a statement to the Oberlin community
Tuesday morning, president Marvin Krislov said that he will be stepping down at the end of this school year. His final day will be June 30, 2017.
"Many thanks to all of you for enriching my life and the lives of my family," he wrote. "The experiences we’ve had and the relationships we’ve formed will stay with us always, as will our love of Oberlin."
He called serving the Oberlin community an "honor and a privilege" and said that after 10 years at the helm, he knew this was the "right moment" to seek new professional challenges.
Also on his mind, no doubt, was the campus tumult that seemed never to desist last year.
Before Christmas break, Krislov and the Oberlin Board of Trustees were presented with a list of student demands, a list which accused Oberlin of being an "unethical institution" and insisted that the college meet certain diversity hiring and admissions targets, on pain of "a full and forceful response from the community [they] fail to support."
“I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement. Many of its demands contravene principles of shared governance. And it contains personal attacks on a number of faculty and staff members who are dedicated and valued members of this community.”
Speaking of the faculty: In February, assistant professor Joy Karega posted to her social media pages conspiracies about Israeli involvement in 9/11 and tirades blaming Jews for, among other things, the creation of ISIS. Karega's activities made national headlines and Krislov was caught between the need to defend academic freedom for Karega (who is black, and well-liked on campus) and the urging from the board to "challenge the assertion that there is any justification for these repugnant postings." Karega, last month, was suspended with pay as administrators review her social media posts.
Oberlin has found itself at the center of a number of campus speech and activism issues that overtook the national news cycle in 2015 and 2016. It was the focus of a New Yorker feature
by Nathan Heller that examined the views of modern college students who feel maligned and victimized. Connor Friedersdorf at the Atlantic
called Oberlin's campus an instructive outlier.
"Oberlin, where the subculture is unusually influenced by “social justice” activism, can starkly illuminate the particular character of that ideology’s excesses," he wrote, in a post stemming from student allegations of cultural appropriation
in the dining hall.
Krislov did not cite a reason for his imminent departure. He merely stated that for the upcoming academic year, he will work to be raise additional money for scholarships and support implementation of the college's Strategic Plan.
"I take great pride in all we have achieved," he wrote, "and I look forward to working during the coming year to make Oberlin even stronger and to help chart its future."