Oberlin College was founded in 1833, when two young Yankee missionaries traveling through the northeast Ohio forest arrived at a clearing and resolved to found a college and colony there. That December, with its first group of 29 men and 15 women, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute became the first co-educational institution in the country. Just two years later, in 1835, it made history again by becoming the first predominantly white college to admit African-American students.
Oberlin’s progressive nature and reputation as a hotbed of abolitionism prompted one historian to call it “the town that started the Civil War.” Oberlin was, in fact, the 99th stop along the Underground Railroad. In 1858, both students and faculty made national headlines by participating in the controversial rescue of a fugitive slave, known as the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue.
Oberlin again made headlines in 1970, when it appeared on the cover of Life magazine as one of the first colleges in the country to feature co-ed dormitories. The success of Oberlin’s experiment led colleges across the nation to follow suit. Now, almost all of Oberlin’s dorms are co-ed, with the exception of Baldwin College, which houses only women and transgender individuals.
The school’s prestigious music conservatory became a part of the college in 1867, two years after Oberlin became a private institution.
Oberlin’s 400-acre rural campus is predominantly designed in the Gothic architectural style and separated into two main parts: North Campus and South Campus. There are also two landmarks that are central to the campus: Wilder Bowl and Tappan Square.
North Campus is home to Oberlin’s Science Center and Science Library; the Wright Laboratory of Physics; several dorms, housing co-ops and classrooms; and all of the school’s athletic facilities, which include the Philips Physical Education Center, the tennis courts, Jones Field House, and Savage Football Stadium. Because of its proximity to the gym, North Campus has the reputation for being where Oberlin’s modest jock population hangs out.
South Campus is home to the majority of Oberlin’s language houses and several co-ops; the Music Conservatory; and the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, one of the most advanced examples of ecological architecture in America.
The Wilder Bowl actually refers to the lawn in front of Wilder and Mudd Library; however, it is also the central area on campus. Surrounding the Wilder Bowl are the student union; the famous Finney Chapel, where students will often gather to see lectures and concerts; several classrooms and administrative buildings; as well as Student Health Services and the Oberlin Clinic.
Tappan Square is a 13-acre square which is reportedly the site where the town of Oberlin was founded back in 1833. These days, it is the site of many events such as bonfires, rallies, vigils, and Oberlin’s commencement ceremony. Located near the square are the Oberlin Inn, the college’s main lodging accommodation for out-of-town visitors; the Allen Memorial Art Museum; and the main campus theater, Hall Auditorium.
One of the most outstanding features of Oberlin’s campus is the Allen Memorial Art Museum, which is considered one of the best college or university museums in the country. Though the museum’s collection features more than 14,000 objects covering the scope of modern art history, the museum is known particularly for its collections of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish painting, European art from the late 19th and 20th centuries, and contemporary art. The museum also features a unique art rental program which allows students to rent original etchings, lithographs, and paintings by famous artists like Renoir, Warhol, Dali, and Picasso to decorate their dorm rooms.
The #1 hangout on campus is The ‘Sco [The Disco], which is our version of a club. It’s a nice little place located in the basement of Wilder Hall, our Student Union, and is open Monday-Saturday, typically from 10pm-1 am (which kind of sucks for the weekend, but people usually head to parties afterwards). There is a different kind of music theme every day of every week. They host concerts, karaoke night, and even show Project Runway, or whatever the big name show is at the current time. There are also some special discount nights throughout the week. Tuesday used to be Quarter Beers, but they changed it to 50 cent beers, for some reason. That’s usually the most popular night, for obvious reasons. Wednesday night is Pizza & Pitchers, where they order a bunch of pizzas from Lorenzo’s and sell pitchers of beer for cheap. Thursday night is just Pitchers.
Wilder Bowl and North Quad are the main outdoor hangouts when the weather is warm, although there are lots of people outside when it’s cold, too. Wilder Bowl is located just outside of Wilder Hall, and North Quad is located right in the middle of all the dorms on north campus. These places usually draw massive numbers of people, day and night. People throw the football, baseball, Frisbee, stick, or whatever it may be, out there all the time. People tan, read, play on their laptop, climb trees, run naked—-whatever there is to do outside, it's being done at either Wilder Bowl or North Quad.
As terrible as it is that a library is a top hangout, Mudd Library is actually a good place for a lot of random hook-ups. Everyone’s fantasy is to ‘do it in the stacks,’ and that happens quite often. The Library is five or six stories tall and is home to Azariah, a new café-style place right inside of the library. It’s also home to the Center for Information Technology (CIT), which is where you go to get your computer or electronics fixed (though it’s actually not that helpful).
