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09/09/23 11:40 AM #272    


Frank Duhl

I had planned to be at the reunion, but I have to cancel. Just after the reunion, I am going to DC to visit a friend who has COPD and is very vulnerable to Covid. Since numbers of infections are rising, I can't take a chance on getting infected at Oberlin and bringing it to her. I will miss seeing people at the reunion and hope that those of you who are there stay healthy and enjoy seeing each other. 
I encourage the organizers of this reunion and the College to consider precautions against this gathering becoming a spreading event for this virus. 


09/28/23 01:11 PM #273    


Gregory Pyke

This was written in May 2022 and I never saw Paul Safyan's reply requesting that I post it here, not just on my profile. Sorry it is out of time context but...

Thank you, Paul. It is hard to imagine that those faculty most affected by the health insurance and pay issues will sit on their hands until trustees meet next July and January to begin discussions. Anbar's reliance on the absence of large-scale faculty departure could be a positive but might also be a measure of the times in higher ed generally. Are good faculty positions open at comparable institutions which our faculty are ignoring to stay near Tappan Square? If not, if they are staying because they can't go elsewhere, the future is a depressing picture for them and for their students. Our gift may only be a token one-time drop in the bucket but what it says could matter. It's no surprise that faculty and staff compensation are the lion's share of the budget--they should be. But what percent is administrative compensation and at what rate has it grown? What would a shift of 1 or 2 percentage points add to faculty/staff?

10/03/23 10:57 PM #274    


Ralph Shapira

Here's a horrifying story about Oberlin.  I'm very upset by the college's immoral and inexcusable conduct.



10/04/23 08:03 AM #275    


Liz Ryan (Cole)

In light of the college's desire to do a better job at communication as expressed last weekend in a forum held during Homecoming weekend I wonder if Oberlin will be willing to explain, or even better, return the art work and explain. 


10/04/23 09:06 AM #276    


Steven Katz

Reflecting on our 67-69 Cluster Reunion

Initially, I hesitated when deciding whether to attend, most friends weren't planning to. But when Aaron Levin, Rusty Beatty, Ralph Shapira, and Peter Griswold asked about my plans and, my wife Ileana Soto urged me to come, we made our plans.

We're leaving later this evening, Monday, planning to spend a quiet day in Oberlin enriched by the weekend.

As wonderful as it's been to refresh friendships and initiate new ones, I remain concerned that our Oberlin is no longer the remarkably democratic institution I remembered. With the dissolution of the Finney Compact last year Oberlin has become increasing corporate and autocratic. I had an extended conversation with Board Chair, Chris Canavan, about my concerns

I am one of many alumni who contributed to the '1833 Just Transition Fund' to provide a severance package to laid off Clsssified Staff a few years ago when the College wouldn’t. Since then several alums I know have directed our efforts in support of a new organization, 'Alumni for Oberlin Values', whose intent is to enrich and focus dialogue between Alumni and the Administration and Board of Trustees.

When queried, Board Chair Canavan shared with our Class that recently dialogue between representatives of A.O.V. and the College has begun.

Our hope is that these exchanges will benefit the College as it charts its course forward. Ongoing updates from A.O.V. are available on its Facebook page, 'Alumni for Oberlin Values'. Should you wish to correspond, A.O.V.'s email address is:

There's much going on at today's Oberlin that's exciting and gratifying. Course offerings are much more flexible, real world internships are available to students, the boundaries separating the College and Conservatory no longer exist, and the College has embarked on an extraordinary infrastructure project to completely update its campus-wide heating and cooling system so that it is State of the Art and Green.

But the decision to jettison the Finney Compact, in 1946 Oberlin was seen to be the most democratically operated liberal arts college in the country, has distressed many among its faculty, students, and alumni.

Of course, times have changed dramatically since then. Liberal Arts Colleges across the country are struggling to survive.

My hope is that dialogue between A.O.V. and the College will ensure that its values and traditions are honored so that faculty continue to play a meaningful role in the business of running the College.

Steve Katz, Class of 1968

10/04/23 11:28 AM #277    

Stephanie Koenig

Thanks for alerting us to this, Ralph.  Rather than contribute this year, I will write a letter objecting to this egregious behavior.

