oberlin

Oberlin cancels classes amid 'hate-related incidents'

March 4, 2013 at 6:32 PM ET

Ohio’s famed Oberlin College suspended classes on Monday after a person was spotted on campus wearing what appeared to be a white KKK robe, the latest in a string of more than a dozen racially charged incidents on campus.

In the last month the school has also found graffiti of the n-word painted on campus buildings and a swastika painted on a classroom window.

Oberlin, which counts "Girls" creator Lena Dunham, musician Liz Phair, and "Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter Mark Boal among its alumni, is known for its open-minded past.

It was the first college in the country to establish a race-blind admissions process, and was even a stop along the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to freedom.

Because of this legacy, Oberlin has been proactive about addressing the racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic actions occurring on their campus.

In an open letter posted to the school's website on Monday, a group of school administrators notified the community of the latest incident and announced that classes were canceled for the day in light of the events.

"Early this morning, there was a report of a person wearing a hood and robe resembling a KKK outfit between South and the Edmonia Lewis Center and in the vicinity of Afrikan Heritage House," the statement read, noting that the sighting is still being investigated.

"This event, in addition to the series of other hate-related incidents on campus, has precipitated our decision to suspend formal classes and all other non-essential activities for today, Monday, March 4, 2013, and gather for a series of discussionsof the challenging issues that have faced our community in recent weeks."

The school asked the Oberlin community to attention a series of events on campus, from a "teach-in" to a "demonstration of solidarity."

"We hope today will allow the entire community—students, faculty, and staff—to make a strong statement about the values that we cherish here at Oberlin: inclusion, respect for others, and a strong and abiding faith in the worth of every individual," the letter continued. "Indeed, the strength of Oberlin comes from our belief that diversity and openness enriches us all, and enhances the educational mission at its core...We believe that today’s events—and our ongoing work and discussions—will strengthen Oberlin and will strengthen us all."

The negative incidents have not only affected those on the Oberlin campus, but have had ripple effects on the community, said Scott Wargo, the school’s director of media relations.

“This is something that is a threat against the community fabric and people are gathering to have conversations about what we think is a very serious issue,” he told TODAY.com.

“I think a lot of people in the community, from faculty and staff to administrators, have banded together and collectively pulled their voices together to express their concern and say that this is not who we are.”

Oberlin police say two students are being investigated in the incidents, but have not released their identities.

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