Matthew Rinaldi, co-president of the Class of 1969, has forwarded this email.
Time sensitive: The Board of Trustees may vote as soon as tomorrow to destroy faculty governance at Oberlin. Please consider writing to the BOT at email@example.com immediately!
Dear fellow OC alums and supporters of the 1833 Just Transition Fund,
We are writing today regarding an urgent matter at Oberlin, about which you may already be aware. As reported in the Oberlin Review last Friday, the Board of Trustees is intending to vote to change the bylaws when it meets this weekend. Its proposed changes represent a direct attack on the 1835 Finney Compact, which states that control over the internal affairs of the College be left in faculty hands. If the proposed changes pass, faculty control will be effectively restricted to curricula and academic matters.
We, like many alums, find this unacceptable. First, the changes would effectively exclude faculty from weighing in on important matters such as the College’s recent decision to hand over Student Health Services to a discriminatory provider, a very disturbing issue that OC senior Sam Beesley powerfully detailed in his recent Op-Ed for the Review. Second, the BOT’s attack on the Finney Compact further consolidates its autocratic and increasingly unaccountable control over the function, priorities, and values of the College. We view this as being of a piece with its union-busting and outsourcing, which as you know were imposed on the College and community despite considerable opposition. The Finney Compact was also central to the Just Transition Fund’s anti-austerity and pro-labor collaboration with Oberlin AAUP, Oberlin UAW Local 2192, and the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) earlier this year, as described by JTF Board member Kelly Grotke in this piece for the national AAUP Magazine.
By unanimous vote, the members of the Oberlin College AAUP oppose the planned changes to the bylaws (full statement pasted below). Along with SLAC, representatives of OCOPE, and other employee and community organizations -- and with the JTF board’s support and endorsement -- they will be holding a teach-in and protest at Wilder Bowl on 6 October at 4:00pm.
Most of us are too far away to participate, but there is something you can do today: write to the BOT to indicate your opposition to the destruction of Oberlin’s venerable tradition of self-governance. If the BOT is successful in its attempted power grab, it will be even less accountable to the rest of the Oberlin community than it has already become. With enough opposition from faculty, students, staff, and alumni, we believe there’s still a chance to preserve the Finney Compact.
Please consider writing to the BOT at firstname.lastname@example.org NOW to express your opposition to this latest attempt by the BOT to further damage Oberlin’s uniquely progressive character and values. (Some alums have shared their letters in the unofficial alumni Facebook group.) We understand that the vote may take place as early as tomorrow.
Enough is enough.
The 1833 Just Transition Board
October 3, 2022
To the Oberlin Board of Trustees:
The following statement has been approved unanimously by the Oberlin Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and is sent on behalf of the more than 80 Oberlin faculty who make up that chapter.
The Oberlin Chapter of the American Association of University Professors unequivocally opposes the Board of Trustees’s imminent changes to the Bylaws of Oberlin College and Conservatory.
Our objections include (but are not limited to) the following:
The re-writing of Article XV, section 2 severely limits the role of the faculty in initiating, debating, or approving strategic and operational directions of the College. This marks a sharp break from the Bylaws as they have stood since significant modifications in 1946 and 1949, and explicitly places the responsibility for any non-curricular changes in the hands of the President and Board. This is nothing less than a denial of the central principle of Oberlin’s system of shared governance: that the faculty are regularly and necessarily engaged in changes to the operations and strategic directions of the college.
The re-writing of Article XIII, section 3, significantly diminishes the role of the faculty in appointing a Dean. Not only is the President given wide latitude to ignore the recommendation of the faculty search committee – whose members have up until now been elected by the faculty – it allows the president to appoint nearly half of the committee personally. As the role of the Dean is primarily to lead the faculty, we believe that full faculty involvement and buy-in is necessary for a Dean to be successful.
The removal of Article XV, Section 3, takes away the faculty’s ability to make or approve legislation regulating student conduct and wellbeing. We are concerned about this change, as we believe that student wellbeing cannot be artificially separated from student learning. While the proposed changes allow a role for faculty in defining “those aspects of student life that relate to students’ academic experience,” we feel that the new Bylaws interpret “academic experience” so narrowly that it isn’t clear we would be allowed to weigh in on issues beyond our divisional concerns (as Art XV, Section 2, takes away the GF as a place to come together and discuss with students and administrators those policies that affect the whole campus, beyond our academic and musical divisions).
In brief, this set of amendments revokes Oberlin’s long tradition of a strong faculty role in shared governance.
Although the proposed changes to the Bylaws use the term “shared governance,” they do not meet the standards of meaningful faculty participation outside of the curriculum, narrowly defined. They give us no real say over the conditions in which we work and our students learn. It puts the people in charge of managing the college’s finances in charge of holding the institution to its core values and determining, with minimal input from the faculty, its strategic directions. The faculty is not just an employee group in a corporation, but the primary reservoir of teaching skill, research expertise, professional integrity, and institutional memory.
We stand with our elected committee members and other employee groups at Oberlin College in unequivocally rejecting these amendments as they currently stand, and demanding a process of meaningful research, deliberation, and debate before enacting these sweeping and permanent changes.
Executive Committee of Oberlin’s AAUP:
Kirk Ormand, Nathan A Greenberg Professor of Classics
DeSales Harrison, Professor of English
Stephen Checkoway, Associate Professor of Computer Science
Marta Laskowski, Robert S. Danforth Professor of Biology
Matthew Senior, Ruberta T. McCandless Professor of French
Claire Solomon, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature