by Izzy Sanchez-Foster and Brandon Denton
This semester, the school has taken dramatic steps towards creating the neoliberal college they want to see. We saw the outsourcing of Student Health, the erasure of the Finney Compact, the destruction of Wilder’s basement, the uprooting of dozens of hundred-year-old trees, constant construction, the upcoming destruction of Barrows…we could continue.
But, we have also seen enormous displays of student power. As students, we came together on October 6th to protest the inequitable changes to our school. With only two days of organizing, over a hundred students participated in a noise demonstration at the Board of Trustees meeting in the hotel. Directly following this, we participated in a huge protest and our collective anger led us to spontaneously occupy Mudd and hold an hour-long conversation with administrators and trustee members. This amazing display of unity and solidarity was something we had never seen at Oberlin before, and made me incredibly excited for the future.
In a conversation SLAC organized the following day, it was clear that the issues motivating people to act ranged widely, but were extremely interconnected. The root of them was a lack of student power and influence in school services and daily operations. We believe the solution is to bring back the community cooperatives, and through them, create a culture of activism; a culture that bridges town members with students and campus workers, that redefines our community through solidarity rather than division.
Oberlin was once home to the Oberlin Consumer Cooperative, which started as a buying club amongst students and faculty in 1938. In 1940, they became a non-profit and eventually served the entire Oberlin community with a bookstore, grocery store, restaurant, children’s clothing store, credit union, laundromat, and a Greyhound ticket service. Taking inspiration from this, SLAC and Students for Energy Justice (SEJ) are interested in working with our entire community to create new services that provide for all of us. We are in contact with Oberlin Community Services (OCS) and in the beginning stages of forming a student, worker, and town member cooperative.
We, as a community, will solidify the scope of the cooperative over the next semester; but as of now, we see a need to provide services which redistribute the concentration of wealth, labor, and skills we have on campus. The cooperative is a perfect avenue for bringing Oberlin High School students into the college, or expanding services like the Free Store or the SWAP book co-op beyond only students. Through a cooperative, we can establish a mutually beneficial network that eliminates the “town-gown” divide. SLAC would like to encourage students, student organizations, workers, and town members to come together to make this radical change a possibility.
To succeed in changing our campus and empowering ourselves as workers, students, and town members, we need a culture of organizing. We know that every year the incoming first years bring a wave of new energy, new ideas, and new passions. It is essential that this energy and passion for change is nourished early, and we believe an essential piece of that is the Disorientation Zine. Starting now, we are looking for any students, organizations, town members, and more who are interested in helping develop this essential resource for the incoming class. The Disorientation Zine is an essential resource for educating about Oberlin history, activism, and resources. If you are interested in helping with writing, art, editing, or anything else, please reach out or look for our interest form on Instagram and our website (@SLACOberlin, OberlinSLAC.org).
Let's take an active step in creating the College we want to see. Because even though our presence on this campus is not permanent, our impact ripples through for years after we are gone. The actions you choose to take at Oberlin will also shape you, and help you understand what role to take in the world. It is time we build community power and empowerment and take back the campus from the unaccountable trustees and their money-focused agenda.