Oberlin College: Wikis


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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
Oberlin College seal
Motto Learning and Labor
Established September 2, 1833
Type Private
Endowment 550.3 million USD[1]
President Marvin Krislov
Staff 1,058
Students 2,850
Location Oberlin, Ohio, United States
Campus Rural
Mascot Yeomen (men's teams) & Yeowomen (women's teams)
Website [http://new.oberlin.edu/ new.oberlin.ed

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. The college's motto is "Learning and Labor." While its school colors are often casually referred to as "crimson and gold," they are actually cardinal red and mikado yellow. 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.[2] 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.



The Oberlin campus in 1909

Both the college and the town of Oberlin were founded in 1833 by a pair of Presbyterian ministers, John Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart.[3] The ministers named their project after Jean-Frédéric Oberlin, an Alsatian minister whom they both admired. Oberlin attained prominence because of the influence of its second president, the evangelist Charles Finney, after whom one of the College's chapels and performance spaces is named. Asa Mahan (1800–1889) served as Oberlin's first president from 1835–1850.

The college was built on 500 acres (2 km²) of land specifically donated by the previous owner, who lived in Connecticut. Shipherd and Stewart's vision was for both a religious community and school. For a more detailed history of the founding of the town and the college, see Oberlin, Ohio.

Oberlin has long been associated with progressive causes. Its founders bragged that "Oberlin is peculiar in that which is good." Oberlin was the first college in the United States to regularly admit African-American students (1835) after a casting vote by Rev. John Keep. It 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 to become the first black woman to earn a B.A. degree. The college was listed as a National Historic Landmark on December 21, 1965 for its significance in admitting African-Americans and women.[4] The college had some difficult beginnings, Rev. Keep and William Dawes were sent to England to raise funds for the college in 1839–40.[5]

One historian called Oberlin, "the town that started the Civil War" due to its reputation as a hotbed of abolitionism.[6] Oberlin was a key stop along the Underground Railroad. 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)[7] and monuments to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue [8] and the Harper's Ferry Raid [9].

Presidents of Oberlin College

Introduction of co-ed dormitories

In 1970, Oberlin made the cover of Life Magazine as one of the first colleges in the country to have co-ed dormitories.[10]

Historian Geoffrey Blodgett, a professor and graduate of Oberlin, pointed out that campus dorms caused anger among students during the 1960s. Students reacted vocally against the new dorms of the 1950s and 1960s (Dascomb, East, North and South), calling them expedient "slabs" of "sleeping and feeding space,"[11] and this protest soon took on other controversies, including the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Dascomb went from being the impetus for protest to the vehicle of social change in 1967 when it was transformed into a co-ed dorm during winter term of 1969. Hebrew House, as it was known, was set up as winter term project to operate similar to an Israeli kibbutz. The experiment was a success, and now all but one of Oberlin College's dormitories are coed. The Baldwin Cottage is open only to women and transgender students.[12]


Of Oberlin's 2,800 or so students, roughly 2,200 are enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences, a little over 400 in the Conservatory of Music, and the remaining 150 or so in both College and Conservatory under the five-year Double Degree program.

College of Arts & Sciences

Peters Hall, home of the language departments.

The College of Arts & Sciences offers over 45 majors, minors and concentrations. 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 for a smaller liberal arts college, especially Chemistry and Neuroscience.

Conservatory of Music

Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College

The top-ranked Oberlin Conservatory of Music is located on the Oberlin College campus. Conservatory admission is rigorous, with over 1400 applicants worldwide auditioning for 120 seats. As a result, the quality of Oberlin's artistic community is high. Students benefit from over 500 performances yearly, most free of charge, with concerts and recitals almost daily.

Allen Memorial Art Museum

The Allen Memorial Art Museum, with over 12,000 holdings, was the first college art museum west of the Alleghenies and is held on par with those at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.[13]

College Library

Oberlin College Library system is one of the largest and finest 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 strong 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 rapid access to more than 46 million volumes from over 85 Ohio institutions in through the OhioLINK consortium.[14] 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, and in 2006 Director of Libraries Ray English was named the ACRL's Academic-Research Librarian of the Year. 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.

OhioLINK consortium

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

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, martial arts and forms of dancing. Other ExCos cover an array of topics, in the past ranging from Aquariums[15] to Wilderness Skills[16] to Hacky Sack. 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.[17]

Winter Term

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. 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.[18]

Campus culture

Student Cooperative Association

The Oberlin Student Cooperative Association, or OSCA, is a non-profit corporation that houses 175 students and feeds 620 students in multiple sites. Its budget is nearly $2 million, making it the third-largest of its kind in North America,[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, organizers. Every participant is required to do at least one hour per week of cleaning, ensuring that no one is valued above others. 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.

Political activism

Students passing through the Memorial Arch in front of Peters Hall. The arch is dedicated to the memory of missionaries from Oberlin who were killed in the Boxer Rebellion.

