Should I reconsider Oberlin as a possible school?

The entire Gibson’s Bakery shpeal has seemed to really hurt the reputation of the school. Assuming I get in and attend, would a degree from Oberlin be looked down upon in the eyes of companies and the public in general? I’ve heard a lot of people talk about blacklisting Oberlin grads from job opportunities, internships, etc., like how Ole Miss grads get alienated bc of their school’s history.

" . . . . . . . . . would a degree from Oberlin be looked down upon in the eyes of companies . . . . . . . . ?"

If it were it wouldn’t be because of anything that the institution had previously done but rather because of the perceived behavioral potential of its product.

The same questions arose with PennState with the Sandusky scandal, with Missouri and the football issue, and Evergreen and the professor. It hurt Admissions to all 3 colleges . Fewer applications. But the oldest of the three Penn State , tended to run out of scandal steam ,iMO, and did not affect job prospects. My youngest happily applied to the school. 4 years earlier, it made my other child pause, though he did go through with the application

I think it’s going to hurt Oberlin, yes. But not Oberlin grads in general. It can become a conversation piece and depending on how it is handled, an Oberlin student can be assessed.

I’m in a liberal enclave and the verdict is not good in terms of the schools’s stance on this situation. I dare say a virulent support of it would put off more people than not. But I don’t know anyone so involved in this that they would cut an Oberlin student simply for association

" . . . . But I don’t know anyone so involved in this that they would cut an Oberlin student simply for association"

I’m not aware of anyone in recruiting that would knowingly put forward a candidate that they perceived as having been instilled with a propensity for disruption or reactionary behavior.

Just coming from a college in the news does not mean that said student is involved. If the resume shows a good candidate, I don’t see a problem.

This comes up with all sorts of inflammatory issues. Political, international, religious, “social justice”. Being from Charlotteville does not mean you took part or condoned the discord. Being for a red state does not mean you are an avid supporter of all of those policies. I see young people hired all of the time by those with opposing views. Here in NYC, the color is green, and those most able to bring it in regardless of background unless attitude makes it impossible to ignore, get the jobs.

If the school’s leadership has no integrity - if they tell blatant lies about the gross misconduct of their employees and their students - then you are taking a not-insignificant risk with both your education and your education dollars.

We considered Oberlin and are sorry to say that they are off of our list. The risk is too great. Not worth it.

Here are my thoughts.

Can you get a great education there? Yes
Are there good people that teach at OC? Yes
Will you be blackballed for getting a degree there? Maybe at some fringe companies, but not enough to really make a difference.

But, if there is one thing that the US has in abundance it is great LACs that can give you the same thing. Why would you want to support/be attached to this school right now? Just read through the other thread on the case and ask yourself if this is the type of school you want to go to?

My middle son was considering another school that at the time was going through a PR issue and chose to consider that as a data point in his decision. He didn’t end up attending, and it wasn’t because of the PR issue. But if all things were equal that PR issue would have probably given the nod to another institution.

I would hesitate to go to a school whose leadership acted so poorly during the Gibson’s bakery incident, and continues to evade responsibility or apologize for their actions in any meaningful way to this day.

I guess I’d be worried about FA or favorite faculty being cut due to financial distress. It happens.

30 years ago in the old days, Oberlin was ranked in the top 10 LACs by USN&WR, alongside schools like Williams, Amherst and Pomona.

Today, it’s ranked 33, the lowest for Oberlin ever. Most worrying is that Oberlin cannot attract full pay families. Anyone not on financial aid receives “merit” aid. That’s probably the best indicator that those old days aren’t coming back.

Oberlin provides a fantastic education and for many college students, at any school, the day to day experience is not particularly affected by the senior administration. The faculty has not changed significantly so the in-class experience is as strong as it ever was. Both my kids visited Oberlin several times and were impressed with the classes they visited. My prospective athlete loved the school and the coach, but did feel that being an athlete on campus would be a minority role. We have been on campus when his school competes against Oberlin, and the kids are regular college kids, certainly some are quirky, as might also be found at Wesleyan, Vassar, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr etc. Oberlin’s social justice culture is built into the fabric of the school, from the days when it was active in the abolitionist movement and admitted students of color. I think the bigger challenge for Oberlin is adapting quickly to the changing demographics/applicant pool. You can find Oberlin’s Strategic Plan online, which identifies areas of focus, including the well-publicized shift in student numbers from the Con to the College. There are also plans to evaluate the curriculum to develop more majors/programs/opportunities which will appeal to students looking to work in business etc.

If Oberlin feels like a good option, I would not remove it from your list because some senior administrators have made what others consider unwise PR, legal, and communication strategies.

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“If Oberlin feels like a good option, I would not remove it from your list because some senior administrators have made what others consider unwise PR, legal, and communication strategies.”

. . . Unless those unwise strategies result in a large payout that ends up compromising all that good stuff mentioned in #10.

