When The Great Oberlin Racism Hoax of 2013 was exposed last month by Chuck Ross at The Daily Caller, troubling questions arose as to How Could Oberlin Be So Cruel as to not have told students there weren’t really Nazi and KKK sympathizers stalking the campus.

Police records reveal that the Oberlin administration was aware, no later than February 27, that it was a hoax led by someone who was not racist, but rather, a pro-Obama liberal “anti-racist” activist who did it as a “trolling” prank to get a campus reaction. The students protesting on campus on March 4, when classes were canceled, were not told.

In response to media coverage as to Oberlin’s failure to disclose the hoax to students, the Oberlin administration has created a straw man argument, that it takes bias incidents seriously, implicitly suggesting that those questioning its conduct don’t take such incidents seriously.

To draw on an analogy I used before, Oberlin could have informed the campus and the nation that there were no actual fires, just fire alarms pulled as a prank.  Instead, it allowed fear and disquiet to spread.  One student I spoke with stated that “people were freaking out when [the administration] brought in the FBI,” thinking there really was a threat.

But it’s even worse.  That fear and disquiet was exploited by student activists aligned with the Oberlin Multicultural Resource Center and Afrikan Heritage House with the encouragement of the Oberlin administration.

Oberlin “used that fear to get students to push for even more extreme policies”

A student contacted me to alert me to how the campus turmoil was exploited to encourage and then implement aggressive multicultural and left-wing agenda items:

I’d like to personally thank you for your coverage of the Oberlin hate hoax. Many students… have been following your site and are glad that somebody is helping to get the word out about the Oberlin administration’s response.

The Daily Caller story just grazes the surface of what really happened. The administration didn’t just allow students to live in fear, they actually used that fear to get students to push for even more extreme policies on campus. Many students formed into “working groups” to propose solutions for “institutional change”, nearly all of which have been approved by the administration and are being enacted.

This student’s concerns are reflected in the timeline of events, and documents reflecting the agenda.

Student Working Groups Meet on Day Classes Canceled

During February 2013, there were numerous “bias” incidents on campus, as documented in our prior posts.  By February 27, when the perpetrators were identified and confessed to the hoax, the incidents stopped.

In late February, students started forming Working Groups under the auspices of the Multicultural Resource Center:

Members of the Oberlin College community working to “address structural racism had certainly been around before the events of February and March,” said Miguel Amaguaña ‘13, a leading member of the Conservatory working group. However, student activism increased in February when the most recent wave of hate speech began.  In the last weekend of February, the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) held a retreat where students planned to form working groups addressing issues related to the hate speech and to increase diversity, social justice, and inclusion on Oberlin’s campus.

Nonetheless, with tension running high on campus, just after midnight on March 4 a black student reported that she saw someone in Klan garb.  (It later turned out it likely was just a student wrapped in a blanket.)

That set off an all-night series of meetings among students from the Afrikan Heritage House, among others, and the Oberlin administration, including the Dean and President Marvin Krislov.

As reflected in notes of the post-midnight meetings, at first the Oberlin administration refused to cancel classes, but then relented after multiple meetings and having been informed that multi-cultural courses already had been cancelled by faculty.  Nowhere in the notes does it reflect the students being told this was a hoax.

Oberlin Early Morning March 4

Oberlin - Africana Studies Cancels Classes

Oberlin Early Morning March 4 2

On March 4, the day of the campus-wide protest, Working Group meetings were held to draft demands to the administration.

Oberlin Student Working Groups Header

The Working Groups were part of a teach-in held at the Afrikan Heritage House:

At the teach-in at Afrikan Heritage House the next day, everyone on campus was invited to join the working groups.  That week, the groups began to meet as intended, with an increased sense of urgency.  At the meetings, students split up to discuss the various issues needing to be addressed.  The Conservatory, the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA), the Natural Sciences, Athletics, Documentation and Institutional Memory, and Training, Workshops, and the Curriculum were the main areas of focus.

Those Working Groups developed proposals affecting every aspect of campus life, including Athletics, Communications, the Music Conservatory, Natural Sciences, OCSA (the union representing Oberlin College Safety and Security officers), and Workshops and Trainings programs.

The bias events and campus-wide protests reinvigorated their efforts to push the agenda forward, and the administration was supportive:

… the Day of Solidarity that happened on Oberlin College campus was a direct result of student endeavors, with support from the Africana Studies Department, the Multicultural Resource Center, the Office of the Ombudsperson, and the demands made of the President, Dean of Students, Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Dean of the Conservatory.

Oberlin Administration Encourages Working Groups Proposals

On March 19, Oberlin President Marvin Krislov posted a statement on the school’s website in reaction to the Student Working Groups’ initial proposals, accepting some of the proposals immediately, and encouraging more (emphasis added):

Responding to recent racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic incidents on campus, a coalition of Oberlin College students presented written proposals today to the administration that seek to make the college and conservatory more diverse and inclusive.

The coalition consists of student working groups formed at the Day of Solidarity teach-in on March 4. That day of teaching, discussion, dialogue, and reflection was organized by Oberlin’s Africana studies students and faculty….