10/04/23 11:42 AM #278    

Judith Klavans

Do we have any idea what could be the Allen Art Museum's resistance to relinquishing this very beautiful work of art (is it yet again.... dare I say it? All about the money?)

I was sorry not to be at the reunion but would value hearing from those of you who were there?  How did being far from campus impact interactions (which is the main reason to go, imho)? 


10/04/23 12:37 PM #279    

Peter Griswold

I thoroughly enjoyed the cluster reunion.  Many thanks to Rich Zitrin, Mark Jaffee, Ted Guest, Walt Galloway, Amy Rothstein, Lee Drickamer, Stephannie Kaza, Aaron Levin, Liz Keys, Penny Zoldbrod, Eve Tal and Ralph Shapira for organizing/moderating events (sorry if I left anyone out).  The downside of having to stay off campus was offset, in my opinion, by the opportunity to visit classes and see a fully-functioning campus with current students, faculty and staff.  About 35 people from our class attended.  I hope that the change in accommodations didn't keep classmates away.  The memorial Service was very moving, not only for the number of classmates we have lost (approximately 130), but also hearing the names of classmates who passed early, either in their 20's, 30's, 40's or 50's.  When the approximately 240 classmates who are listed as "Missing" on our class site are added to those who have passed, that brings a total of about 370 classmates missing or gone from that young and eager group who first gathered on the campus on a bright day in September 1964.  . 

10/04/23 01:02 PM #280    


Daniel Miller

Reading Ralph's link to an article about a drawing stolen by the Nazis, I got the feeling that not everything was stated.  I wonder if, as Liz says, there is more to the situation and if someone in the interest of transparency would explain what is going on.

Listening to the chair of the trustees dance round the question of what was changed in dropping the faculty from control of the college without ever actually answering the question, I would need to hear several different takes on the situation to know what was going on.

10/04/23 01:02 PM #281    


Jean Poppei (Eisenberg)

I believe you will find that the Allen, in fact, did nothing wrong and that it was included with some museums where it was an issue.  Let's relax folks before we make judgements and be open to hearing more.  


10/04/23 07:20 PM #282    

Peter Griswold

Given the age of the Finney Compact(1835), it would seem, at least to me, ithere would be a need of some re-examination.  Colleges have become far more complicated entities since OC was founded.  In a litigious world, colleges need a more formal decision-making structure so that it is clear where the authority and the responsibility lies.  Someone (I believe it was Professor Miyake) made the point that the change was necessary in case Oberlin was sued (again).  I doubt that many other colleges and universities have an arrangement similiar to that of the Finney Compact.  At my own university, it was repetedly emphasized that the Faculty Senate was an advisory body.  

10/05/23 11:09 AM #283    


Steven Katz

Finney Compact Integral to Oberlin’s Future
Richard Spear|October 7, 2022

Dear Chris Canavan and Oberlin’s Board of Trustees,

When — in 1964 — I accepted a position to teach at Oberlin, I was reluctant to do so because I knew that I had been awarded a Fulbright grant to carry out research in Rome. My mentor at Princeton, in hindsight, wisely advised me to accept the job and to try to take an early leave because, he said, there aren’t many positions like the one at Oberlin.

Once on campus and proud to be part of what I regarded to be the top liberal arts college in the country, I gradually understood why Oberlin enjoyed its distinguished reputation — not only because of its historically liberal activism, its outstanding Conservatory and Allen Memorial Art Museum, and its solid endowment, but also, above all, its excellent, dedicated faculty and exceptional students. What I might call the ethos in which all of that thrived was the sense that Oberlin — whose very purpose is, after all, education — was to an unusual degree steered by its educators; that is, by its faculty who obviously know more and care more about the College’s educational success than anyone else. This, I knew, was the result of the Finney Compact.

During my 35 years at Oberlin, I sadly watched from the inside the College’s fall in national standing, first due to the unpreventable loss of its unique position as a top co-ed liberal arts college and, in conjunction with that loss, the impact of its adverse geographical location when compared with many of the other co-ed colleges.

