Oberlin College

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Coordinates: 41°17′35″N 82°13′07″W / 41.292929°N 82.218576°W / 41.292929; -82.218576

Oberlin College
Formal Seal of Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH, USA.svg
Motto Learning and Labor
Established September 2, 1833
Type Private liberal arts college
Religious affiliation
Endowment $808 million (2014)[1]
President Marvin Krislov
Administrative staff
Students 2,900[2]
Location Oberlin, Ohio, USA
Campus Small town
Colors Cardinal red      
Mikado yellow     
Athletics NCAA Division IIINCAC
Nickname Yeomen / Yeowomen
Website oberlin.edu
Oberlin College
Location Tappan Square, Oberlin, Ohio
Area 440 acres (178.1 ha)
Built 1833
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 66000615[4]
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, noteworthy for having been the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female and black students in addition to white males. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, part of the college, is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the country."[5]

Oberlin's school colors are cardinal red and mikado yellow, often casually referred to as "crimson and gold." Those colors were formally designated for the college by a faculty committee in 1889 and were drawn from the family coat of arms of John Frederick Oberlin.[6] They remain in the official registry of school colors maintained by the American Council on Education. Oberlin is a member of the Great Lakes Colleges Association and the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium.



Main article: Oberlin, Ohio
Students passing through the Memorial Arch in front of Peters Hall. The arch is dedicated to the memory of 15 missionaries of the Oberlin Band who were killed in the Boxer Rebellion.

Both the college and the town of Oberlin were founded in northern Ohio in 1833 by a pair of Presbyterian ministers, John Jay Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart.[7] The College was built on 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land specifically donated by the previous owners, Titus Street, founder of Streetsboro, Ohio, and Samuel Hughes,[8] who lived in Connecticut.

Shipherd and Stewert named their project after Jean-Frédéric Oberlin, an Alsatian minister whom they both admired. The ministers' vision was for both a religious community and school. Oberlin's founders bragged that "Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good," and the college has long been associated with progressive causes.

Asa Mahan (1799–1889) accepted the position as first President of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute in 1835, simultaneously serving as the chair of intellectual and moral philosophy and a professor of theology. Mahan's liberal views towards abolitionism and anti-slavery greatly influenced the philosophy of the newly founded college; likewise, only two years after its founding, the school began admitting students of all races, becoming the first college in the United States to do so.[9]

The college had some difficult beginnings, and Rev. John Keep and William Dawes were sent to England to raise funds for the college in 1839–40.[10]

Graduate School of Theology[edit]

A nondenominational seminary,[11] Oberlin's Graduate School of Theology (first called the Theological Department), was established alongside the college in 1833.[12]

In 1965, the board of trustees voted to discontinue graduate instruction in theology at Oberlin, and in September 1966, six faculty members and 22 students merged with the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University.[12][13]

African-American students[edit]

Oberlin's role as an educator of African-American students prior to the Civil War and thereafter is historically significant.[14]

In 1844, Oberlin College graduated its first black student, George B. Vashon,[15] who became one of the founding professors at Howard University[16] and the first black lawyer admitted to the Bar in New York State. The African Americans of Oberlin and those attending Oberlin College "have experienced intense challenges and immense accomplishments since their joint founding in 1833. Its African American and other students of color have used education and activism to influence the college, the town, and beyond. Their efforts have helped Oberlin remain committed to its values of freedom, social justice, and service."[17]

The College's approach to African Americans was by no means perfect. Intensely anti-slavery, Oberlin was the only college to admit black students in the 1830s. By the 1880s, however, with the fading of evangelical idealism, the school began segregating its black students.[18] Nonetheless, Oberlin graduates accounted for a significant percentage of African-American college graduates by the end of the 19th century.