We hope the students’ proposals will open up constructive, substantive discussions. We are proud that our students and faculty—in keeping with Oberlin’s educational mission—have used the recent incidents to spark teaching and discussion of a wide range of issues relating to diversity and inclusion at Oberlin and in the wider world.

We will carefully study the document the students have submitted. A more detailed response will be forthcoming after spring break. Meanwhile, some of the students’ ideas are already being implemented, such as changes to new student and new faculty orientation.

That statement continued, in part:

The bias incidents are hateful and hurtful. But the response from our students, faculty, staff, and fellow citizens highlights our educational mission and the strength and vitality of our community. The incidents have sparked ongoing and varied teaching, discussions, and actions and we commend the many Oberlin students who have been instrumental in leading efforts to make Oberlin an even more diverse and inclusive place….

In fact, Oberlin knew at least three weeks earlier, on February 27, who the students were, and that this was a hoax.  By March 6, the police investigation was over on all the bias issues, with only investigation of possible identify theft directed at President Krislov remaining.

The next day, March 20, Krislov elaborated on the background and nature of the demands:

Responding to recent racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic incidents on campus, a coalition of Oberlin College students presented on March 19 written demands to the administration that seek to make the college and conservatory more diverse and inclusive.

The coalition consists of student working groups formed at the Day of Solidarity teach-in on March 4. That day of teaching, discussion, dialogue, and reflection was organized by Oberlin’s Africana studies students and faculty. Student leaders tell me that some 200 students—of different backgrounds, identities, and communities—took part in producing the document.

In that March 20 statement, Krislov stated that certain short-term demands — most of which regarded “diversity” and “social justice — would be implemented by the start of the Fall Term 2013, including (emphasis added):

After an initial reading, it is clear that some short-term things can be addressed quickly. Here are some examples of what we are already doing or can begin doing quickly:

• Revising new student orientation including mandatory orientation programs like Many Voices. Discussions of this are already underway, led by the Multicultural Resource Center and the Office of Residential Education. This could begin by the fall of 2013.

*    *    *

• Including discussions of social justice and allyship in multiple sessions of new faculty orientation by the fall of 2013.

• Providing more resources for the Multicultural Resource Center, especially funds for trainings and workshops for the upcoming budget year 2013-14.

• Building a strategic social justice plan for the Division of Student Life.

Final Student Proposal Demands Sweeping Changes

The timeline of events between March 19 and late April is unclear.  We do know that there were open meetings on April 7, 23 and 28 as detailed on a student-run blog:

At the forum on April 7, the leaders of the Student Working Group Coalition said that they “have received a positive response from the president and senior staff.”  The students seemed satisfied with the progress they had made thus far. In an interview before the draft of the proposals was completed, Dean of Students Eric Estes commented, “I would be surprised, given the amount of thought [and] effort that students have put into this process, if there were concerns raised that we couldn’t work on together.”

The President’s Office has already agreed to fund the creation of faculty trainings, which will be implemented next January and “the Dean of Studies Office is actively looking at orientation programming for the coming fall.” Estes said, “there are also important opportunities related to in-hall discussions that can happen in September and October […] We are thinking about about intentionally extending the experience from a few days in August to throughout the first year.” …

At the working group meeting on April 28, students asked about the possibility of training the board [of Trustees]. [student A.D.] Hogan responded that, when asked about trans* or allyship trainings, certain members, “balked at the possibility.”

The student-run Oberlin Review also detailed the sequence during March and April leading up to the final proposal:

During the plethora of meetings at Afrikan Heritage House on March 4, the working groups collectively decided to adapt themselves to a specific type of institutional change, one that centered on diversity, social justice and inclusion at Oberlin College….

Although the document of proposals has been in circulation for the past week, the presentation that took place Sunday [April 28, 2013] was the first time that they were effectively presented and explained to the general public.

It appears that by May 8, if not sooner, a final set of student proposals was presented to the Administration.

Oberlin Student Proposals Title Page

The introduction to the Final Proposal set forth the agenda and the role played by the bias incidents (emphasis added):

We are a coalition of Oberlin College and Conservatory students who have come together in thewake of the past month’s hate-based incidents. The working groups coalition emerged from theAfricana Studies Department’s teach-in on March 4, 2013…. The past few months have been filled with shock, fear, confusion, and deep reflection for the entire Oberlin community. As students, we have actively organized sit-ins, marches, and forums since the beginning of the Spring Semester to visibly affirm our concerns….

We are not just responding to these recent events; we are addressing the history of racism, cissexism, queerphobia, classism, faith-based discrimination, ableism, sizeism, and eurocentrism in the United States and have a more meaningful discourse on the ways they manifest at Oberlin Collegeand Conservatory. We expect the College and Conservatory to promote social change by validating and affirming all students’ voices, especially those whose experiences of exclusion have been marginal to the larger campus discourse.