Concurrently, Oberlin’s endowment suffered greatly due to its poor management at a time when the endowments of many of the colleges that Oberlin liked to compare itself with grew greatly.

What I have outlined is, to be sure, a simplistic explanation of Oberlin’s decline in national standing, but it nonetheless points to some fundamental reasons that, from its position in the 1960s as the best liberal arts college in the country Oberlin has fallen to, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report’s ranking, an embarrassing 39th place. One might question the basis of such rankings, as I do, yet I do not think we can dismiss the accuracy of the general trend it tracks regarding Oberlin. This leads me to Oberlin today, which suffers from the Gibson’s affair. Thankfully it is over, although its short or long-term fiscal fallout, the extent of which is yet to be seen, is not, nor is its impact on the College’s relationship with donors.

Certainly, the last thing the College needs at this critical time is more negative publicity and further acceleration of its decline. That, I fear, is exactly what the board is inviting by proposing bylaw changes that eviscerate the Finney Compact and the General Faculty’s authority as stated in Article XV, Section 2. The change, to no small degree, will destroy the Oberlin that it has long been.

I will leave it to Oberlin’s active faculty to spell out in detail the consequences of the board’s rewriting of this section. But speaking from the position of an emeritus professor who has loved and supported the College, I am deeply disturbed by the board’s planned action, fearing the damage to Oberlin that surely will ensue.


Richard Spear

Mildred Jay Professor of Art History, Emeritus, Oberlin College

Affiliate Research Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

10/05/23 11:30 AM #284    


Reed Cosper

I waited twenty four hours to respond to respond. Glad I did.  I like a good screed.  That's why I seek out essays by Fenton O'Toole. This was not a good screed. In fact it was lousy.  The Gibson law suit, the personal opinion of an Obie coach on gender ambiguity, and hoarding Nazi loot in Allen have no connection, have nothing in common, and shouldn't be linked in a good screed. Connecting these disparate topics made me doubt the truth of the central claim. If the claim is even partly true, I coubt it's a simple matter.  And having just visited the Obie campus, and attended a classroom lectlure,  I cannot imagine anthinng Obrerlin College might do to induce me to stop contributing my wiidow's mite toward its survival into the futuire.  There. I said it.   

10/05/23 12:55 PM #285    


Reed Cosper

Apologies. If Oberlin is in fact concealing Nazi loot, I'd threaten to withhold my contributions. Reading a screed makes me write in screed style.

10/05/23 08:48 PM #286    


Gregory Pyke

Thanks to Steven Katz for his post (#276) about reunion, the current state of college governance and the efforts of AOV (Alumni for Oberlin Values). I wish I could feel more optimistic about the Board's news that they are starting a dialogue with AOV. I don't wish to denigrate the art form of tap but I think our Board Chair is a skilled practicioner of the form when it comes to seeming to communicate.

10/06/23 09:12 PM #287    

Ted Gest

Oberlin President Ambar told the Alumni Leadership Council today (October 6) that the college would make an announcement about the Nazi-seized painting. She didn't say when. Here is an Oberlin Review story about the episode from two weeks ago but it may be out of date.


Stay tuned for more developments. Ted



10/07/23 07:51 AM #288    


Steven Katz

This updated story appeared in 'ARTnews'

10/07/23 09:09 PM #289    


Robert Baker

Updating Steven Katz posting to give a complete link:

Apparently, Allen Art Museum and Oberlin are returning the painting voluntarily in response to the subpoena.  The story does not go into Oberlin's previous legal position.


10/08/23 11:52 AM #290    


Steven Katz

Note: by way of background:

This story broke and was covered locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally in mid-September. This piece is from the NYTIMES.

'Schiele Works Believed to Be Stolen Are Seized From U.S. Museums'

Manhattan prosecutors contend that the art in question belongs to the heirs of a collector who was a Holocaust victim.

Tom Mashberg
By Tom Mashberg
Sept. 13, 2023

New York investigators on Wednesday seized three artworks from three out-of-state museums that they said had been stolen from a Jewish art collector killed during the Holocaust and rightly belonged to the Nazi victim’s heirs.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office issued warrants to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College in Ohio, for works by the 1900s Austrian Expressionist Egon Schiele. According to the warrants, “there is reasonable cause to believe” that the works constitute stolen property.

