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March 8, 2013

Oberlin cancels classes after slurs mar campus

Oberlin--Classes were canceled at Oberlin College on March 4 after a series of racist and anti-gay incidents across the campus.

The school, which is consistently listed as one of the nation’s most liberal and LGBT-friendly, was also one of the first to go co-ed in the 19th century, as well as in enrolling African American students. It was a center of abolitionism and a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Early in the morning on March 4, a person in a robe and hood similar to those worn by white supremacist groups was spotted near the Afrikan Heritage House, leading administrators to cancel classes for the 2,800 students that day and instead hold a day of solidarity.

It was the culmination of at least three weeks of incidents around the campus. The Oberlin Review compiled a list of racist and anti-gay hate speech on campus dating back to February 9.

On that day, a racial epithet was scrawled over “black” on Black History Month posters, along with swastikas, a Chinese calendar was destroyed and Year of the Queer posters were defaced.

Three days later, the Multicultural Center’s LGBT community coordinator found a note labeling the facility the “nigger + faggot center.” Four days after that, “whites only” was scrawled above a water fountain, “nigger oven” was written in an elevator and another racial slur was found on a bathroom door.

A possibly bias-related robbery occurred in which the perpetrator made a comment about the victim’s ethnicity on February 17.

In the last three days of February, more Year of the Queer posters were defaced along with ones for an affirmative action panel, and a swastika was drawn on a window of the Science Center before being removed by school maintenance staff.

Many of the incidents are being investigated by college security and city police. The liberal campus has had minor incidents before, all of which were quickly handled.

The Day of Solidarity included teach-ins and a demonstration.

School spokesman Scott Wargo told the New York Times, “I’m not sure why anyone is doing it, but those actions have made people uneasy and say we need to come together and discuss this.”

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