How to start an Editor’s Note from the end of the world? And, having asked that, what point is there at all in writing (let alone reading) an Editor’s Note in April 2020, the age of coronavirus, for a publication that for all official purposes, is shuttered? In other words, why keep The Grape running when there’s no Decafe, Slow Train, or house party to write about being horny in/complain about?
The short answer: there’s not much else to do. But if we had a few more minutes to formulate a response (which, as luck would have it, we absolutely do), we’d argue that, with almost every other facet of Oberlin College and culture stripped away, why not work on keeping what we can alive?
We’re certainly not the first to have this thought. Elsewhere, there are myriad examples of our scattered student body finding ways to hold Oberlin close, like last week’s hotly contested Oberlin Twitter Bracket, reigniting some of Oberlin’s most time-honored traditions: social capital arms races and vicious sub-Tweeting. Or a housemate of ours laboring over puny canvases, attempting to recreate a cherry-red Ellsworth Kelly “B” in place of an Art Rental we had to return last month.
For us, it’s The Grape, now online-only for the foreseeable future, but, nevertheless, up-and-running. And while some changes weren’t voluntary, we’re also working to transition our process to meet the demands that this era presents. Thanks to a generous donation from Oberlin alum Aakash Patel, we’re now able to offer writers compensation for their submissions. By implementing a freelance-style system, The Grape hopes to alleviate some of the economic anxiety that many Oberlin students shoulder in the face of pandemic (Heck, everyone deserves to be paid for their writing, whether in times of crisis or not!)
Which brings us to our main appeal: write us an article, or two, or three! If there’s anything that brings us some semblance of hope in these trying and isolating times, it’s hearing from other Obies. No matter if you’re in Oberlin, your family home thousands of miles away, or somewhere else entirely, we want to know what your world looks like. How is your “pod” coping? What resources do you or don’t you have access to? How many times have you panicked (or gloated) about being pantless during a Zoom call? Which repeated chore incites your existential dread?
Seriously, though, let’s forget all that “Coronavirus is the great equalizer” bullshit and use this as an opportunity to address the very real (dare we say, overlooked?) differences that exist among us. The Grape is well aware of the ways in which student media (not discluding ourselves) tends to gloss over issues of social and economic disparity within the Oberlin community, but we’re hopeful that this moment—which has us dispersed all around the world, clinging to an Oberlin identity that is no longer defined by geography but by principle—will afford us some clarity.
When we’re all here on campus, it’s easy to read a Grape on Wilder Bowl in the TGIF sun and laugh (endearingly) over our shared college experience. But the truth of the matter is: our experiences are, have been, and will continue to be different from one another, and a global pandemic will only magnify those differences. If we are to keep a sense of Oberlin community alive, then we must first acknowledge who we are as individuals: where we come from, what we value, how we see ourselves—not only as students—but as citizens of the world in the face of a public health crisis.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t keep talking about Oberlin here and now. Local communities and movements need us to keep talking. Our UAW workers need us. Our residential students need us. Our faculty and governing agencies need us (to tell them what they’ve done wrong, and how to get it right).
The point is: no matter where you’re writing from, your viewpoint is as valuable as any contributor’s. The Grape strives to be a patchwork of voices from across the Oberlin community, and now more than ever, to write is to keep a little bit of school spirit (even if that spirit manifests in mercilessly dunking on the College), alive. At least, that’s our M.O.
Our hope is that it might be yours, too.
Editor’s Note: The Once and Future Grape
P.J. MCCORMICK and MOLLY BRYSON, Editors-in-Chief