” It would also allow more eyes to review a case before a person is added to the no trespass list.
One Town proposed having a board meet every six weeks to administer the policy. The board would review testimony and evidence from the Safety and Security Office before issuing a notification on the board’s decision.
One Town’s proposal would also allow someone to appeal the Community Board to review the case at the board’s next meeting. The board would review evidence, additional testimony and consider the time since the incident occurred before appealing a decision.
Hill questioned whether board members could be sued if a violent person committed an offense after he or she was taken off the trespass list.
One Town member Reshard el-Shair said the proposal would likely go through the college’s legal counsel first, and those issues would be ironed out. Others discussed colleges that have similar community boards.
El-Shair said, under the new proposal, a person who is considered potentially dangerous could be placed on the no trespass list, albeit temporarily until the board has a chance to convene.
After a person is on the list, if he or she is caught trespassing, he or she would be asked to leave before police become involved, according to the proposal.
Lucia Kalinosky, a One Town member who lives in Oberlin, said the proposal was drafted by suggestions from community members. One Town group members have met with college officials, who she said are open to working with them.
“I feel good. Obviously, we’re continuing to try to listen to the community and what everyone wants us to do,” she said.
El-Shair said college officials have looked at the newest proposal in a “limited effect,” but they were reluctant to make any statements.
“A lot more eyes have to look at it,” he said. “I think the college is reluctant to give a statement about it until, let’s say, the president gets to look over it.”
No representatives from Oberlin College were in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.
Gilfether said the main goal is that the new policy be transparent and flexible — something he said the old policy failed to do.
“My goal is to make it better for kids,” he said.
One Town will meet from 4 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Oberlin Public Library to further discuss the draft. The meeting is open to the public.