Prosecutors say the artworks rightly belong to three living heirs of Fritz Grünbaum, a prominent Jewish art collector and cabaret artist killed at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany in 1941.

The office refused to comment on the seizures, saying they were part of an ongoing investigation into about a dozen Schiele works they say were looted by the Nazis and trafficked at some point through New York. The warrants shift into criminal court a group of Holocaust art recovery cases that were being contested in civil court.

“Whether you are a plaintiff, prosecutor or defense counsel, attorneys are always looking for new precedents,” Mark Vlasic, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University and former United Nations war crimes prosecutor, said in an email. “This field of law is shifting so this move will no doubt make some parties quite nervous about how cases are resolved.”

The Schiele works are: “Russian War Prisoner” (1916), a watercolor and pencil on paper piece valued at $1.25 million, which was seized from the Art Institute; “Portrait of a Man” (1917), a pencil on paper drawing valued at $1 million and seized from the Carnegie Museum of Art; and “Girl With Black Hair” (1911), a watercolor and pencil on paper work valued at $1.5 million and taken from Oberlin. The art will be transported to New York at a later date.

In a statement, the Art Institute said: “We are confident in our legal acquisition and lawful possession of this work. The piece is the subject of civil litigation in federal court, where this dispute is being properly litigated and where we are also defending our legal ownership.”

The Carnegie said that it was committed to “acting in accordance with ethical, legal, and professional requirements and norms,” and that it would “of course cooperate fully with inquiries from the relevant authorities.”

The Oberlin museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before Wednesday’s actions, the Grünbaum heirs had filed civil claims not just against the three museums, but also against the Museum of Modern Art and the Morgan Library and Museum, both in New York City; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California; and several individual defendants. The plaintiffs in this case had filed claims seeking the return of other Schiele works at other museums.

In total, the plaintiffs are seeking to recover about a dozen Schiele works once owned by the Austrian-born Mr. Grünbaum and now in the United States.

The plaintiffs include Timothy Reif, a judge on the U.S. Court of International Trade; David Fraenkel, a co-trustee of Mr. Grünbaum’s estate, and Milos Vavra. One of their main contentions is that Mr. Grünbaum, an outspoken critic of German aggression during the 1930s, had been hounded by the Nazis into signing an unlawful power of attorney while at Dachau in 1938. They say he had never ceded rightful ownership of his collection, which was widely and illegally dispersed after the war.

In 2018, the plaintiffs received a favorable judgment with regard to the Nazi “power of attorney” that they hope will serve as a precedent. In the case of Reif v. Nagy in New York County Supreme Court, in which the plaintiffs won back two Schiele works, “Woman in a Black Pinafore” and “Woman Hiding Her Face,” Judge Charles V. Ramos found that “a signature at gunpoint cannot lead to a valid conveyance” of someone’s personal property.

A correction was made on September 13, 2023: Earlier versions of this article and its headline incorrectly described the status of legal proceedings involving three out-of-state museums. The Manhattan district attorney’s office seized works by Egon Schiele under a warrant stating that the art was believed to be stolen. The prosecutors did not file criminal charges against the institutions.

10/09/23 01:34 PM #291    


Ted Morgan

Belated thanks to Steve Katz for posting RIchard Spear's remarks on Oberlin's "evisceration" of the Finney Compact and the lead role of the faculty in College governance.  I couldn't agree more with Professor Spear.  [Interesting that he began his Oberlin career the same year we did.]  That was a fundamental step in the increasingly market-driven corporatization of Oberlin.