De’café is our on-campus grocery-type store. They carry all sorts of food. You can get smoothies, make your own sandwich, make your own salad, etc., if the dining halls get old. It’s just a nice little spot to chill, get some food, and talk and relax.
Oberlin City (if it can even be called a "city") is a quiet rural town of approximately 8,195 residents located 35 miles southwest of Cleveland. The surrounding area is mostly farm fields, but Oberlin City proper, where the college is located, has enough amenities within walking distance to keep students satisfied.
Oberlin is surrounded by rural areas, but there is a lot to do just beyond that. Cleveland is about 30 minutes east of Oberlin, Columbus is about one-and-a-half hours south, and Toledo is about one-and-a-half hours to the west. Cedar Point, the number-one amusement park in the nation, is about 40 minutes west [and is a popular weekend getaway for those with cars]. There are also three major malls within close driving distance of Oberlin: Midway Mall (Elyria), Great Northern (North Olmsted), and South Park Mall (Strongsville). So, if Oberlin ever gets boring, there are plenty of nearby places to go.
Oberlin itself has many small businesses, coffee shops, and restaurants within walking distance of campus. There is an old movie theater that shows new movies, The Apollo, for only $3, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays (when it's only $2). There are countless pizza places, the best being Lorenzo’s Pizza, as well as fast food places like Subway and McDonald's. Some of the more popular local restaurants include Casa Fiesta (Mexican), Weia Teia, Too Chinoise, The Mandarin (Chinese), The Feve (burgers), Agave (Mexican), and Quick & Delicious (family fare).
Finals Traditions - Several campus traditions revolve around finals week. During finals, Mudd Library is open 24/7 and students will often spend the night there (usually sleeping on the first floor, A-level, slouched over a book or computer). There is also a celebratory pancake breakfast at Dascomb Hall. While nakedness and streaking are not uncommon on the Oberlin campus at any time of the year, the largest naked run takes place during spring finals.
Tappan Square - Right in the middle of Tappan Square, there is a square tile that has something written on it. DO NOT STEP ON IT. There is a myth that those who step on it will not graduate. Be careful!
Antoinette Brown (1847) was the first ordained female minister in the United States.
Moses Fleetwood Walker (1881) was the first African-American player in baseball’s major leagues.
Robert Millikan (1891) was awarded the Nobel Laureate prize for Physics in 1923
for measuring the charge of the electron.
James Burrows (1962) is the producer and creator of the TV series "Cheers," as well as a television director who worked on "Will & Grace," "Wings," and "News Radio," among other series.
Jerry Greenfield (1973) is the co-founder of the popular ice-cream brand, Ben & Jerry’s.
Julie Taymor (1974)is a world-renowned visionary theatrical and cinematic director, filmmaker, and screenwriter. Her body of work includes Broadway’s "The Lion King" and the films "Frida" and "Across the Universe."
Franz Wright (1977) is a Pulitzer-prize winning poet whose work includes "Ill Lit: Selected & New Poems" and "Walking to Martha's Vineyard."
Jane Pratt (1984) was the founder of the beloved but ill-fated women’s magazines "Sassy" and "Jane."
Oberlin is a Division III school in the North Coast Athletic Conference. While there are 20 Varsity Sports teams, the most popular teams on campus are Ultimate Frisbee (the Flying Horsecows) and Women’s Rugby (The Rhinos), both club sports.
Oberlin’s mascot is the Yeoman, a royal guard and/or a farmer who owns and cultivates his own land. The college’s colors are crimson and gold.
Let’s face it: Oberlin is not a school known for its athletics. Though the football team had an illustrious start back in the late 1800’s, beating Ohio State twice with scores of 40-0 and 50-0 in 1892 and aiding in the founding of the Ohio Athletic Conference in 1902, the results in recent years have been more or less embarrassing.
ESPN.com rated the Oberlin teams of 1994 to 2000 as the fifth-worst college football team of all time. It’s no wonder: In 1994, Oberlin lost all nine games of its season, scoring a combined ten points and giving up 358. In 1996, Sports Illustrated ranked the Oberlin football team as the worst team in Division III.
Recently, the athletic teams have been doing moderately better. At least they’ve broken their losing streak.
Members of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s attended Oberlin.
Oberlin hosts about more than 400 concerts and recitals, about 40 theater and dance productions, and two operas each year.
Oberlin’s Science Center features a 64-bit supercomputer—the first to be installed at a liberal arts college.
