by Izzy Sanchez-Foster, Brandon Denton, and Mary Ann Montgomery
Starting this semester, The Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC) is a low-income and BIPOC-led space looking to engage the Oberlin community in our projects/actions towards fighting for better working and living conditions for our community's workers.
For our first piece, we would like to respond to the October 28 article “Student Protest of Bylaws Revision Favored Animosity Over Message” by the Oberlin Review Editorial Board.
In this article, the Editorial Board has chosen to echo the Board of Trustees’ calls for “civility” politics. They attempted to argue that our community’s anger weakened the message we organized behind. Yes, our community is angry, and there is nothing wrong with that. Due to the Board’s austerity, we are at a desperate point where our campus services are rapidly declining and no longer support us. The Board has shown our community zero respect with their decisions, so why should we respect them? The real “hardworking people deserving our decorum and respect” are the students, faculty, and employees who make this campus run every day, not the Board.
Asking the Board nicely is NOT the way forward. We need to be honest about the way we feel and demand what we deserve. The Board’s decisions are hindering the school’s daily operations, which we feel firsthand as campus services and healthcare are more and more inaccessible. The trustees swoop into town to make significant changes to our education and lives on campus, only to disperse across the country, indifferent and removed from the implications of their decisions.
The situation is dire and the cutbacks to essential campus services, professor pay and healthcare, etc. are violent. When protesting, we cannot conflate “peaceful” with “effective” while the Board’s decisions are directly harming members of our community. Such threats to our wellbeing need to be met with an urgency that cannot be clouded by respectability politics. Building a campus beyond cruel austerity means building a campus beyond the Board of Trustees. The Board deserves, or rather needs, to experience our animosity. But more importantly, expressing communal anger is empowering and uniting. The direct-action our community took on Oct. 6th is something we should all celebrate and work to create again.