Students ask profs to drop finals for black peers, shame responses on social media

Oberlin students have collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition that asks the college’s president to discontinue the standard grading system this semester.

Students have emailed professors the link to the petition and have posted their responses on social media.

Oberlin College students have requested the college suspend their standard grading system as students have been too involved in protests of the recent shooting deaths of three black males—Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice—to study effectively.

“Basically, no student especially [sic] black students and students of color should be failing a class this semester,” the petition states. “A ‘C’ should be the lowest grade students can receive this semester.”

According to the Oberlin Review, the college’s student publication, administrators have already promised students that professors will be able to grant emergency incomplete grades for students who have been academically struggling over the course of the semester. However, students on campus have told the student newspaper that the college has done little else to offer support for those students.

The petition, which had more than 1,000 student signatures at time of publication, has been widely circulated through Facebook and emails to students and faculty members, according to a member of the Oberlin community who wished to remain anonymous. Student activists have emailed professors during the month of December to request that students be excused from finals this semester.

“It has come to the attention of students that students of color, particularly Black students, who have suffered significant trauma over the past few weeks due to the Grand Jury decisions are not at all in a place to take their finals right now,” Della Kurzer-Zlotnick, an Oberlin student, wrote to her professor. “I am not among these students, and as a white, middle-class person, I have to privilege [sic] of being able to step away from these events and put enough energy into schoolwork and finals to assure that I will pass my classes.”

Kurzer-Zlotnick, like other Oberlin students, took a screenshot of the email and the professor’s reply—“No.”—and posted the photo to Facebook in an attempt to publicly shame the professor.

Other students and Facebook users have commented on Kurzer-Zlotnick’s photo and encouraged her to “report” the professor to Oberlin’s administration. Kurzer-Zlotnick, who labeled her post with a “trigger warning,” admitted on the photo to emailing only the one professor as her only other instructors are “POC”—people of color—or don’t issue finals.

Kurzer-Zlotnick did not respond to an emailed request for comment from Campus Reform.

Students have been using the hashtag #OberlinChallenge when posting emails on Facebook.

Kiki Acey, who the Oberlin Review credits as starting the petition, wrote on her public Facebook page: “Screenshot that shit post is [sic] and tag is [sic] OBERLINCHALLENGE! Put them to the test...just ask them to support student organizers organizing around Ferguson see what there [sic] response is.”

“I encourage all of you who believe that your white professors and administrators are not racist, email them with about [sic] anything that has to do with black people and see their response,” she wrote.

Acey posted a screenshot of Debra Thomas’ reply to one email with the subject line including the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Thomas, who is the administrative assistant to the office of the controller, chastised the student for the hashtag.

“ALL lives matter! I don’t care if you’re black, white, yellow, or green,” Thomas wrote, according to the screenshot. “I’m tired of this racist nonsense and tired of everyone screaming about specific races being targeted.”

According to the Oberlin Review, Thomas was subsequently forced to apologize for the email.

Acey also did not respond to an emailed request for comment from Campus Reform.

Oberlin did not respond to requests for comment from Campus Reform.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn