Oberlin Lingo

Speak like an Oberlin student in no time.

There are some things you’ll have to learn if you want to find your way around campus, because the names on the dorms can be misleading.  Sometimes names are just shortened: Stevenson is Stevie, Fairchild is Fairkid, Zechiel is Zeke.  But Fairkid and Fairchild Chapel are not the same places.  The Chapel, usually referred to as Fairchild, is on the North side of Tappan Square, where there are concerts.  Program houses usually go by their program name; we call them French House, Spanish House, or Third World House instead of Bailey, Harvey, and Price, respectively.  And other times, these rules are broken.  Afrika Heritage House is usually shortened to A-House, Johnson, the Hebrew Heritage House, is J-House, and Langston, a traditional dorm, essentially goes solely by North.

You won’t be stuck in the dorms your entire time at Oberlin (except if you stay during Winter Term), and dorms are not the only places with confusing names.  The Cat, short for The Cat in the Cream (Make it dirty.  Go.) has open-mike nights and student performances.  It’s located West of the Science Center.  The Sco is the student dance club/bar that is in the basement of Wilder, as is Decaf (pronounced Day-Caf without the e of a Café), which will soon be your savior for all things food.  You’ll go to Gibson’s (Downtown) for cigarettes, and you’ll ask someone to make a Johnny’s run (North on Main St.) for alcohol.  You’ll probably eat at The Feve (that’s not the Feeve—we like open Es), and Tooo Chinoise, which has no correct pronunciation.

Some other notes:

You can check your mail in the basement of Wilder.

There are kittens in the Ginko Galleries.  Walk straight to the back, and you can play with them.

The Wisdom Tree is the tree in the center of North Quad.  Go there for a good time.

If someone refers to a building called Hogwarts, they mean Peters or maybe Talcott.

Hales Annex is next to The Cat and they have a scary connected basement.  The College Bowling Lanes and the Pool Hall are also in the same building as The Cat.

The closest things we have to frats, in terms of parties, are the sports team houses.  In terms of cliquishness, it’s the co-ops.  The two do not mix.

Go to the Arb.  Walk down South Professor St. until you walk past two really cool dorms (J House and Old B) that you can’t miss.  It’s on your right.

Enter through the two sides of Stevie.  You can’t use the middle entrance for food, and the balcony is fake.  You will never use it.

We encourage returning students to add to this list.  Let’s get them oriented.

From ExCo to Curriculum: The Peace and Conflict Studies Concentration

Peace and Conflict Studies debuted as a concentration last semester after years of work from Oberlin students, faculty, and community members, who joined forces to change the Oberlin College curriculum. Discussed in various contexts since 1840, peace studies has always drifted around the curriculum of the College.  In 2004, the successful push for peace studies to be officially organized and integrated into the College began.

The leaders tested their academic program of peace using the ExCo program.  After laborious tweaking, the concentration now consists of an introductory class, relevant courses, an experiential component and a reflective essay.

Why a Concentration?

Oberlin has many departments, although only three concentrations exist on campus: cognitive science, international studies, and now, the newly minted Peace and Conflict Studies.  According to Sean Decatur, Dean of Arts and Sciences, a concentration “embraces classes that, by definition, come from different parts of the curriculum or different departments.”  Students need majors in addition to concentrations, but concentrations appear on Oberlin diplomas like minors.

“I think it’s stronger than the alternative for many students, which is double-majoring or triple-majoring,” said Decatur. “When you double major, often what you get is two silos, two collections of in-depth exploration of a subject, but not necessarily the opportunities to build connections between them.  What I think concentrations can do is naturally provide that horizontal integration of ideas across departments in a way that having a double-major or triple-major can’t.  I think it’s a really interesting alternative to have that in the curriculum.”

The College has three main criteria for its concentrations.  There needs to be existing classes to build the concentration, coherence to the curriculum, usually in the form of a capstone project or introductory class, and enough support that the concentration will last through trials like professor sabbaticals.

Concentrations enhance the College’s academic possibilities without major increases in cost, as the classes already exist on campus.  Thus, the financial burdens of creating a new department, including hiring new professors and creating new classes, don’t apply.  Peace and Conflict Studies, for instance, has created an introductory course for the concentration, but the other courses come from Psychology, Politics, African American Studies, Environmental Studies, History, and Sociology, departments that already exist within the college.