The college was listed as a National Historic Landmark on December 21, 1965, for its significance in admitting African Americans and women.[19]


Oberlin is also the oldest continuously operating coeducational institution, since having admitted four women in 1837. These four women, who were the first to enter as full students, were Mary Kellogg (Fairchild), Mary Caroline Rudd, Mary Hosford, and Elizabeth Prall. All but Kellogg graduated. Mary Jane Patterson graduated in 1862 as the first black woman to earn a B.A. degree. Soon women were fully integrated into the college, and comprised from a third to half of the student body. The religious founders, especially evangelical theologian Charles Grandison Finney, saw women as inherently morally superior to men. Indeed, many alumnae, inspired by this sense of superiority and their personal duty to fulfill God's mission engaged in missionary work. Historians have typically presented coeducation at Oberlin as an enlightened societal development presaging the future evolution of the ideal of equality for women in higher education.[20]

Finney presidency[edit]

The faculty of Oberlin quarreled frequently with the highly religious president Mahan, and in 1850 voted unanimously to relieve him of his position as president. In his place, famed abolitionist and preacher Charles Grandison Finney (already a professor at the college since its founding) was made president, serving until 1866. Oberlin attained prominence because of the influence of Finney, after whom one of the College's chapels and performance spaces is named.

Under Finney's leadership, Oberlin's faculty and students increased their activity in the abolitionist movement. They participated together with people of the town in biracial efforts to help fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad (where Oberlin was a key stop), as well as to resist the Fugitive Slave Act.[21] One historian called Oberlin "the town that started the Civil War" due to its reputation as a hotbed of abolitionism.[22] In 1858, both students and faculty were involved in the controversial Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of a fugitive slave, which received national press coverage. Two participants in this raid, Lewis Sheridan Leary and John Anthony Copeland, along with another Oberlin resident, Shields Green, also participated in John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry. This heritage was commemorated on campus by the 1977 installation of sculptor Cameron Armstrong's "Underground Railroad Monument" (a railroad track rising from the ground toward the sky)[23] and monuments to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue[24] and the Harper's Ferry Raid.[25]

Fairchild presidency[edit]

In 1866, James Fairchild became Oberlin's third president, and the first alumnus of the school to achieve that rank. Himself a committed abolitionist, Fairchild, at that point chair of theology and moral philosophy, played a role in Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, hiding fugitive slave John Price in his home. During Fairchild's tenure, the faculty and physical plant of the college expanded dramatically. In 1889, he resigned as president but remained as chair of systematic theology. (In 1896, Fairchild returned to the Oberlin leadership as acting President, serving until 1898.)[26]

Oberlin Band missionaries[edit]

Peters Hall, the Oberlin Administration Building, in 1909.

Oberlin College was also prominent in sending Christian missionaries abroad. In 1881, students at Oberlin formed the Oberlin Band to journey as a group to remote Shanxi province in China. A total of 30 members of the Oberlin Band worked in Shanxi as missionaries over the next two decades. Ten died of disease, and in 1900, fifteen of the Oberlin missionaries, including wives and children, were killed by Boxers or Chinese government soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion.[27] The Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association, an independent foundation, was formed in their memory. The Association, with offices on campus, sponsors Oberlin graduates to teach in China, India, and Japan. It also hosts scholars and artists from Asia to spend time on the Oberlin campus.

King, Carr, and Fuller presidencies[edit]

Henry Churchill King (1858–1934) became Oberlin's sixth president in 1902. At Oberlin from 1884 onward, he taught in mathematics, philosophy, and theology. He was President of the college until 1927; with a tenure of 25 years, he holds the distinction of being Oberlin's longest-serving president.[citation needed]

Peters Hall, home of the language departments, in 2010.

Robert K. Carr served as Oberlin College president from 1960–1970, during a tumultuous period of student activism. Under his presidency, he increased the school's physical plant, with 15 new buildings completed. Under his leadership, student involvement in college affairs increased, with students serving on nearly all college committees as voting members (including the Board of Trustees). Despite these accomplishments, Carr clashed repeatedly with the students regarding issues related to the Vietnam War, and he left office in 1969 (with History professor Ellsworth C. Clayton taking over as acting President),[26] and was forced to resign as President in 1970.

Oberlin (and Princeton) alumnus Robert W. Fuller's[28] commitment to educational reform—which he had already demonstrated as a Trinity College dean—led his alma mater to make him its tenth president in November 1970. At age 33, Fuller became one of the youngest college presidents in U.S. history. During his Oberlin presidency—a turbulent time at Oberlin and in higher education generally—Fuller reshaped the student body by tripling the enrollment of minorities at the college. He also recruited and hired the first four African-American athletic coaches in a predominantly white American college or university, including Tommie Smith, the Gold Medalist sprinter from the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. (Another of his hires was Jack Scott as athletic director.) Fuller was interviewed on campus by Howard Cosell and appeared on primetime television to talk about these changes. In 1974, after four years of service as Oberlin's president, Fuller considered that he had fulfilled his mission and resigned the office.

