Incident Prompts Oberlin To Cancel Classes

Mar 5, 2013

Oberlin college canceled classes Monday after a report that a person wearing a hooded robe resembling Ku Klux Klan gear was seen near an African heritage building.

The college says it the latest in a series of hate-related incidents on campus in the past month.  Nick Castele of member station WCPN in Cleveland reports.

Over the past few weeks, Oberlin officials say, messages have appeared around campus denigrating Jews, African Americans and those who are gay. 

And according to the student newspaper, last month a student said someone made a derogatory remark at him and pushed him to the ground. Then early Monday morning, school officials say, a student reported having seen someone standing near an African culture-themed dorm wearing a white robe and a hood.

Sean Decatur is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

DECATUR: “It’s not something that we’re interested in sweeping under the rug. I think Oberlin as a community wants to be very out in the open that this is something that collectively, as a community, is against our shared values.”

Oberlin canceled classes. About 1,000 students gathered on campus for an afternoon rally, which featured songs from a marching band and an African dance ensemble.

Student speakers said Oberlin should stand against hate speech. Earlier in the day, students had said the school should put greater focus in the curriculum on cultural differences.

Second-year student Gabriela Garcia called the incidents scary and said they surprised her.

GABRIELA: “I learned this in history classes—that this is something that happened 50 years ago, and not now. But it does happen. It does happen.”

Oberlin security and local police are investigating. The Guardian quotes an Oberlin police officer saying that students were behind the messages, and that the school is dealing with them internally.