We are mostly talking about the Oberlin’s President, General Counsel and Dean of Students. You literally cannot get any more senior. The President and General Counsel were only recently hired by the Board, in part as a response to the mess that had been created under Krislov with respect to URM students protesting many aspects of the school’s engagement with them.

The problems run deep with the culture and they are not easily solvable. They implicate not only the President and General Counsel, but also the Board. It will be very expensive to fire either the President or the GC (on the other hand, I feel confident that after the Gibson and outstanding race discrimination claims by Karega are settled, the Dean of Students will be let go, or at least demoted). Why would a prospective family roll the dice?

On a positive note, it would appear from the CDS that merit money is available for basically everyone who doesn’t qualify for financial aid. I believe I also read in the strategic plan that 90% of the students receive financial aid or merit money. So, at least, only the weakest students will be paying full freight.

They don’t see them as problems but as, like Charlie Sheen, ‘Winning!’ Oberlin does not want to change. They had the chance to change, or at least appear to be changing, but instead hired a new president who doubled down.

Some people will thrive on the battle, will pick Oberlin because of the battle. If that’s what you want, go for it but don’t expect it to change if that’s not what you want.

I would not be overly concerned about employers. The name on your diploma will not matter for long. I would be more concerned with whether the distractions at the school will hamper the education you want to receive.

My daughter is a senior this year and IS still planning to apply to Oberlin. It is one of eight schools on her current list, all of them liberal arts colleges. We toured it back in March and she is going to do a fly-in later this month to sit in on classes and take a second look. There is too much about this specific colleges that she loves to cut it off because of this one news story. Some of the things she loves are reasonably specific to Oberlin; others are true of several colleges with a similar vibe.

She loves the idea of vegetarian food co-ops, the Ex-co classes, the progressive political vibe, the strong theater and dance scene, the sci-fi dorm, the $5 art rentals, the environmentally friendly policies, the very competitive slam poetry team. While we were there, we passed a poster for a lecture that encapsulated my daughter’s academic interests so well that I had to do a double take. Two students from her high school who graduated a year ahead of her just matriculated at Oberlin and they are both people of amazing integrity. My daughter’s current (excellent!) calculus teacher is an alum, as is the Shakespeare scholar I heard give a lecture last week as part of an endowed speaker’s series. I absolutely would not mind my daughter joining this renowned, intellectual group of alumni.

Also, here’s my slightly controversial hot take: this is a BIG DEAL here on College Confidential. Is it as big a deal in the country as a whole? I am not convinced that it is. I am a faculty member at a liberal arts college. I brought up “the Oberlin Gibson’s bakery scandal” with a colleague…and that colleague had no idea what I was talking about. This is NOT a scandal on the scale of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. Everyone is not talking about it. We are talking about it. Conservative talking heads are talking about it. Some people who follow the news are talking about it. But it is not HUGE news, and I doubt it will be a high impact, destiny-changing story in 5-10 years. Are we equally worried that USC’s reputation is going to tank because of the Varsity Blues scandal? I really feel like USC is going to remain a desirable school in most people’s eyes.

“I am a faculty member at a liberal arts college. I brought up “the Oberlin Gibson’s bakery scandal” with a colleague…and that colleague had no idea what I was talking about.”

  • We know liberal arts faculty at our local institutions and they ARE talking about it. And they are anything but Conservative. It might depend on how much of a bubble a particular institution is in.

And no, it’s not Jerry Sandusky “big” - because it deals with more complicated issues like whether this was a trial on Free Speech (answer: No). Most will tune out when the topic hints of having to crack a history book or recall what was taught in Am. Gov. But Oberlin isn’t attracting those types of “students” anyway, right? One would hope not, anyway.

USC might survive simply because they are publicly taking steps to address their wrongdoing. They aren’t doubling down. And haven’t checked but USC is probably in a bit better financial situation than Oberlin.

Fully 41% of USC undergrad families are full pay. Only 13% of Oberlin families are.

Oberlin doesn’t have much room to get this right, and recent decisions taken by the senior administration do not inspire confidence.

My unsolicited advice is to go test optional, and start admitting some weaker students who can pay. And hope no one notices.

OP: Apply, then visit if accepted.

If concerned about employment–which is a valid concern–then visit the career counseling office & check out the list of employers / companies which recruit on campus.

The campus culture at Oberlin is probably an important aspect that should not be overlooked. If you fit in, then apply.

My daughter is a current junior and has loved her experience. She applied ED before we knew about the Gibson’s incident but I would still allow her to apply today. She did the fly in and fell in love with the campus atmosphere and the opportunities she saw.

As a previous posted pointed out, Oberlin has many unique things like Ex-Co, art rental, Co-ops and more. My daughter has taken 4 different Ex-co’s and has even taught two of her own and loves that experience. She is a double major who plans to study abroad and her professors have all been strong.

She is not a SJW and honestly none of her friends all either - most are musicians and writers who enjoy the mix of high academics with no cut throat pressure. I encourage OP to keep an open mind and visit Oberlin if possible because there is a lot to like.