Oberlin College in Ohio, widely known as an extremely liberal institution, canceled all classes Monday after an unknown person was seen wearing a costume resembling that of a Ku Klux Klan member near the multicultural Afrikan Heritage House on campus.
Time reports that instead of classes, Oberlin prepared a "day of solidarity" on Monday, asking all students, faculty, and staff to attend a series of lectures and demonstrations across campus in the name of diversity, multicultural awareness, and solidarity.
Nearly 1,200 students and faculty gathered together at the campus’ chapel as Oberlin President Marvin Krislov apologized for the incident and stated that he did not believe racist views were widespread across campus.
“From what we have seen we believe these actions are the work of a very small number of cowardly people,” Krislov said, according to the New York Times.
Surprisingly, this is not the first apparent hate incident on Oberlin’s campus in the past few weeks. The college’s newspaper, the Oberlin Review, has compiled a list of hate speech at the university throughout February, and it’s surprisingly long and offensive. Some users may find the language in the above link very offensive.
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According to the Oberlin Review, on Feb. 16, “Students found a number of offensive notes written around Burton Hall. ‘Whites Only’ was written above a water fountain, ‘N****r Oven’ was written inside the elevator and ‘No N****rs’ was written on a bathroom door.”
Other reports included students finding swastikas at several points on campus as well as many more racist and anti-gay slurs.
The day of solidarity was announced in public statement sent out to all students and faculty.
“We hope today will allow the entire community — students, faculty and staff — to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual,” Krislov said in the statement.
“When faced with difficult situations, Oberlin has consistently met the challenges and affirmed its commitment to the highest quality of education and the noblest aspirations of its community members. We believe that today’s events—and our ongoing work and discussions—will strengthen Oberlin and will strengthen us all,” the statement continued.
Students at Oberlin, located about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland, are shocked that the hate speech incidents have occurred at such a progressive institution. Oberlin, the nation's first college to admit blacks, has been a rallying point for progressive causes for decades.
“I was pretty shocked it would happen here,” Sarah Kahl, a 19-year-old freshman, told the New York Times. “It’s a little scary. That’s why this day is so important, so urgent.”
Oberlin alumni have been shocked as well. Lena Dunham, and Oberlin graduate and creator of HBO’s “Girls,” tweeted a message of support to all Oberlin students reminding them to be mindful of their inclusive heritage.
“Hey Obies, remember the beautiful, inclusive and downright revolutionary history of the place you call home. Protect each other,” she tweeted Monday.