Oberlin students have a reputation for being notably liberal or progressive. The college was ranked among the Princeton Review's' list of "Colleges with a Conscience" in 2005.[19] Recent activism among the student body has resulted in a campus-wide ban on sales of Coca-Cola products.[20]

Oberlin is also known for its liberal attitude towards sexuality and gender expression. Oberlin was ranked among the 20 friendliest campuses for LGBT students in The Advocate's College Guide for LGBT Students.[21] The school hosts a Sexual Information Center, where students may receive STI tests, free or heavily discounted condoms and lubricant, and counseling on sexual issues. The Sexual Information Center sponsors Safer Sex Night, originally started in the 1980s as a response to the AIDS crisis, as well as Drag Ball, which marks Transgender Awareness week. Both these events are well-attended by students, although they have drawn criticism from some social conservatives.[22]

Oberlin is a finalist in PETA's "Most Vegetarian-Friendly college" contest. [23]

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 and Robert Frost; even Adlai Stevenson appeared, a month prior to his death.


In addition to the Conservatory, Oberlin has myriad musical opportunities available for amateur musicians and students in the college. The Oberlin Gilbert and Sullivan Players (OGASP) perform one Gilbert and Sullivan operetta each semester. 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), and 'Round Midnight (co-ed jazz). In addition, 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, Come, Deerhoof, Liz Phair, Josh Ritter, Songs: Ohia, The Sea and Cake, 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.

Oberlin College is also home to the steel drum ensemble Oberlin Steel, formerly known as the Can Consortium. The name was changed in 2000 out of concern that too many people would start calling the drums ("pans") "cans" because of the name. The band has performed at venues including Central Park, New York's Lincoln Center, and the Lincoln Memorial.

Art rental

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 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."[24]


Oberlin College has demonstrated its commitment to the pursuit of sustainability on a number of fronts. An estimated 50% of the school's electricity needs are met using sustainable energy sources. Oberlin's innovative 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. 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 of the residence halls also monitors and displays real time and historic power and water use. Some dorms also have orbs 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”.[25] In 2008, Oberlin received an "A-" on the annual College Sustainability Report Card.[26] It was also listed as the school with the greenest conscience by Plenty in their green campuses ratings.[27]


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. There is also a newspaper pertaining to the interests of students of color, called In Solidarity.

Magazines on campus include Drivel Magazine, a satire and humor magazine, and Plum Creek Review, a literary review containing student-written fiction and poetry. Spiral is a magazine focused on genre fiction. The College also produces a quarterly alumni magazine[28], while the Conservatory publishes its own magazine once a year.

In 2009, two students began Fearless and Loathing, a news blog.


The school's varsity sports teams are the Yeomen and Yeowomen. They participate in the NCAA's Division III and the North Coast Athletic Conference. Oberlin's football team was the first team coached by legendary coach 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.

The college also hosts several club sports teams, including the Oberlin Ultimate team. Oberlin Ultimate was founded in 1976 and is often among the top 10 teams in its region. 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.[29]


Oberlin football plays its home game at Savage Stadium.

Oberlin played its first football game in 1891, going 2 and 2 that season. In 1892, they were coached by John Heisman; Oberlin went 7 and 0, beating Ohio State twice by scores of 40–0 and 50–0. They outscored opponents 262 to 30.

Oberlin was one of the founding members of the Ohio Athletic Conference in 1902, along with Case, Kenyon College, Ohio State, Ohio Wesleyan University and Western Reserve. The league commonly was known as the "Big Six." Ohio State joined the Big Ten in 1913. Ohio State's all-time highest margin of victory was a 128–0 thrashing of Oberlin in 1916. Oberlin is the last in-state school to defeat Ohio State. The Yeomen upset the Buckeyes 7–6 at Ohio Field in Columbus in 1921.

The Oberlin teams of 1994 to 2000 have been rated the fifth worst college football team of all time by ESPN.com's Page 2. In 1994, Oberlin lost all nine games of its season scoring only ten points and giving up 358 points. In 1995, the Yeomen were outscored 469 to 72. In August 1996, Sports Illustrated featured Oberlin in its annual College Football Preview as the worst team in Division III. After four winless seasons from 1993 to 1996, Oberlin opened its 1997 season with an 18–17 victory over Thiel College sparking post-game jubilation with fans rushing the field. The victory garnered national attention as ESPN featured it on SportsCenter. Oberlin would not win again for years. Swarthmore College and Oberlin scheduled a 1999 matchup, with both schools nursing long losing streaks, just so one of them could end their streak. Oberlin lost 42–6 and continued a 44-game losing streak, ending it with a 53–22 victory over Kenyon College at home in October 2001.[30][31]

Since then the team has enjoyed modest success, staying competitive in most games and going 5–5 (with better than .500 records in conference) in 2003, 2006, and 2007.

In March 2008, Chris Schubert, a former wide receiver for Oberlin was invited to a mini camp hosted by the Cleveland Browns.[32] He did not make the roster but in November 2008, was signed by the Mahoning Valley Thunder of the AF2. He scored a touchdown in his first game for the Thunder.[33]


Oberlin has both men's and women's rugby teams, the Gruffs and the Rhinos, respectively. The women's rugby team defeated Ohio State University 14–0 in Spring 2008 and won the Teapot Dome Tournament.

