OBERLIN — More than a dozen protestors gathered around the entrance of The Hotel at Oberlin at College and Main streets with signs on a cold and windy Thursday afternoon chanting, “2-4-6-8 Oberlin’s gotta reinstate” and “Reinstate Tom Reid.”
The Committee to Reinstate Tom Reid, a coalition of Oberlin College students, alumni, faculty and community members, met to attract the attention of the college Board of Trustees who were in the hotel for a meeting. The protesters also marched around half the building to ensure their gathering didn’t go unnoticed. Several people spoke while standing on a milk crate to the crowd about their love for Reid.
“I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the energy, the care, the kindness that Tom poured into the bowling lanes and the community that grew around that was so important for me being able to stay in Oberlin,” said Adam Lazere, a senior at the college. “People like Tom really do make Oberlin great. The commitment to this community really powers this place, and I really don’t think the college values that.”
All this was in effort for Tom Reid, who was chosen by the Board of Trustees as one of the staff members to be eliminated due to budget cuts last summer. Reid served about
38 years as faculty associate director of the student union and manager of Oberlin College Lanes as well as teaching two bowling courses. After his termination, he found work at Oberlin Public Library as a circulation clerk.
This was the group’s second public gathering following a march to Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar’s office in November last year. The group entered Ambar’s office demanding Reid’s reinstatement and submitted a petition of about 1,100 signatures.
Ambar told the group in November the staff cuts were needed to improve the institution’s finances. Staff members were cut, pay raises were frozen and retirement benefits were curbed to address the need.
The college had a projected deficit of about $5 million for fiscal year 2018, according to a letter from Ambar, Board of Trustees Chair Chris Canavan and Vice Chair Chesley
Maddox-Dorsey. If the budget was not addressed, the deficit would have grown to $9 million, the letter said. A deficit that size is unsustainable, Ambar told the crowd, and could threaten the future of the college.
Since November, 2014 graduate Johnnie Kallas, the committee leader, said they now have a better plan of fighting for Reid’s reinstatement. Kallas announced the formation of the “Alumni Donation Withholding Campaign” which is a project where they are urging college alumni not to donate until Reid’s position is reinstated. Kallas said the group has about 60 members pledging not to give the college a cent until a change is made.
“We have tried to have a petition, we have tried to hold a meeting, we have tried to take all the steps and they continue to ignore us, not even meet with us, so the only thing left for us to do is withhold donations,” Kallas said. “They forced us into this position; this is not something that we want to be doing, but this is something we feel that we have to do in order to get our voices heard.”
The group looks to focus more on the campaign in the future and even contact the 1,100 signatures from the petition to join the campaign.
Scott Wargo, director of media relations for Oberlin College, said the issue of Tom Reid’s reinstatement is a personnel issue and therefore confidential.