“I think there has been interest both on the faculty side and on the student side for more concentrations,” said Decatur.  The College is currently making a new credit system, and Decatur mentioned that “having a major and a concentration” could be “an alternative to a simple 9-9-9 system.”  For this to happen, the College needs to develop many more concentrations that touch across all divisions of the College.

The History

According to Tom Lock, the historian of the PACS group, interest in peace education began at Oberlin College in 1840 when students established a Non-Resistance Society.  In the 1930s, half the student body belonged to the Oberlin Peace Society and Oberlin’s president at the time, Earnest Wilkins, wanted a peace program, but he was unable to convince the faculty.  Pressure to create an academic discipline oscillated until 2004, when students and community members created a series of ExCos on the subject.

The impetus for the ExCos started in Peace Community Church, where Melissa Hines ’07 met Al Carroll ’58.  Their mutual interest in peace education led them develop three semesters of an ExCo course called “We’d Rather Teach Peace” that started in the Spring of 2004.  Since then, the subsequent Peace and Conflict Studies ExCos have all had student and community member co-leaders.

The ExCo went into the classroom of 6th graders at Langston Middle School to teach peace four times a semester.  “It got harder and harder to do because they’re so wrapped up in tests you have to do for No Child Left Behind,” said Carroll.  Consequently, those interested in PACS decided to switch their focus from the middle school to the college.

Maia Brown ’10, who has been the student chair of the PACS Development/Support Group since 2008, explained, “The irony of that initial goal was that we’re thinking about how to teach middle schoolers and high schoolers, but we don’t have a program or a focus or a place to go at Oberlin College, except through an independent major.”

With this mentality, a new ExCo was created, called “Creating Change within Oberlin College—Developing a Peace and Conflict Studies Program” in the Fall of 2005.  This class, led by Sheera Bornstein ’08, Kara Carmosino ’08, and Carroll, studied PACS programs at other colleges and found relevant classes already being taught at Oberlin.

The course also explored how to work through the Educational Plans and Policies Committee (EPPC) of Oberlin College.  The EPPC gives advice on faculty positions, reviews every program and department in the College and considers changes to majors.  Proposals for concentrations must go through the EPPC before the College Faculty votes them on them.  The Committee is made up of eight elected faculty members and four student members who are chosen by Student Senate.  An Associate Dean of the Faculty has a seat on the EPPC and is usually elected chair.

The students in the course showed their proposal to the EPPC, which told them that  “it was a nice idea our group was thinking about this, but we needed some faculty to actually implement it at the college,” said Carroll.

Nick Jones, who was the Associate Dean of the Faculty and Chair of the EPPC at the time, explained further.  “What seemed to exist at that point was a loose set of very different courses, which in varying degrees, addressed one of the key premises, or the other, of Peace and Conflict Studies.”

Still, Carroll learned that “if you can have a document which was well-written, people take you more seriously than, ‘Boy, I had a great idea we were shooting around in a bull session the other night.’”

Continuing on their quest in the Spring of 2006, Bornstein and Carroll led and created the Peace and Conflict Studies Development Group, comprised of nine other students and community members.  The Development Group decided on three major goals for the following year: teach another ExCo, hold a symposium to promote PACS, and establish a faculty-led group.

Carmosino and Carroll taught the ExCo course, “Changing the World: Perspectives on Nonviolent Movements” in the Fall of 2006.  The course had a large enrollment, teaching 20 students and 10 community members.

The ExCo courses at this time had a twofold purpose, explained Brown.  “One [purpose] was just keeping peace and conflict studies in the forefront of at least some students’ minds.”  The second goal of the ExCo courses was “to be able to build student interest.”  The ExCo courses were integral to integrating peace and conflict studies into the College.  “I think everything came from there, and then we knew what directions we needed to go,” said Brown.

The course had another role in the creation of the concentration—connecting students and interested faculty.  Part of the class involved inviting faculty members to lead discussions, which brought together those concerned with peace and conflict studies.  As a result, many of the professors who were invited to lead discussions teach courses now included in the concentration.

