Oberlin College, a private, small liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, cancelled classes today after a person wearing a hood and a robe — similar to that of a KKK member — was reportedly spotted Monday morning near the campus’s Afrikan Heritage House, a dorm that promotes multicultural awareness.
Campus security and the Oberlin Police Department are investigating the sighting, the latest in a series of hate-speech incidents on the campus. In lieu of classes, the administration declared a “Day of Solidarity,” urging all 2,900 undergraduate students to attend lectures such as a “teach-in” moderated by the Africana Studies Department.
“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,” the school’s president Marvin Krislov and three other deans said in a statement.
On Mar. 1, The Oberlin Review, the student newspaper, published a list of hate crimes that have taken place on campus in February alone. Drawings of swastikas and graffiti using the N word and its gay equivalent, the F word, have been found in various campus buildings. Even a “Whites Only” sign was discovered hanging above a water fountain.
The incidents are especially unusual given the college’s history of tolerance. Established in 1833, Oberlin bills itself as the first American college to “adopt a policy to admit students of color (1835) and the first to grant bachelor’s degrees to women (1841) in a coeducational program.” Today, the Afrikan Heritage House offers housing for students who want to learn more about “African, African-American and Afrikan-Caribbean culture, traditions, and issues,” according to the college’s website.
Lena Dunham, an alum and creator of HBO’s Girls, tweeted that she was “saddened” by the news of these recent incidents and called the school “the safest place”:
Hey Obies, remember the beautiful, inclusive and downright revolutionary history of the place you call home. Protect each other.—
Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) March 04, 2013