Students challenge Oberlin College over no trespassing policy

OBERLIN, Ohio - The campus of Oberlin College is, in so many ways, one with the community whose name it shares. But some students feel the campus is not the neighbor it should be.

That's why student Lyle Kash helped to form the One Town campaign. His issue is with what he called the school's no trespass list.

"We're looking really critically at the no trespass list policy that Oberlin College employs. We think that it creates a really large division between the town and the college," he said.

Kash saod if you get on the no trespass list, you may find yourself barred from campus, which he said is a large chunk of Oberlin.

"The college owns about 60 percent of the land in Oberlin so once you're on the trespass list, you get cut off from your entire town and a lot of the resources that the college has to offer."

Fellow student Marina Multhaup also takes issue with "the list."

"We know that safety and security has access to the list. They send the list to the Oberlin Police Department so they have it," Multhaup said.

The only problem the college's director of safety and security said is there is no list.

"It's a misnomer that the word list is attached to this," said Marjorie Burton. Burton explained that if someone is issued a trespass warning, it's entered into a database the same as traffic citation would. If somebody's name is checked against the database, a trespass warning would come up, but there isn't a list of banned persons, Burton said.

Beyond that Burton said trespass incidents represent a fraction of the incidents they report.

"If we routinely make about 1,300 reports," she said, "perhaps there's less than 20 incidents that could pertain to the presence of someone on campus that maybe is questionable."

Oberlin is a private college, yet many of its buildings are open to the public. Student Rashard el-Shair said no one should be banned without a good reason from enjoying any of what the college offers.

"This is a private institution and parallels can be made with private businesses that don't allow customers on the premises that they don't want there," el-Shair said.

"Of course that's perfectly legal, but do we want Oberlin College, the college that for over 175 years has claimed to stand up for social justice, do we want this college to be barring members of the community from the tremendous resources that are available to us the students and the other people that work here?"

"Paying in upwards of $200,000 over the course of four years, I think I have a say in who I want to be on campus with me and the fact that there is no student input into the process, no community input into the process is completely unacceptable," he said.

Lyle Kash said the school needs to live up to its reputation.

"I think Oberlin's liberal social justice reputation really contributes to the lack of scrutiny that sometimes gets brought to its policies and its actions, and I think it's time that we as students and we as one town, as the community really look at the college and say how can we make this a better place and how can we hold it to its standards that it advertises," he said.

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