Angst at My Alma Mater
Published on March 6, 2013 by Sara Foss

My alma mater, Oberlin College, made national news this week.

After a series of racist incidents, the college canceled classes and held a day of solidarity. I surveyed a small circle of fellow alums. We agreed that classes should not have been canceled. We felt that doing so would empower whoever was behind the racist incidents - make them believe they could bring the school to its knees. I pretty much agree with this take on the whole thing by The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf.

But my friends and I also feel that it's extremely unlikely that some underground network of racists was behind the incidents. My immediate sense was that the incidents were likely some kind of hoax, or a students' misguided attempt to make a statement about political correctness, or free speech or something, although I thought there was a slight possibility an angry nutjob was behind it. In any case, I'm not surprised by reports suggesting that the KKK robe that was sighted on campus was probably just a student wandering around in a blanket.

Of course, there's also the question of why this is a national story. Frankly, it shouldn't be - the New York Times should have better things to write about. The blogger Bob Somerby believes the Times covered it because they love stories about race and racism. I don't disagree. But I also think the Times pays way too much attention to the troubles of students at elite liberal arts school. My guess is that a lot of Times reporters and editors attended such schools, and think they're really interesting. Unfortunately, most Americans attend state schools and community colleges, if they go to college at all. Most people have never heard of Oberlin, and will wonder why it merited so much coverage from the nation's paper of record.

Add Comment
Add comment