Dear Summer Institute Community,
After considerable deliberation by the Summer Institute Planning Committee, and with much valuable input from others in our community, we are finalizing negotiations with Oberlin College to hold Summer Institute there next summer (2014). Our difficult decision to leave Kenyon was made as a result of serious problems dealing with the college, beginning a year ago during our planning for SI 2013. Rather than an extension of the college’s overall education mission, we are now treated as a part of the revenue stream. This translates into aggressive price increases for food, lodging, and facilities at Kenyon and also to our sharing the campus with as many other people and large groups as can be arranged, among other drawbacks.
Our long time contact at Kenyon is no longer responsible for summer programs, ending our very pleasant, cooperative, and productive relationship with him and his staff. Our interactions with his replacement have been troubled, and we have unfortunately reached the point where we can no longer trust the college to deal with us in good faith either for verbal commitments or contractual matters. The Planning Committee has deliberately not shared our difficulties with Kenyon with the SI community, endeavoring to conduct business as usual with as positive an outlook as possible. Thus it may come as a surprise to many of you that we have concluded that SI cannot continue to flourish within the present atmosphere at Kenyon.
When Kenyon’s changed attitude toward summer programs became abundantly clear to us at the end of SI 2013, we started a search for a new location. Although we still wanted (and planned) to have SI 2014 at Kenyon, the protracted (and sometimes unreasonable) negotiations with Kenyon over our bill for 2013 convinced us of the need to move sooner. After considering a number of campuses within the central portion of the district, we settled on Oberlin College as our new home. We understand that this is a big change, with all the upheaval that such change entails, but we also trust that ours is a resilient community that is able to find the best in each other as well as in our gathering place. Costs for attending SI will rise regardless of where it is held; Oberlin’s cooperative attitude allows us to exercise more control of this than we had at Kenyon. Moreover, Oberlin’s attitude shows that they are excited to have us there and that they will work with us to make SI a success.
There are many new and exciting possibilities for our community that Oberlin presents. We can all be housed together around a large shady quad in the north of the very flat campus, with numerous paved paths perfect for those of us on motorized scooters or bikes with training wheels (just not both at the same time and place, please). Oberlin’s highly rated food service (including lots of vegetarian or vegan offerings and, yes, soft serve ice cream) is just across the street, and the athletic center is on the opposite side of the quad, along with a wide green expanse of sports fields (conveniently adjacent to an infirmary for the occasionally over-enthusiastic athlete). We are still deciding between several good spaces for community worship. Nearby workshop spaces abound and the Oberlin Music Conservatory is also close by. Though we encourage members of our community to interact personally rather than digitally during SI, there will be free Wi-Fi for those who want or need to be up close and personal with their devices. The Oberlin Campus is in a small town, with shady streets and paved sidewalks, and is very accessible to those of us with mobility limitations. The college takes pride in its well recognized efforts towards comprehensive environmental sustainability and endeavors to practice our seventh principle. Overall, Oberlin’s progressive atmosphere is one that UUs should find quite welcoming. The Oberlin UU Fellowship is only about a mile away.
More information about Oberlin, including photos, can be found on the new SI website http://omdsi.org/ . To conserve our finances as well as to reduce our impact on the environment, the website will be replacing our formerly large brochure, although we also plan to be putting out a flyer this spring. As it is still early in the planning year, there are a number of links on the website that we and others are working to complete in the coming months.
Like most of us, I have treasured memories of many pleasant times at Kenyon. When reflecting on those times, though, it becomes clear to me that it was the warmth and sparkle of our community that made them memorable, and it is this same community that we will bring to Oberlin. We hope to see you there, along with Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, July 13-19, 2014.
On behalf of the 2014 SI Planning Committee,
Alan Halperin, Chair