Oberlin Activism

Throughout its history, Oberlin has been at the forefront of activist activities, and in order to highlight this aspect of the Oberlin mystique, we decided to compile a collection of soundscapes that capture Oberlin Activism. To encapsulate this progressive atmosphere on campus, each person focused on a different category: environmental, political, and social activism. Although these categories have some overlap, Oberlin has taken particularly strong positions in relation to these issues. Drawing from various sources such as our own recordings, YouTube videos, songs, etc, we have created a collection that represents the larger soundscape of activism on the Oberlin College campus.

Oberlin’s eco-friendly culture emphasizes conservation, sustainability, and environmental awareness. One example of this is the annual Ecolympics. This campus-wide event challenges students to reduce their energy and water consumption by as much as possible within a three week period. Whichever dorm reduces their consumption the most wins bragging rights and - of course - an ice cream party. This tradition makes students more aware of how they consume resources and what lifestyle changes they can make to help protect the Earth. Also, Oberlin is home to the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, a completely carbon-neutral building. This is one of the many steps Oberlin has taken toward making the entire campus carbon-neutral by 2025. Finally, the sounds of a protest cheer, recycling bottles, and chirping birds encapsulate the spirit of Oberlin environmentalism.  

Within its liberal atmosphere, students and faculty at Oberlin have fought for better political situations, locally and globally. Many students participated in Anti-Vietnam War Protests by holding silent vigils, sending supplies to the Vietnamese, and creating media events - as our sound collection demonstrates. Political activism on campus exists in various forms, from boycotting Coca-Cola products because of the company’s violations of labor rights to a public denouncement of Jeffrey Sachs that was planned completely through social media. Although the forms and means of political activism at Oberlin have changed over time, the pursuit to improve political situations all over the world remains a powerful cause among Oberlin students.

Finally, Oberlin has always been a symbol of acceptance and social activism. It was one of the first interracial and co-educational schools in the country, and it played an important role in helping slaves escape the South through the Underground Railroad. Students are at the forefront of a multitude of movements, and are thus hyper-aware of the issues that plague their colleagues and people around the world. Whether it presents itself in the form of preferred gender pronouns, an informative text exchange, or the performance of a traditional slave song, the Oberlin soundscape is intertwined with and representative of social activism.

When these nine sounds are brought together, Oberlin Activism becomes a tangible soundscape. Whether it is the sound of glass bottles being recycled, students speaking out against the harmful practices of a famous economist, or outlining one’s preferred gender pronouns when introducing oneself, activism on campus defines the Oberlin experience.