Dormitories and change in social rules[edit]

Oberlin's older dormitories, such as Keep, Pyle, and Tank, were characterized by a home-like environment. In the 1950s and 1960s, as the college acted to provide expanded newer dormitory and dining facilities, the new dorms, such as Dascomb, Harkness, Barrows, and North, were built in a more institutional style. Historian Geoffrey Blodgett, a professor and graduate of Oberlin, notes that campus dorms caused anger among students of the time, who called them expedient "slabs" of "sleeping and feeding space".[29]

Just as important during this period was student concern over what was perceived as archaic social and dining rules. Historically, evening dining occurred at women's dorms and semi-formal attire was required. Women were subjected to a curfew, enforced by an honor system and women's student panels, whereas men were not. A formal dating parlor with chaperones was maintained on the second floor of Wilder Hall. Gradually, student activists began to press for change, and throughout the 1960s, the College implemented fewer and fewer restrictive social rules.

For college activists, however, dorm and social rules protests were dwarfed in importance by both the Civil Rights Movement and growing discontent with the Vietnam War.

During this period, Hebrew House, as it was known, was set up as a winter term project to operate similar to an Israeli kibbutz.

In 1970, Oberlin made the cover of Life as one of the first colleges in the country to have co-ed dormitories.[30] The article featured two students who lived in South Hall. At first, the dorm was floor-by-floor co-ed, which was considered quite radical. Dean of Women Rose Montague and the two senior residents in the dorm at the time were guests on a Chicago TV station morning talk show soon after Life's article came out, to talk about the "experiment". The program, Kennedy and Company, sought to reveal the "darker" side of co-ed dorm life from parents' perspective. The male senior resident (Lloyd Blanchard) was asked on live TV if he had "ever had sex in the dorm," to which he replied, "That's really none of your business." Starting in the 2010-11 school year—except for several women-only halls, Baldwin Cottage Women and Trans* Collective, and the Edmonia Lewis Center for Women and Transgender People—Oberlin students were allowed to room with students of any gender in any room on campus.[31]

Danenberg and Starr presidencies[edit]

Fuller was was eventually succeeded by the longtime Dean of the Conservatory Emil Danenberg, who served as President from 1975–1982, when he died in office.[26]

In 1983, following a nationwide search, Oberlin hired S. Frederick Starr, an expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs, as well as a noted musician, as its 12th president. Starr's academic and musical accomplishments boded well for his stewardship of both the College and the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.[32] However, despite increasing minority hiring,[32] Starr's tenure was marked by clashes with students over such issues as divestment from South Africa and the dismissal of a campus minister,[32] as well as Starr's general approach of reframing Oberlin as the "Harvard of the Midwest."[33] After a particularly vitriolic clash with students that took place on the front lawn of his home in April 1990,[33] Starr took a leave of absence as president from July 1991 – February 1992.[32] He officially resigned in March 1993, effective to June of that year.[32]

21st century[edit]

Nancy Dye became the 13th president of Oberlin College in July 1994,[34] succeeding the embattled Starr.[33] Oberlin's first female president, she oversaw the construction of new buildings, the increased selectiveness of the student body, and helped grow the endowment with the then-largest capital campaign in the college's history.[35] As president, Dye was known for her accessibility and inclusiveness. Especially in her first few years, she was a regular attendee at student events such as football games, concerts, and dorm parties.[33] Dye served as President for nearly 13 years, resigning on June 30, 2007.[36]

Panoramic view Oberlin's North Quad, the heart of North Campus and home of the Barrows, Burton, East, Noah and Barnard Houses.


Of Oberlin's nearly 3,000 students, nearly 2,400 are enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences, a little over 400 in the Conservatory of Music, and the remaining 180 or so in both College and Conservatory under the five-year Double-Degree program.[37]

College of Arts & Sciences[edit]

Oberlin College - Bosworth Hall.jpg

The College of Arts & Sciences offers over 50 majors, minors, and concentrations.[38] Based on students graduating with a given major, its most popular majors over the last ten years have been (in order) English, Biology, History, Politics, and Environmental Studies. The College's science programs are considered strong, especially Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The college is home to the world's first undergraduate Neuroscience program.[39]

Conservatory of Music[edit]

Bibbins Hall, home of music theory and TIMARA at Oberlin Conservatory.

