Students at Oberlin College are pushing the school to put their studies on hold so that they can turn their attention to their efforts in activism.
In all, over 1,300 students have signed a petition requesting that the college remove any grades below a “C” for the semester, with some students suggesting alternatives be implemented to replace written midterm exams, such as a conversation with the professor instead of writing an essay.
Many of the students say that coursework requirements in addition to their activism efforts are making it difficult to keep their grade point average up.
Megan Bautista, a co-liaison in Oberlin’s student government, said that many of the student activists protested alongside community members in Cleveland over the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was killed by a police officer in 2014. Bautista went on to say that in order to do so, students needed to organize on campus, and that as a result, their grades suffered.
The school has adjusted its grading policy in the past. Student activists who protested the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings in the 1970’s saw their grades change as a result of their efforts. Meanwhile, students currently attending the school are angry that the same policy changes are not being made for them, despite the recent Rice protests concerning a police shooting that had taken place only 30 miles away from the campus.
Student Zakiya Acey added to Bautista’s argument by discussing other barriers to his efforts of activism, including probation and family issues.
“You know, we’re paying for a service. We’re paying for our attendance here. We need to be able to get what we need in a way that we can actually consume it,” Acey said. “Because I’m dealing with having been arrested on campus, or having to deal with the things that my family are going through because of larger systems — having to deal with all of that, I can’t produce the work that they want me to do. But I understand the material, and I can give it to you in different ways.”
Acey went on to discuss professors at the school who he said have offered to allow students to come see them during office hours, and discuss the material with them in lieu of taking a written exam. However, he added that the practice is not institutionalized.
Meanwhile, black student union member Jasmine Adams suggested that too much time is being spent learning about Marx, who she said did not spend time discussing race, and as such, is of no importance to her. Adams went on to say that she plans to return to her hometown upon graduation to be the same person she was before she entered college.
Robby Soave argued her point on Reason.com, saying that college is a transformational time in which students should be changing who they are and how they think about things.