This is ongoing, relentless work, which should not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of those most directly impacted by hate-based incidents and micro-aggressions….We would like to move forward as advocates for more resources for interdisciplinary study; the inclusion of a social justice framework in all academic coursework;  student participation in administrative initiatives; a re-evaluation of faculty, staff, and administrative hiring practices to better promote meaningful and sustainable diversity; and situating our education within the scope of a larger social context. The purpose of this document is to inspire collaboration between students, administrators, faculty, and staff in the implementation of the following proposals.

The Natural Sciences Department was singled out as particularly in need of change:

We are disappointed by the Natural Science division’s general lack of response to recent hate-based incidents. Physical isolation and racial homogeneity of the Natural Sciences result in an inaccessible community with a limited relationship to other academic departments. Every academic discipline has equal opportunity to identify truths; we must employ this framework to dismantle academic hierarchies.

Among the key agenda items was mandatory “re-orientation” workshops for students, faculty and staff led by paid student trainers:

In considering potential trainings and workshops, the largest of the working groups narrowed their focus into three main topics: new students and First-Years; continuing privilege and oppression education, or, “re-orientation”; and mandatory training for faculty and staff. Student leadership and facilitation are central to the success of these programs, so we would require a sustainable training system and compensation for these students.

The Oberlin Review ran a summary of the student proposals (bold and italics in original, underscoring added):

The following is an abridged, modified version of the proposals drafted by each working group:


Establish a Multicultural Resource Center within the Conservatory. Develop a sustainable plan that effectively improves our admissions yield and retention of students of color, first-generation, LGBTQ and low-income students. Review the Conservatory’s current mission statement and instill a commitment to further recognize and address cultural diversity.

*    *    *

Natural Sciences

Hold a mandatory forum moderated by Oberlin College Dialogue Center to discuss all different aspects of diversity and how they operate in the Natural Sciences….

Offer mini-courses that specifically address particular issues of identity and power in the sciences. Modify existing courses to include critical thinking on social issues related to science….

Invite speakers from underrepresented groups to speak or lead workshops about their professional journey as it relates to identity.


Build a full-service gym on South Campus with equipment that is affirming for all genders….

Circulate more public, accessible information of the current trans policy.

Make clearly marked, gender-inclusive locker rooms and bathrooms as well as a brief orientation for all new users.

Provide better support from coaches and faculty for participation in social justice-related events. Create a social justice advocate in the Athletics department.

Trainings, Workshops and Curriculum

Provide preparatory readings on privilege and oppression, alllyship and terminology included in the Big Book of eForms….

Create language and communication tools to guide engagement with issues of privilege and oppression. Provide information about ways to get involved with campus and community-wide activism.

Continue the discussion of language, privilege, oppression and activism during the First-Year Seminar Program.

Faculty, Staff and Administrators

Have mandatory programming in new faculty trainings and general faculty meetings focusing on the ways power and privilege shape professors’ classrooms and disciplines.

Commit more financial resources to the MRC. Increase support and resources for the Africana Studies department, Comparative American Studies program and Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies….

Create and sustain more tenure track positions for professors of color in all departments.

Revise course evaluations to include how professors handle issues of race, gender, class, sexuality and ability in their classrooms.

Oberlin Student Proposals for Institutional Change

Oberlin Accepts Many of the Proposals

On or about May 17, the Oberlin administration responded in writing, accepting many of these proposals as reflected in the following document provided to me. The administration avoided committing to many of the proposals related to faculty evaluations and other items that would require faculty consent. As to mandatory student “re-orientation” and similar workshops, Oberlin accepted the proposals in substantial part: Oberlin Response - Workshops

As to Athletics, the demand for mandatory coach and staff participation in social justice activities was toned down to an encouragement:

Oberlin Response - Athletic coaches participate social justice

As to the Natural Sciences, there was a general agreement to push forward with diversity initiatives and to consider curriculum changes:

Oberlin Response - Natural Sciences

The remainder of the responses are in the full document below.

Oberlin College Response to Multicultural Working Groups Proposals

Big Win for Multicultural / Social Justice / Re-Orientation Agenda Based On a Hoax

Long before the racism hoax in February 2013, Oberlin was a campus heavy with multi-cultural, identity and “social justice” ideologies dominating campus life.

The demands arising out of the bias incidents, encouraged and accepted by the Oberlin administration, pushed that agenda deeper into every aspect of the campus, touching almost every student.  While the activists did not get everything they wanted, they got a lot and most important, have regained the momentum they felt they had lost prior to the hoax.

In addition to policy changes, there is more funding for the Multicultural Resource Center and other programs designed to “re-orient” how students see the world.

Not only did the Oberlin administration play along with the hoax and needlessly frighten students, it encouraged and cooperated in the further radicalization of the campus as a result of events it knew were not actually bias incidents, but just “pranks” pulled primarily by a liberal pro-Obama “anti-racist” activist seeking to get a reaction.

Hopefully there will be people in the Oberlin community — whether students, faculty, or the Board of Trustees — who will demand accountability for this charade and radical politicization of academics.

Maybe it’s also time for parents to question the campus agenda.  Do Oberlin parents really want to spend $60,762 per year to have their children “re-oriented”?

Update 9-2-2013: Oberlin Alum: “Please keep reporting on … the situation”


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