The Conservatory is located on the college campus. Conservatory admission is rigorous, with over 1400 applicants worldwide auditioning for 120 seats. Students benefit from over 500 performances yearly, most free of charge, with concerts and recitals almost daily. The Conservatory was one of the recipients of the 2009 National Medal of Arts.[40]

Allen Memorial Art Museum[edit]

The Allen Memorial Art Museum, with over 12,000 holdings, was the first college art museum west of the Alleghenies.[41]

College Library[edit]

Oberlin College Library system is one of the largest undergraduate libraries in the nation. In addition to the main library there are branch libraries for art, music, and science, and a central storage facility. The libraries have large collections of print and media materials and provide access to an extensive array of online databases and journals. Beyond the 2.4 million-plus items available on campus, Oberlin students have access to more than 46 million volumes from over 85 Ohio institutions in through the OhioLINK consortium.[42] In addition to the breadth of its holdings, the Oberlin College Library is recognized for its quality: it received the Association of College and Research Libraries Excellence in Academic Libraries Award in 2002,[43] and in 2006 Director of Libraries Ray English was named the ACRL's Academic-Research Librarian of the Year.[44] In the summer of 2007 the main level of the main library was converted into an Academic Commons that provides integrated learning support and is a hub of both academic and social activity.[45]

OhioLINK consortium[edit]

Oberlin students and faculty benefit by Oberlin's membership in the OhioLINK consortium, providing access to 12,000+ commercially licensed online journals, 130 databases, 18,000+ ebooks and is rapidly growing digital media collections. The OhioLINK Central Catalog represents the library holdings of 87 libraries in the state, including the State Library of Ohio, plus the Center for Research Libraries. The collection is nearing 10 million unique records representing 27.5 million holdings in the system, and undergraduates account for the larger percentage of OhioLINK online borrowing – the process by which any enrolled student can readily request the loan of books and other items from any other library in the system.

Experimental College[edit]

The college's "Experimental College" or ExCo program, a student-run department, allows any student or interested person to teach their own class for a limited amount of college credit. ExCo classes by definition focus on material not covered by existing departments or faculty.

Many courses supplement conventional disciplines, from languages and areas of cinema or literature, to musical ensembles like Steel Drums and Javanese gamelan, martial arts and forms of dancing. Other ExCos cover an array of topics, in the past ranging from Aquariums[46] to Wilderness Skills[47] to Hacky Sack to philosophical discussions of Calvin and Hobbes. Due to the nature of ExCo, while some staple courses are continued for years, the overall number and selection of classes offered varies dramatically from semester to semester. For example, 'Contracts and Social Order' was taught for only the Spring and Fall semesters in 2005 by an off-campus non-affiliated sociologist.[48]

Winter Term[edit]

Another aspect of Oberlin's academics is the Winter Term during the month of January. This term was created to allow students to do something outside the regular course offerings of the college. Students may work alone or in groups, either on or off campus, and may design their own project or pick from a list of projects and internships set up by the college each year. Students must complete a winter term project three years out of their four in the College of Arts and Sciences. Projects range from serious academic research with co-authorship in scientific journals, to humanitarian projects, to making avant-garde films about historic Chicago neighborhoods, to learning how to bartend. A full-credit project is suggested to involve five to six hours per weekday.[49]

Creativity & Leadership[edit]

The Creativity and Leadership Department is a recent addition to the Oberlin College experience. Created in 2005 as a part of the Northeast Ohio Collegiate Entrepreneurship Program (NEOCEP), a Kauffman Campuses Initiative, and sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan and Ewing Marion Kauffman, the department is focused on supporting and highlighting entrepreneurship within the student body.[50][51] This is done through a series of classes, symposia, Winter Term programs, grants, and fellowships available at no cost to current students and in some cases, recent alumni.[52] One such opportunity is the Creativity and Leadership Fellowship, a one-year fellowship for graduating seniors that includes a stipend of up to $30,000 dollars to advance an entrepreneurial venture.[53]