The group’s second step was a symposium.  It was held from February 15-17th in 2007, with Colman McCarthy, a prolific columnist, author, and professor, as the keynote speaker.  Other participants included current professors, professors teaching PACS programs at other colleges, and students like Bornstein, who were members of the Development Group.  The symposium worked to unite interest on campus as well as connect Oberlin faculty to the faculty of other schools that already had PACS programs.  The list of acknowledgments on the symposium reports thanks everyone from reverends of local churches to deans and professors at the College, which demonstrates Oberlin’s wide range of interest in PACS and the extent to which the Development Group extended their reach.

The last step for the Development Group was the creation of a faculty-led group, whose main priority was to get the concentration passed through the EPPC.  Steve Mayer, the current head of the Psychology Department, and Steve Crowley, an Associate Professor of Politics, led the faculty group to work through the minutiae of the EPPC’s demands with Jones and delivered their proposal to the EPPC on April 19, 2007.

Although it needed more work, the proposal met with great interest from the EPPC.  The general consensus was that there were too many courses associated with the concentration for it to be a coherent structure of learning, and there was a definite need for an introductory course.  The Development Group used the advice given from the EPPC, and “they went off and came back with a much stronger proposal,” said Jones.

A big step for the Development Group came in 2008, when Oberlin’s Class of 1958 gave Peace and Conflict Studies an endowed grant of almost $60,000 for their 50th anniversary gift.  Carroll proposed the idea to his class officers and explained, “By getting this fund going, it shows the college that there’s alumni support for it.”  The fund was donated before the General Faculty passed the concentration and will be used for grants, speakers, and course development.

The General Faculty accepted the PACS concentration in March of 2009.  “We could afford it, so we could see that it was sustainable, and it sounded like it made sense,” said Jones.  “It’s so in tune with our history as a college.  It’s so utterly needed, and I think it gets our heads out of the sand, in a way, and opens people’s thinking.”

Sage Aronson ‘12, the ExCo co-chair who represents the ExCo Committee at the College Faculty meetings, voted to pass the concentration.  “I know everyone was very excited at that point.  There were a couple other students in there, and they were pretty happy about it,” he said.

Mayer’s joy came from watching the concentration develop.  “To see this grow out of the interests of the students and the community people, to get the ball rolling with such energy devoted to it, has been an amazing process.  To be part of that, and to see this happen—it’s just a great thing to have happen.”

The Debut of the New Course

The Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies class, taught by Mayer and Crowley, debuted last semester.  The new class invites many guest speakers, much like the ExCo, and is co-taught by Crowley and Mayer, which duplicates the former Excos’ co-leadership style.

The hard work that went into creating the concentration is evident in the class.  The sheer number of guest speakers from a wide variety of departments demonstrates the number of people who have been involved with, or interested in, the concentration.

One of the many speakers who visited the class was Ombudsperson Yeworkwha Belachew.  Belachew coordinates the Oberlin College Dialogue Center, of which PACS instigators Hines, Bornstein, and Carmasino were all members.  In 2005, Belachew arranged for those taking the ExCo on creating a PACS concentration to meet with alumni who were involved with conflict resolution, including those who created independent majors for Peace and Conflict Studies.

“I have seen amazing things about conflict resolution in higher education,” said Belachew, as she addressed the Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies class.  She described Oberlin College as “a vanguard of social justice” and declared that it was “long overdue to have a Peace and Conflict Studies program.”  Then, she brought in current OCDC members Rusty Bartels’10 and Shana Osho’10 to work through a conflict resolution scenario.

Crowley explained the appeal of bringing in speakers like Belachew.  “It’s partly to borrow from that ExCo model, but since it is an introduction to a concentration, we also wanted to introduce students to professors that they could take classes with and other disciplinary approaches to the subject, since it is interdisciplinary by nature, and basically let them know what they sort of things they could pursue if they do decide to take the concentration.”

Rebecca Witheridge ’10, who took the class last semester, agreed with Crowley about the guest speakers.  “I think the best aspect of the class was the fact that we had a lot of visiting professors come in from different departments that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to hear.”

Crowley and Mayer are discussing how to work out the kinks of their new class.  For example, they were unprepared when 50 students showed up for the first day when the class was capped at half that.  One possibility of restructuring the class involves a larger lecture class with smaller discussion sections to meet the demands of students.