Oberlin’s Music Conservatory is the oldest continuously operating Conservatory of Music in the nation.
Oberlin owns 199 Steinway pianos and 1,500 instruments of the highest quality.
Oberlin’s 2008 commencement speaker was Indian-born journalist, columnist, author editor, commentator, and television host Fareed Zakaria.
Oberlin offers many housing options to choose from. There are around 20 dorms on campus, falling into three categories: traditional dorms, program houses (organized around a theme such as a foreign language or culture), and co-ops (student-run houses in which students cook, clean and govern themselves).
Oberlin’s campus is broken into North and South Campus. The major traditional dorms are North and South Halls, which are the two largest dorms on campus. There are two freshmen dorms, Barrows Hall (North) and Dascomb Hall (South), though freshmen have the option to live in any of the dorms.
The major program-housing dorms are the African-American Heritage House (The House) and Spanish House, both located on South Campus. The major co-op housing dorms are Tank Hall, Talcott Hall, Keep Cottage, and Harkness. There are other co-op dorms, but these are the most interesting.
Of all the dorms on campus, I would say Talcott, North and Burton have some of the nicest rooms. There are, however, renovation plans for some of the dorms this summer that will include new furniture, tiling, and an upgrade in the overall living space quality. All of the dorms are in decent condition but not always the condition one would like to see when paying close to $50,000 a year.
Oberlin dorms are all co-ed, with the exception of Bailey, which houses most of the campus' lesbian population. Most of the bathrooms in the dorms are co-ed as well, which means you may be taking a shower next to someone of a different sex. Be mature and understand that it’s college--cooties went out of style in second grade. However, you will have Hall Meetings with your respective RA to voice any concerns you have with the bathrooms. If there is a large enough problem, then bathrooms will be designated Male or Female Only.
Some dorms have pool tables, ping-pong tables and countless numbers of lounges. The rooms are slightly larger than most other schools' rooms and consist of single rooms, open-double rooms (two individuals in an open room), closed-double rooms (there is a door and wall separating the room into two smaller rooms), triples (three per room), and a quad (four people, two rooms, and a middle lounge).
At Oberlin College, the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association—'OSCA' for short—comprises an enormous percentage of students. One-fifth of the student body chooses to dine in a co-op rather than through campus dining, two hundred of whom also live in housing co-ops.
Oberlin's co-op system is attractive for many reasons. Dining and living in a co-op is less expensive than campus housing and dining, and students find themselves instantly immersed in a tight-knit community. Though fraternities are nonexistent at Oberlin, some students believe that co-ops function as the equivalent 'anti-frat,' albeit co-educational and decidedly more left-leaning. While members do live and dine together, the co-ops also use their large donations budget to support local social causes. Through donations, OSCA has helped fund ventures ranging from local organic gardens and the annual community parade to the summer camp scholarships for underprivileged students. Additionally, OSCA gives high-risk loans to new local organic farmers who have been refused by national banks.
The co-ops at Oberlin come in the form of housing or dining, or both—-nine total co-ops exist, four of which double as housing co-ops as well. OSCA rents dining spaces and buildings from the college in order to house the co-ops, whose themes range from the religious (Kosher-Halal Co-op) to food preference (i.e. vegan-vegetarian, though all co-ops have these options at every meal) along with a 'safe space'-themed house, the Third World Co-op, specifically for students of color. While food policy forms an integral part of each co-op's character, members do vote every semester whether to renew or change these policies. The most militant co-ops have bans on ordering exploitative and unhealthful foods such as bananas, refined sugar and white flour, while others offer meat options several times a week. However, all co-ops emphasize the purchase of local and organic foods.
The menus in the co-ops are a far cry from the typical college diet of mac n' cheese. With a budget in the range of hundreds to thousands per week to spend on food, head cook elections are contentious issues. Industrial, regularly health-inspected kitchens give co-opers all the tools for a limitless and ever-changing menu. In addition to three square meals a day, most co-ops also participate in bread-, tofu-, yogurt- and granola-making operations. (All of these makers are elected, too, and elections can get surprisingly controversial!)
Yet there are other benefits to joining a co-op besides the increased agency in one's diet. Housing co-ops benefit from the fact that the college security officers cannot inspect beyond the main level, unless specifically called. Co-ops also have no 'RAs,' or resident assistants, but rather a community arbiter in each house called the 'Housing Loose Ends Coordinator,' or HLEC. HLECs have no power—nor interest—in 'writing up' students, as RAs might, and the (usually liberal) drug and nudity policy is left up to member vote at house meetings.