In 2012, the Creativity and Leadership department announced LaunchU,[54][55] a business accelerator open to Oberlin College students and alumni who are pursuing an entrepreneurial venture. The selective, three-week intensive program connects the participants with other entrepreneurs and business leaders chosen from the surround northeast Ohio region as well as the extensive Oberlin College alumni network. LaunchU culminates in a public pitch competition before a guest panel of investors, where the participants have the opportunity to be awarded up to $15,000 in funding. The winner of the 2014 LaunchU pitch competition was Chai Energy, a Los Angeles-based green energy startup focused on modernizing and personalizing home energy monitoring.[56][57][58] In 2014, LaunchU announced the creation of an online network in order to build stronger connections between entrepreneurs within the Oberlin College students and alumni network with a focus on attracting younger alumni.[59]

Campus culture[edit]

Political activism[edit]

Oberlin students have a reputation for being notably "'left-leaning'". Though the Princeton Review argues, "Some here worry 'Oberlin’s student body is becoming more and more mainstream each year.'” The college was ranked among the Princeton Review's' list of "Colleges with a Conscience" in 2005.[60] In 2004, student activism led to a campus-wide ban on sales of Coca-Cola products.[61] However, this was revoked in spring 2014 and students may now buy Coca-Cola products from the student union.[62]

In the 1960s, Memorial Arch became a rallying point for the College's civil rights activists and its anti-war movement. Oberlin supplied a disproportionate number of participants in Mississippi Freedom Summer, rebuilt the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in the Carpenters for Christmas project, supported NAACP sponsored sit-ins in Cleveland to integrate the building-trades, and with the SCLC participated in demonstrations at Hammermill Paper. Emeritus Professor of Sociology (1966-2007), James Leo Walsh stated that students, "...carried out dozens of protests against the Vietnam war ranging from peaceful picketing to surrounding a local naval recruiters car", to the Oberlin Review in 1995.[63][64]

Oberlin Students have protested instances of fracking in Ohio such as, "the first natural gas and fracturing industry conference in the state" in 2011.[65]

Oberlin protest speakers.
At College and Main St., Oberlin OH. Subjects of protest include the War in Afghanistan, and oil well fracking.

In 2013, after a string of racially biased postings on campus, president Marvin Krislov cancelled classes in response to student demands[66] and called for a day of reflection and change. In a public statement, he claimed that an investigation had identified two students believed to be largely responsible for the postings, who had been removed from campus.[67][68] In a police report of the events, two students, whose names have been redacted, admitted to some but not all of the offenses.[69]

In May 2015, students temporarily took over their school's administration building to protest a $2,300 increase in tuition cost between the 2015 and 2016 academic school year.[70] Students initially proposed, "...moving from providing merit aid to need-based scholarships, loosening on-campus dining and housing requirements, reducing food waste and temporary workers in Campus Dining Services... " to the school's Vice President of Finance Mike Frandsen on Monday, April 27, 2015, in which their demands were declined for issue. $10,931,088 were allocated to management salaries for the 2013-2014 school year much of which came from student tuition.[71][72]

LGBT Advocacy[edit]

Oberlin is also known for its liberal attitude toward sexuality and gender expression. Oberlin was ranked among the 20 friendliest campuses for LGBT students in The Advocate's College Guide for LGBT Students.[73] Several different student groups exist to support the interests of LGBT students and their allies. External evaluations have determined that conservative viewpoints are often disallowed from public expression on campus.[citation needed]

Student Cooperative Association[edit]

Keep Cottage, one of the four housing co-ops.

The Oberlin Student Cooperative Association, or OSCA, is a non-profit corporation that houses 174 students in four housing co-ops and feeds 594 students in eight dining co-ops. Its budget is more than $2 million, making it the third-largest of its kind in North America behind the Berkeley Student Cooperative and the Inter-Cooperative Council of Ann Arbor,[citation needed] and by far the largest relative to the size of the institution whose students it serves.[citation needed]

OSCA is entirely student-run, with all participating students working as cooks, buyers, administrators, and coordinators. Every member is required to do at least one hour per week of cleaning if they are able, encouraging accountability for the community and the space. Most decisions within OSCA are made by modified consensus. Oberlin bans all fraternities and sororities, making the co-ops the largest student-organized social system at the college. In addition to OSCA's four housing/dining and three dining-only cooperatives, Brown Bag Co-op is an OSCA-backed grocery that sells personal servings of food at bulk prices.

OSCA also funds the Nicaragua Sister Partnership (NICSIS), a "sister cooperative" with Nicaragua's National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG). NICSIS works as a micro-lending program with a mission to empower female members of the community and provide superior benefits for laborers.

