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WHEN THE BUBBLE BURSTS 

OBERLIN STUDENTS RESPOND TO BIAS INCIDENTS AND RE-EXAMINE THEIR PROGRESSIVE CREDENTIALS

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Security alerts issued by the college also confirm that harassment on campus has not markedly declined since the students were removed—the suspects were identified prior to the KKK sighting and disavowed any knowledge of the event. Several students have reported being followed and taunted by suspects in a car, and students involved in spearheading the working groups and other venues for advocacy report continued jeers and racist remarks.

In the classic Oberlin tradition of academia-infused hyper-awareness, students have begun to classify hate-fueled affronts as either "microaggressive" or "macroaggressive." Verbal insults, graffiti, and violence are examples of macroaggression, while microaggression concerns the smaller and more insidious inflections of derogation that students say suffuse daily life, often going unacknowledged not only by the administration, but by students themselves. The latter has been the purview of Oberlin Microaggressions, an open Tumblr intended to "dispel the false narrative that all of our students are 'radical,' 'liberal,' or 'progressive,' and that our campus is free from marginalization."

Instances of microaggression itemized on the site include everything from Trayvon Martin jokes to complaints of a student humorously equating his observance of "no-shave November" with "Ramadan for white people" to a student ridiculed for wearing a hijab (the latter arguably a macroaggressive act).

While there wasn't such a structured forum for documenting them before, flare-ups of racial persecution have riddled Oberlin's recent history long before this semester—a "Mexican"-themed party hosted in 2009, at which students arrived with bronzer-caked faces and sombreros, is one example, as is a flurry of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti in 2011. "It's not that things were great, even here in Oberlin, and then three weeks ago they got bad," faculty panelist Afia Ofori-Mensa reminded an audience gathered in Finney Chapel in a convocation to address the recent macro-aggressions on campus.

In a later interview, Ofori-Mensa emphasized that "these are the most public and visible and recent examples of phenomena that affect and structure our lives everyday." She says that since she started at Oberlin three years ago, A-house has been vandalized every semester, but that because these transgressions "happen in an environment that is thought of as particular to the Africana community"--as opposed to in "dominant spaces" like the Science Center--"either the news doesn't make its way around or when it makes its way around, people don't care as much as they have cared about these recent things."

This time, the news certainly made its way around—Oberlin's been in the national spotlight since news leaked of the KKK sighting. And students, says junior Michelle Ellison, "have been walking around like chickens with their heads cut off—not knowing what to say, talking out of anger."

Everyone is looking for answers, for concrete solutions, which, as administrative waffling in the aftermath of Monday morning's offense crystallized, school authorities aren't necessarily equipped to provide.

***

It's Monday afternoon, the heated crescendo of a convocation hosted in Oberlin's Finney Chapel by Oberlin faculty and administration as part of a "Day of Solidarity" in response to Monday morning's sighting and the eruption of events that precipitated it, and shit just got real.

At 7:41 a.m. on Monday, students received an email alert from the Oberlin College Student Senate of the KKK sighting earlier that morning. They were notified that classes would be cancelled and that a day of campus-wide solidarity events had been scheduled in their stead.

Oberlin's website was taken offline for the day, replaced by a message from the administration that announced that the college would be hosting "A Day of Solidarity," including a teach-in, rally, and convocation, in response to the "series of hate-related incidents on campus." The note, signed by the president and three deans, elaborated: "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."

Marvin Krislov, Oberlin's fourteenth president, is on the stage, flanked by a panel comprising two deans, two professors, and four student representatives, and he's shrinking, left knee agitating, his face growing increasingly pallid as he takes intermittent nips at his coffee mug.

Warren Harding, one of the student panelists, has just lambasted Krislov and other administrators for "not addressing these incidents forcefully and communicating with students."

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