As Peter Griswold notes Oberlin is changing with the times; indeed higher education has been increasingly market driven and corporatized for years.  The problem, in my view, is that this exactly what today's world does NOT need --more the opposite of this: visonary, creative, critical-thinking, activist graduates seeking a much more democratic, just, and sustainable world.  This is what I remember and value most about the Oberlin we have known. My Oberlin education --within and outside of the curriculum-- was a crucial piece of what has made me an informed critic of an increasingly capitalist, militarized, and unsustainable world

As Professor Spear noted Oberlin was a top liberal arts college in the nation when he arrived in 1964, and it has declined fairly precipitously since then, in part because of the shift of many liberal arts institutions to co-education.  I've always felt there was something unique about Oberlin, and I suspect it had a lot to do with the kind of students it attracted --questioning, challenging, creative students imbued with a democratic spirit--and faculty drawn to teaching that kind of students.  Arguably the degree of faculty-led governance at Oberlin was part of its uniqueness.

I wonder today how much of that uniqueness still survives at Oberlin.  I'd be interested in how much the reunion attenders may have perceived these qualities in today's students and faculty, to the degree that you interacted with them.


10/10/23 12:02 PM #292    

Bill Natale

I recall having seen references to the faculty's rejection of a major academic improvement program that had been championed by a past president.  Does anyone have more details on this?  We might consider that there is another aspect of the faculty-governance model which perhaps has not worked to the school's advantage, and Oberlin's decline might not be fully explained by the triumph of its coeducational example or its bad luck in being a rural college in northern Ohio when coastal cities are all the rage.

10/10/23 01:14 PM #293    


Ralph Shapira

I can partly answer Ted's question.  One of the best parts of the reunion for me was the opportunity to attend classes.  Peter Griswold and I attended three classes, two in lecture format and the third a seminar, Advanced Literary Criticism, with about 20 students.  The seminar gave us a good look at the students.  It was skillfully conducted by two students, who in turn involved the entire class in discussion about`the James Joyce story "The Dead."  All the students were prepared, thoughtful and articulate; I was very impressed with them.  I didn't directly observe their political activism but the whole atmosphere of the place made me think it highly likely that they share the values and world-views that made Oberlin so special for us.

Incidentally, we would not have been able to attend classes and get to know students had the reunion been held over Memorial Day weekend, when school is not in session, as many of our classmates wished.  For future reunions, if I'm fortunate enough to attend, I fully support doing it on the fall homecoming weekend because of the opportunity for alumni to attend classes.

10/10/23 10:51 PM #294    

Peter Griswold

I agree with Ralph that the Advanced Literature Seminar was an impressive example of student-led discussions.  Most of the students participated with thoughtful analysis.  The pedagogy in the other two classes was traditional, with the faculty member talking for 50 minutes.  The instructor invited questions, but there were a limited number of students raising their hands.  With visitors to the classroom, the instructor may have felt that a lecture was the best format for us.  Perhaps in other meetings, there would have been a greater variety of learning activities - small group discusssions, media, a writing exercise, a quick turn and talk - that would have engaged the students and helped them process the information.  It surprised me too, that Oberlin still has the 50 minute classes that we had.  In my limited experience, colleges are arranging classes meeting fewer times per week, but for longer sessions, so there is time for lectures and guided learning activities to alternate.  

10/11/23 08:31 PM #295    


Edward McKelvey


Classes that meet on Tuesdays andThursdays have 75 minutes per class.


10/12/23 07:32 AM #296    


Liz Ryan (Cole)

In spite of my serious concerns about Oberlin (yes!! to all Professor Spear's and Ted Morgan said and do check out the group,  I encourage students to consider Oberlin. During reunion I had breakfast with one of them, a young woman who grew up in Texas who is enjoying her first weeks there. Talking with her was encouraging and I got to hear about her muttiple wonderful classes, her new friends and see her energy and enthusiasm; that was a good part of going back. Unfortately for some of us it was not possible to sign up for classes. I don't know if it was a technological glitch or there simply were not enough slots for all of those of us who wanted to attend, but mostly being on campus when student were there was like being behind a thick glass window. We could see them but there was no intereaction.  If Oberlin is going to insist on keeping most reunions in the fall (and it sounds as if they are not very interested in exploring other options in spite fo the fact that the foks who are pushing fall reunions hard are the same people who livng in town or are the special people who get to stay on campus and dont' have to deal with the airport hotels, poor shuttle service, with no place to gather on campus.... I could go on), then they need to do a better job of helping alumni connect with students.  I see that yesterday an evaluation came out.  Look for it.  




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