Outside of OSCA, other Oberlin co-ops include the Bike Co-op, Pottery Co-op, and SWAP: The Oberlin Book Co-op.


In addition to Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin has musical opportunities available for amateur musicians and students in the college. Oberlin Steel, a steel pan ensemble founded in 1980, plays calypso/soca music from Trinidad and Tobago and has been performing at Oberlin's Commencement Illumination event for over 30 years. Oberlin College Taiko, founded in 2008, explores and shares Japanese taiko drumming as both a traditional and contemporary art form. The entirely student-run Oberlin College Marching Band (OCMB), founded in 1998, performs at various sporting events including football games, women's rugby, and pep rallies throughout the year. There are a number of a cappella groups, including the Obertones (all-male), Nothing But Treble (all-female), the Acapelicans (all-female), 'Round Midnight (co-ed, jazz/folk), Pitch, Please (co-ed), and Challah Cappella (co-ed, Jewish). Other notable music organizations include the Black Musicians Guild and the Arts and Sciences Orchestra. Students in the college can form chamber groups and receive coaching through the Conservatory. Student composers also provide a demand for musicians to perform their work.

The college radio station WOBC-FM, and the party circuit (including the popular on-campus venue, The 'Sco) contribute to the campus music scene. Many alumni have pursued careers in popular and indie music, including members of the bands The Mars Volta, Rasputina, Come, Deerhoof, Liz Phair, Josh Ritter, Songs: Ohia, The Sea and Cake, Teengirl Fantasy, Tortoise, Trans Am, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Skeletons, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Due in part to both this and the school's proximity to Cleveland, the college attracts touring artists with a frequency nearly unparalleled among institutions of its size.


The Apollo Theater's iconic marquee at night.

Thomas Edison's moving picture show was shown in Oberlin in February 1900.[74] Just seven years later, Oberlin's Apollo Theater opened, and became one of the first theaters to install sound equipment, for the 1928 release of The Jazz Singer, the first "talkie." The theater has since been a mainstay in the Oberlin community at its comfortable locale on south campus, and in 2012 (after a year of renovations) became the centerpiece for The Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman Cinema Studies Center for Media Education and Production. The area above the theatre includes editing labs, an animation area, a recording studio and small projection screening room.[75]

Art rental[edit]

The Allen Museum, home of Oberlin's Art Rental program.

Oberlin's museum has a unique art rental program. At the beginning of every semester students camp out in front of the north gate of the college's Allen Memorial Art Museum to get first pick of original etchings, lithographs and paintings by artists including Renoir, Warhol, Dalí, and Picasso. For five dollars per semester, students can hang these works on their dorm room walls. The program was started in the 1940s by Ellen H. Johnson, a professor of art at Oberlin, in order to "develop the aesthetic sensibilities of students and encourage ordered thinking and discrimination in other areas of their lives."[76]

Sexual Information Center[edit]

The school hosts a student-run Sexual Information Center, where students may receive free or heavily discounted condoms and lubricant, confidential peer counseling on sexual issues, and free rides to clinics in the area. The Sexual Information Center sponsored Safer Sex Night, originally started in the 1980s as a response to the AIDS crisis. The event was discontinued after the spring 2014 semester. Oberlin's Drag Ball Committee hosts Drag Ball, which marks Transgender Awareness week. Both these events are well-attended by students, although they have drawn criticism from conservatives.[77]

Campus Speakers[edit]

A sampling of the school's past commencement speakers reflects its reputation for embracing diversity, ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesse L. Jackson to figures as varied as Pete Seeger, Robert Frost, and Adlai Stevenson and Michelle Obama appeared.

International Cooperation[edit]

On 26 August 2014, some students from Oberlin College went to BNU-HKBU United International College to be interns.[78]


The Adam Joseph Lewis Center, home of the environmental studies department

Oberlin College has demonstrated its commitment to the pursuit of sustainability on a number of fronts. In 2006, Oberlin became one of the character institutions to sign the ACUPCC and set a target climate neutrality date for 2025.[79] Oberlin's innovative Adam Joseph Lewis Center For Environmental Studies, a building the Department of Energy labeled as one of the "milestone" buildings of the 20th century, incorporates a 4,600 square foot (425 square meter) photovoltaic array, the biggest of its kind in Ohio at the time. The AJLC also features a Living Machine, garden, orchard, and parking lot solar array.

