Students at Oberlin College were so concerned that activism was taking up so much of their time, they campaigned to abolish any grades below a “C” and replace their midterms, according to a report this week.
“More than thirteen hundred students signed a petition calling for the college to eliminate any grade lower than a C for the semester, but to no avail,” the New Yorker profile explains.
A writer of the petition explained her reasoning, saying activism should be supported.
“Students felt really unsupported in their endeavors to engage with the world outside Oberlin,” Megan Bautista told The New Yorker.
Schoolwork, familial problems, and probation also provide barriers to their activism, another student said.
“Because I’m dealing with having been arrested on campus, or having to deal with the things that my family are going through because of larger systems—having to deal with all of that, I can’t produce the work they want me to do,” student Zakiya Acey said, adding that “I understand the material, and I can give it to you in different ways.”
Some students at Oberlin are requesting alternatives to the standard midterm exam, like for example, a conversation with a professor instead of an essay, The Week noted.
“A lot of us worked alongside community members in Cleveland who were protesting,” Bautista, who is a co-liaison in Oberlin’s student government.
“But we needed to organize on campus as well—it wasn’t sustainable to keep driving 40 minutes away. A lot of us started suffering academically.”
In the 1970s, Oberlin adjusted its grading system to accommodate student activists protesting against the Vietnam War or the Kent State shootings.
“You know, we’re paying for a service. We’re paying for our attendance here. We need to be able to get what we need in a way that we can actually consume it,” Acey added to The New Yorker.
According to Campus Reform in a report last December, Oberlin students issued a 14-page list of demands, including calls for more black employment and enrollment and the reduction of cream in meals.
The report stated:
Oberlin’s current president has allayed such concerns for the time being, going on record to say that some of his students’ demands are “deeply troubling.” Such demands, though, are not unusual at Oberlin, or indeed on other contemporary college campuses.
Last December, for instance, Campus Reform reported that student protesters had submitted a list of demands to their school’s president, including one calling for hourly monetary compensation for activists.
The students demanded that “black student leaders be provided an $8.20/hr stipend for their continuous organizing efforts around the well-being of Black people on Oberlin’s campus” as well as the creation of “exclusive black safe-spaces on campus.”