The Oberlin College Men's Rugby team was founded in 1973 playing its first game against the Elyria Black River Rugby Club. Oberlin, formed as the Oberlin College Rugby Club (OCRC), was sponsored by the Oberlin College Rathskeller, the campus pub. In its second season, 1974, the team complied a 3–2 record and carried a roster of 32 players comprised mainly of football and lacrosse players. [34]


Oberlin has both a men's and a women's Ultimate team, known as the Flying Horsecows and the Preying Manti[35] 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 also maintain a tradition of emphasizing the spirit of Ultimate. Recently, the Flying Horsecows, after having an unsuccessful 2006–2007 season, hired a coach to work them into shape, and succeeded in advancing to the Regional championship tournament[36].

Notable alumni

In popular culture

Rich Orloff's play Vietnam 101: The War on Campus depicts the turmoil that occurred on the Oberlin Campus in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of the Vietnam War.[38]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. http://www.nacubo.org/Documents/research/2009_NCSE_Public_Tables_Endowment_Market_Values.pdf. Retrieved March 15, 2010. 
  2. ^ Oberlin College
  3. ^ http://www.cityofoberlin.com/Administration/community.html
  4. ^ "National Historic Landmarks Program - Oberlin College". http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=450&ResourceType=Site. Retrieved 8 May 2007. 
  5. ^ The culture of English antislavery, 1780-1860, David Turley, p192, 1991, ISBN 0415020085, accessed April 2009
  6. ^ Brandt, Nat (1990). The town that started the Civil War. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-0243-X.
  7. ^ Underground Railroad Monument
  8. ^ Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Monument
  9. ^ Harper's Ferry Memorial
  10. ^ College web site
  11. ^ Blodgett, Geoffrey (May 11, 1995). "The Grand March of Oberlin campus plans". Oberlin Observer. Vol. 16 No. 17 Sec. Observations. (web archive: http://www.oberlin.edu/observer/observer16.17/observations.html)
  12. ^ College web site
  13. ^ Short Tour: Allen Art Museum
  14. ^ Oberlin College Library
  15. ^ Fall 2002 Exco course listing
  16. ^ Spring 2003 Exco course listing
  17. ^ EXCO Committee
  18. ^ Office of Winter Term
  19. ^ Colleges with a conscience
  20. ^ Taylor, Samantha (November 19, 2004). "College set to ban Coca-Cola". Oberlin Review (web link: http://www.oberlin.edu/stupub/ocreview/2004/11/19/news/article1.html)
  21. ^ The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students is the best ever road map to gay-friendly campuses. Even if we do say so ourselves.
  22. ^ Pearce, Jean (2003-11-05). "Radical Activist U: Oberlin College". FrontPageMag. http://www.frontpagemag.com/articles/Read.aspx?GUID=63F0BBAF-685D-49D8-811D-FA1BF266CB2B. Retrieved 2008-10-02. 
  23. ^ http://www.peta2.com/college/vegfriendlycollege-09/?c=923fs
  24. ^ Angell, Sue (September 26, 2005). "Art Rental Still Going Strong After 60 Years". OBERLIN Online: News and Features. (web link: http://oberlin.edu/news-info/05sep/art.html)
  25. ^ "College Sustainability Report Card 2008" Sustainable Endowments Institute. Retrieved on July 20, 2008.
  26. ^ "College Sustainability Report Card 2009" Sustainable Endowments Institute. Retrieved on October 1, 2008.
  27. ^ "Green Campuses 3.0" Plenty. Retrieved on October 1, 2008.
  28. ^ http://www.oberlin/edu/oam
  29. ^ Karlgaard, Joe, et al. (2007-10-05). "Club Sports Demand Equal Attention". The Oberlin Review. http://www.oberlin.edu/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/ocreview/20080516.php?a=l_club_sports&sec=letters. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  30. ^ Page2 Staff. "Worst college football teams of all time". ESPN.com's Page2. (web link: http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/colfootball/teams/worst.html)
  31. ^ 2008 Oberlin College Football Media Guide (web link:http://www.goyeo.com/documents/2008/8/4/2008_football_media_guide.pdf?id=357 , pages 39–40)
  32. ^ King, Steve (2008-05-03). "Oberlin's Schubert vying for a shot". www.clevelandbrowns.com (Cleveland Browns). http://www.clevelandbrowns.com/article.php?id=8426. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  33. ^ "Schubert Scores In Professional Debut with the Thunder". goyeo.com (Oberlin College). 2009-03-28. http://www.goyeo.com/news/2009/3/28/FB_0328093047.aspx. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  34. ^ [1]
  35. ^ The Preying Manti
  36. ^ http://upa.org/college/top25history/2008-top25-open.shtml
  37. ^ Hevesi, Dennis "Ralph F. Hirschmann, Leading Scientist on Early Enzyme Research, Dies at 87", The New York Times, July 18, 2009. Accessed July 19, 2009.
  38. ^ THE PLAYS OF RICH ORLOFF - Vietnam 101: The War On Campus

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