The school utilizes biodiesel, hybrid, and electric vehicles for various purposes, offers financial support to a local transit company providing public transportation to the school, and has been home to the Oberlin Bike Co-op, a cooperatively run bicycle center, since 1986. Each residence hall monitors and displays real time and historic electricity and water use. Some dorms also have special lamps which display a color depending on how real time energy use compares to the average historic energy use. The school's Campus Committee on Shareholder Responsibility provides students, faculty, and staff with the opportunity to make suggestions and decisions on proxy votes.

In 2007, Oberlin received a grade of "B+" from the Sustainable Endowments Institute's annual College Sustainability Report Card, and was featured among schools as a "Campus Sustainability Leader".[80] In 2008, Oberlin received an "A-" on the annual College Sustainability Report Card.[81] It was also listed as the school with the greenest conscience by Plenty in their green campuses ratings.[82] In 2011, the College received an A on the Sustainability Report card.[83] Oberlin College participated in AASHE's Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) in early 2012. Oberlin College was one of only 43 institutions to receive a grade of Gold in STARS.[84]

According to a 2010 article in The Oberlin Review, renovated dorms may use more electricity.[85] This is the case for several dorms renovated during the summer of 2008.[85] The College architect, Steve Varelmann, has called the numbers "erratic and possibly unreliable."[85] According to Varelmann, a possible explanation for this phenomenon is that previously non-functioning equipment started functioning again after the renovation.[86] Students may also be at blame for their behavior: "What electronic devices are they using? Are they voluntarily reducing light usage? Are spaces experiencing increased use due to the improvements achieved from the renovation?"[87] John Scofield, professor of physics at Oberlin concluded that "We are building more and more efficient buildings, yet we're using more energy."[87]

Publications and media[edit]

Oberlin students publish a wide variety of periodicals. The college's largest publications are The Oberlin Review and The Grape. The Oberlin Review is a traditional weekly newspaper, focusing on current events, with a circulation of around 2,500. The Grape is Oberlin's student-run alternative newspaper. Fearless and Loathing is Oberlin's only online alternative publication, publishing news, opinions, creative non-fiction, and multimedia. There is also a newspaper pertaining to the interests of students of color, called In Solidarity.

Magazines on campus include Wilder Voice, a magazine for creative nonfiction and long-form journalism,[88] The Plum Creek Review, a literary review containing student-written fiction, poetry, translations, and visual art,[89] Headwaters Magazine, an environmental magazine,[90] and The Synapse, a science magazine.[91][92] Spiral is a magazine focused on genre fiction. The College also produces a quarterly alumni magazine,[93] while the Conservatory publishes its own magazine once a year.

The WOBC News Corps, a news division of WOBC-FM created in February 2010, produces local news segments that air bi-hourly. WOBC, a large student organization with significant non-student membership, also maintains an online blog that focuses on music and local events.

In February 2013, the college received a significant amount of press focusing on the so-called "No Trespass List," a secret list maintained by the college that bars individuals from campus without due process.[94] Student activists and members of the surrounding town joined together to form the One Town Campaign, which sought to challenge this policy.[95] On February 13, 2013, a forum at the Oberlin Public Library with over 200 people in attendance, including members of the college administration, the Oberlin city council and national press, saw speakers compare the atmosphere of the college to "a gated community."[96]


The school's varsity sports teams are the Yeomen and Yeowomen. The name Yeomen arose in the early 1900s (decade) as a result of blending the former team moniker with the school's official motto. Early on in the program, football players and other athletes were known simply as Oberlin Men or "O" Men. Eventually, as the athletic department became more cohesive, the Yeomen mascot was adopted, drawing on the phonetic sound of "O" Men and the schools official motto of "Learning and Labor". As women's sports became more prevalent, "Yeowomen" was adopted to describe the mascot representing women's athletics. In 2014, the school announced that the albino squirrel will be its official mascot, although teams will continue to be referred to as "yeomen" and "yeowomen".[97]

Oberlin football is known for having begun the coaching career of player and coach John Heisman, being the last in-state team to defeat Ohio State, and for having one of the worst records in college football history from 1990 to 2001. The College plays its home games in the Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex, built in 2014.