The professors would also like to attract more underclassmen to their introductory course.  Because upperclassmen have the advantage when choosing classes, the professors are discussing whether or not they should save a certain number of seats for first year students.  The class is being offered again next fall.

Outside the Classroom

Those involved with the creation of the concentration are now transitioning their efforts into developing an already existing concentration.

The PACS Committee, which runs within the realm of the College and is headed by Mayer, decides how to use the income from the endowed fund.  It will mainly be given as support for students working on the experiential component of the concentration.  “We’ll certainly try to help students who need money to engage in some winter term activity that will fulfill this part of the concentration,” said Mayer.  Students need to write a proposal to the PACS Committee about how their project will fulfill the experiential component of the concentration to receive support.

The money will also be used to bring in speakers and develop courses.  “The Faculty noted that it would be ideal to have more courses in the humanities and natural sciences as part of the concentration.  So the PACS Committee has entertained the idea that perhaps we could use some of the funds to help support course development for new PACS courses, especially as it relates to the humanities and the natural sciences,” said Mayer.

Meanwhile, the hard work of the Development Group has not stopped.  They have renamed themselves the PACS Support Group, which consists of six students and seven community members, and they help “in any way we think we can,” said Carroll.

One triumph for the PACS group was their kickoff speaker for the concentration: Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Winner.  Brown, Carroll, Mayer and Crowley asked President for a speaker, which, “through some happy accidents,” according to Carroll, resulted in Professor Mohammad Mahallati contacting Ebadi to speak at the Convocation in October.

Now, the goal of the PACS Support Group is to hire an endowed professor.  “One need, certainly, is an endowed chair, I think, in Peace and Conflict studies—a real point person for this area, for this concentration,” said Mayer.  He envisions hiring the chair with money, amounting to two or three million dollars, from donors or from the upcoming capital campaign.

Decatur was not optimistic about the endowed professorship.  “That’s not something that’s being actively worked on in any way.  The idea behind the concentration is that there are enough supporting courses and supporting faculty interested that it can function without having a fully committed faculty member.”

Students can offer support to the PACS concentration by getting involved in the Support Group or sitting in on the Committee, which has two student spots.

**Contributed Reporting by David Edward Clark

Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby To Open Litoff

The Litoff Building’s Grand Opening on April 30th and May 1st will include Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby.

The Grand Opening will include concerts, jazz films at the Apollo, and workshops.  Stevie Wonder, Bill Cosby, and Camille Cosby will also be given honorary degrees at 4:00 p.m. on April 30th in Tappan Square.

Bill Cosby will present “An Evening with Bill Cosby” on Friday, April 30th at 8:30 p.m.  As with Stevie Wonder, tickets will be assigned by lottery, with first-come, first-serve overflow seating in Warner Concert Hall.

Stevie Wonder will headline a concert at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 1st in Finney Chapel.  Tickets will be assigned by lottery, with first-come, first-serve overflow seating in the Apollo and Warner Concert Hall.

Schedule of Events

College’s Press Release

Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby Update

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Oberlin College intends to have Stevie Wonder and Bill Cosby grace the Litoff Building opening, although contracts have not been signed.

Without a signed contract, Oberlin College cannot officially release the news.  However, “We do anticipate that Stevie Wonder, as well as Bill Cosby, will be with us that weekend,” wrote Marci Janas, Director of Conservatory Media Relations, in an email.

“Stevie Wonder has communicated to members of the Oberlin College community his intentions to participate in our celebrations during the weekend of the Litoff Building’s opening,” wrote Janas.

Safer Sex Week Schedule


Safer Sex Week starts on Thursday at 8:30 at the Cat.  Erotic Expressions, an Open Mic Night of erotic readings by students, is the first of many events and workshops preceding the (almost) naked party at the ‘Sco.  Students must attend at least one workshop or event to go to the Dance Party, the new name of Safer Sex Night, next Thursday.

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Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi at Convocation.  Photo by David Roswell.

Shirin Ebadi at Convocation. Photo by David Roswell.

This morning, we interviewed the last Convocation speaker of the semester.  Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work as human rights lawyer in Iran.

We asked Shirin about her favorite poem, since poetry is fundamental to Persian society.  She looked at us bewildered.  Initially, we thought that she didn’t read poetry, but instead, she couldn’t decide which one to choose.

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