On February 18th, the school announced its executive decision to fire 108 workers from UAW Local 2192, consisting of almost 70% of the UAW membership spread across various positions. While this announcement may make it appear that the Oberlin administration is stepping out of the shadows and making its changes transparent, it only continues the administration’s obfuscation of its unrelenting exploitation of labor.
Across the process of the AAPR, now conveniently rebranded as “One Oberlin”(united, apparently, only in debt) — we are constantly told of the “shared sacrifices” of cost-cutting. But who is truly to share in these sacrifices? Apparently top on the list of sacrificial lambs is some 108 workers and their families, dependents, and communities, some of whom having been dedicated to the college for over forty years. Even as some administrators continue to take home six figure salaries.
The Oberlin administration, in fact, has little moral regard for its actions. By all indications, the blatant union busting which has taken place has been done so blatantly precisely because the school expects there to be little memory of it. With an endlessly shifting media landscape, and a turnover of students every four years, they expect there to be little if any ability for people to bring lasting institutional memory to hold the school accountable for its actions. With this mindset, the administration might regard the recent protests as the peak of a passing inconvenience, amounting to little more than a brief flashpoint which will quickly burn out, ultimately leaving the institution unscarred.
Therefore, the task that lies ahead for all concerned parties is the arduous one of making sure that the school’s actions will be remembered and that those responsible for them are held accountable. Make no mistake, this may be one of the college’s last opportunities for significant activist work. It is far harder for students to work to re-establish a union than it is for the college to break one, and by all signs the school will be working harder and harder to depoliticize the student body every year.
It is crucial for anyone who is disgusted by the college’s actions, anyone who is concerned for the college’s future, and anyone who has even a shred of respect for Oberlin’s broader community to join in resistance against the college’s actions. There may not be another time.