Oberlin participates in the NCAA's Division III and the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), a conference which includes Kenyon College, Denison College, Wooster College, Depauw University and others. Kenyon has traditionally been Oberlin's biggest rival. Recently, leaders of the Athletic Department and various club sports have spoken out in favor of increased institutional support for the teams, requesting that the College provide access to professional sports trainers and team transportation.[98]

The college also hosts several private sports teams, including the Oberlin Ultimate team. Oberlin Ultimate was founded in 1976 and is often among the top 10 teams in its region.


On Friday, May 8, 2015, the Oberlin baseball team won the championship of the NCAC. The championship was the first for Oberlin as a baseball team since it joined the NCAC in 1984.[99] To earn their title, the Yeomen needed to defeat Wooster, which was ranked 11th in the nation among D3 schools.


Oberlin's football team was the first team coached by John Heisman, who led the team to a 7–0 record in 1892. Oberlin is the last college in Ohio to beat Ohio State (winning 7–6 in 1921). Though in modern times, the football team was more famous for losing streaks of 40 games (1992–1996) and 44 games (1997–2001), the Yeomen have enjoyed limited success in recent years.


In 2011, Oberlin began its most recent attempt to feature a cheerleading squad. In 2006, a cheerleader fell from atop a pyramid at a football game, initiating the demise of Oberlin's Cheerleading Club. That injury prompted the school to restrict the club's activities, prohibiting stunting and tumbling, after which participation fizzled out. The club's charter, however, remained intact and was used to bring the squad back in 2011. Tryouts were held in the spring of 2011 and the cheerleading team went active at Oberlin's first home football game that Fall, a 42-0 win over Kenyon College. The squad also cheers for the basketball team and participates in spirit building and service events across campus and in the community.[100]


Oberlin has both women's and men's rugby teams, the Rhinos and the Gruffs, respectively. The Rhinos are a trans*-inclusive women's team. The Rhinos were formed in the early 1990s and have been competing continuously since then. The Rhinos have been one of the more successful Oberlin teams, defeating The Ohio State University 14–0 in Spring 2008, and winning the Teapot Dome Tournament. Rhino colors are green and black.

The Oberlin College Men's Rugby team was founded in 1973 by Bruce Kostic Class of 1974. They won their first game defeating the Elyria Black River Rugby Club. Oberlin, formed as the Oberlin College Rugby Club (OCRC), was sponsored by the Oberlin College Rathskeller, then the campus pub. In its second season, 1974, the team complied a 3–2 record and carried a roster of 32 players, mainly football and lacrosse players.[101] The Oberlin Men's Rugby team disbanded their charter in the 1990s. The current men's rugby team was formed in the fall of 2006 as the Oberlin College Men's Rugby Football Club (OCMRFC) Gruffs mainly under the supervision of Keith Yoder and David Sokoll. Since then, the Gruffs have continued to grow as a formal, chartered, club sports organization of Oberlin College.


Oberlin has both men's and a women's Ultimate club teams, known as the Flying Horsecows and the Preying Manti[102] respectively. The Horsecows have made trips to College Nationals in 1992, 1995, 1997, and 1999. The Manti qualified for Nationals for the first time in 1997. Both teams qualified for Division III nationals in 2010. Both teams also maintain a tradition of emphasizing the spirit of Ultimate.[citation needed] After having an unsuccessful 2006–2007 season, the Flying Horsecows hired a coach to work them into shape, and succeeded in advancing to the Regional championship tournament.[103]

Notable people[edit]



See also

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Barnard, John. From evangelicalism to progressivism at Oberlin College, 1866-1917 (The Ohio State University Press, 1969). full text online free
  • Fletcher, Robert Samuel. A history of Oberlin College: From its foundation through the Civil War (Arno Press, 1971)
  • Hogeland, Ronald W. "Coeducation of the Sexes at Oberlin College: A Study of Social Ideas in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America," Journal of Social History, (1972–73) 6#2 pp. 160–176 in JSTOR
  • Morris, J. Brent. Oberlin, Hotbed of Abolitionism: College, Community, and the Fight for Freedom and Equality in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2014.
  • Waite, Cally L. "The Segregation of Black Students at Oberlin College after Reconstruction," History of Education Quarterly (2001) 41#3 pp 344–64. in JSTOR

Primary sources[edit]

  • Oberlin College. General Catalogue of Oberlin College, 1833-1908: Including an Account of the Principal Events in the History of the College, with Illustrations of the College Buildings (1909) Online

External links[edit]