Posted Oct 18, 2019 at 20:00. Revised Sep 1, 2021 at 14:40.
Contents — Oberlin College Heritage
Oberlin College Heritage
“People who have no past have no future.”
For a Gibson’s Bakery shoplifting incident summary and its consequences, please see Gibson’s Bakery Attacked by Oberlin College.
Oberlin College’s Heritage dates from 1833 when things were very different from what they are today. It is now a heritage that seems to be intentionally forgotten! The sampler below captures the founding time’s enthusiasm…
The College began with utopian visions of providing a college education to those who could not afford tuition but were willing to work for their education. Hence the motto “Learning and Labor.” It was an atmosphere where everyone strove to live up to Christian values.
Initially, the town, College, and First Church were the same. All had many shared values. The most widely shared value in this period was a hatred of slavery, and the community helped many runaway slaves get to Canada. Some have even said that Oberlin’s helping runaway slaves was the final trigger for the Civil War.
Oberlin’s Learning and Labor model began disappearing before the Civil War when the College established a student fee to help cover costs. This fee stirred up a bitter controversy because many saw the fee as violating the founding principle of making education available to those who could not afford to pay.
Faculty members go to Berea College
The controversy caused a few faculty members to leave on principle and go to Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, where the Learning and Labor model was intact. Over the subsequent 160+ years, Berea College, unlike Oberlin, has remained true to the Learning and Labor model.
Both colleges prospered on their separate paths, but the details differ substantially. Berea still has no tuition, and over the years, has graduated many highly successful alumni who showed their gratitude to Berea by generously contributing to Berea’s Endowment. The result: Berea today has a substantially larger endowment than Oberlin. Much of Berea’s success over the years is attributable to Berea remembering the importance of truth, values, and plain decency. It is unimaginable that Berea would copy Oberlin now by engaging in a baseless, scorched earth vendetta against a local bakery and then brazenly portray it as an exercise in free speech.
Both colleges prospered along with their alumni, who shared their success with their colleges. Most commonly, this was money or investments, and each dollar given represented a tiny piece of their lives which they wanted to share with others. They understood, at some level, that each of these dollars was a piece of each donor’s life. That is, they were pieces of people — pieces of the people who donated them. Disrespecting the honestly given pieces of a generous person’s life degrades the good intentions of the person.
Temperance, suffrage, and civil rights
Historically, Oberlin and its people were active in the temperance, suffrage, and civil rights movements. These things were possible because the Board of Trustees delegated most of its power to the Administration and General Faculty. The Board did grapple with stressful situations as they arose but generally has had a “hands-off” management style. Unfortunately, responsible hands-off governance has morphed into today’s dystopian dereliction of duty.
Utopia becomes Dystopia
No one suspected that the utopian founding atmosphere would eventually spawn the dystopian transfiguration of the trustees and administrators. They have twisted the original sampler into the following politically correct statement:
The nation today is going through divisive political turmoil unmatched since before the Civil War. In the earlier national discord, Oberlin took a strong moral stand against slavery.
Post Civil War
Heritage mattered. In the years following the Civil War, Oberlin placed value on its early heritage. For example, the old Oberlin Inn dining room lampshades displayed selected student rules from the College’s founding years. The customers enjoyed reading these quaint rules, and Inn customer traffic increased as word of the lampshades spread.
The College tore down the old Inn in 1957, and the lampshades were no more. Customers of the new Oberlin Inn immediately noticed the missing lampshades and complained bitterly. The College still respected heritage and realized that the lampshade quotes were still relevant. They reproduced the lampshade quotations on wall plaques in the new Oberlin Inn dining room.
The “new” Oberlin Inn was torn down in 2017 and replaced by the elegant new and premium-priced eco-friendly Hotel at Oberlin. The earlier customer-attracting rules were nowhere in the new Hotel. Heritage had become irrelevant and was so unimportant that the original quaint rules did not even merit elevation to graffiti status. That would have at least allowed them to be displayed above the new Hotel’s urinals. This is progress? Berea has remembered what Oberlin has forgotten — because Berea knows it matters.
To date, the trustees and the college administration have blown close to $36,000,000 trying to destroy a little bakery that has been part of the town’s heritage for 135 years. That’s 36,000,000 little pieces of people that will never benefit either students or the College. The big boys don’t get it that going from fighting slavery to bullying a small town bakery may be “woke” and politically correct, but it is hardly progress — unless there is a hidden agenda in play or the BOT has been lied to. See Oberlin’s Gibson Henhouse Fox May Be Cornered!
Trying to destroy an innocent bakery for the sickest of reasons severely impacts the College’s reputation, ability to raise money, and obtain the best students and faculty. It also generates ill will in the town. Shame on you, trustees! Why did it take you until late 2019 to start waking up?
“People who have no past have no future.”
/s/ JD Nobody (he, him), OC ’61.