The 798-member Oberlin College Class of 2020 and their parents were greeted at Finney Chapel by college leaders Aug. 23.
The freshman class includes students from 41 states and 19 countries, said Debra Chermonte, dean of admissions and finance. The welcome was part of freshman orientation week.
College president Marvin Krislov said freshman year can be a difficult transition from high school and some students struggle academically. He said studying should be their top priority but they should also find time for socializing and volunteering.
Krislov said students are entering at a crucial time in history. He cited climate change cooking the planet, economic inequality rising, police violence being spotlighted, terrorism increasing, and political bigotry growing.
“Tackling these problems won’t be easy because change will require not only education but determination, cooperation, and action by millions of people,” Krislov said. “This is the place where you can start working through the great challenges facing our climate and our society.”
Krislov also urged students to register to vote, noting the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The decision allowed nine mostly Southern states — with a history of discriminating against black voters — to change their election laws without advance federal approval. Krislov said the direction of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance in the November presidential election.
He said registering to vote is particularly important in Ohio, a battleground state.
The last president elected without winning Ohio was John F. Kennedy in 1960. Krislov noted Oberlin College students and graduates have a history of fighting for voting rights and for political activism.
“Exercise your right in the elections this fall,” he said. “Let your voice be heard. Speak the voice of democracy.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune Oberlin College freshmen give their parents a standing ovation during orientation at Finney Chapel.