Oberlin grads must be happy to see this - Grist Magazine reporting that it's the fifth greenest college or university anywhere. I know they'll all notice it's listed just ahead of Harvard, a spot most Obies have always considered its due on any scale, small-school pride being what it is. Anyhoo, here's what Grist has to say about it:
Hoping to get an ober-view of energy use, faculty and students at this small liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, collaborated in 2005 to create a web-based monitoring system in some of the dorms that shows how much energy and water is being used, giving students real-time feedback that can help change their consumption habits. Last year, students worked with Cleveland-based CityWheels to create a car-sharing program on campus. The college's Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies is housed in a pioneering green building that opened in 2000. Oberlin also boasts Ohio's largest solar array and is transitioning to 100 percent earth-friendly cleaning products.
Sounds great and good for them (with or without my measly alumni contributions) and it's not really a surprise, given Oberlin's ultra-left credentials. But I have a little story about that.
Anybody read The Road from Courain by Australian-American writer Jill Kerr Conway? Well, her next book was True North, which covered her life in the U.S., including her 10 years as president of Smith College. What's of interest here is the part of True North where Conway compared two schools that were established during the 1830s, one all-women and one coed, those schools being Smith and Oberlin.
Now because Oberlin was the first coed college in the U.S. (as well as the first racially integrated one), this is a pretty big part of its pride in the world of progressive thinking. Damn right! And if you spend four years there you hear this history recited repeatedly, and I used to brag on it myself. But then I read what Conway found in her research.
I have no direct quotes and I won't be rereading the book just to find them BUT Conway found out that women were admitted (just a couple of years after the school opened for the purpose of educating male ministers) for three purposes:
- So that female students would be available to do the darning and other domestic duties for the male students.
- So the young ministers could find suitably educated wives.
- And one more reason just as obnoxious as these two that I can't remember, but you get the point.
Man, history can be inconvenient, can't it? Coz Conway just blew that whole progressive origins thing right out of the water and even had me worried that that their underground railroad history might turn out to be tainted, too. (So far, so good on that score.) But Conway's point is that entire educational program was then designed for men, with women as an afterthought. I guess I shouldn't have been all that surprised to find these conditions when I arrived there as a freshman:
- Women had curfews; men didn't.
- Men and women paid the same for room and board, but men had maid service in their rooms and women didn't.
SHOCKED? That's probably because you're young and sexism wasn't nearly as blatant by the time you came along, right? Do tell, readers. But now you see why I'm an equal-opportunity cynic.
Photo credit: Oberlin College.