I took public speaking back in high school for two years, so I think that I am pretty good at judging a person’s body language and presentation skills. I was once told that communication is ten percent verbal and ninety percent physical. Physical in terms of body language and how a person is visibly guiding the listener. In all honesty, I cannot get over how phenomenal of a speaker President Ambar is. The way that President Ambar presented herself was through brutal honesty and openness; in other words, President Ambar was real as hell at this lecture. I am not a numbers person and the powerpoint slides had a lot of content in each slide, but President Ambar elaborated on her points in a way in which it did not feel like you were listening to an hour-long presentation. With everything that President Ambar said, she was always getting straight to the point and was honest with what I felt were the most important points that she was trying to make. President Ambar is a very busy person who is not trying to waste her time and is not trying to waste our time either, so she cut to the chase with the majority of what she was saying, which was greatly appreciated. The biggest points went like this: Oberlin has a goal to get a certain number of incoming students every year, but how many times has the school gotten to that mark? The goal is 2950, but Oberlin has only made that mark twice. How much will tuition increase and why? Three percent, as it is common for colleges to raise tuition around three percent every year because if an institution does not, there would be a much larger hike in the near future. What is going on with private liberal arts colleges around the country? Industry disruption. High school graduation rates are declining along with people questioning how valuable a liberal arts degree is. There was something comforting in the delivery of President Ambar’s presentation. I know that Oberlin is a mess right now, the staff, faculty, and all the other students are well aware of it, but Oberlin is not the only school struggling. It is always comforting to know that you’re “not the only one.”
Another part of the presentation that was surprising was that President Ambar was not about blaming anybody for the mess that Oberlin is in. She is about getting shit done. President Ambar knows that shit won’t get done if Oberlin and its students are out-here sulking in the fact that the institution is nine million dollars in debt. President Ambar gave the metaphor of telling her children how to deal with a problem before it gets too big, and even though it seems like this debt is enormous, she said we’re in the process of doing something about it. President Ambar brought up her kids a fair amount when she talked about enjoying a night at the Apollo and having to pay for three kids to attend school at the same time. Not only was she open about her kids and doing some of the things we as students do, she was open about the fact that she was in our shoes as a college student. Struggling when tuition increased and being frustrated with the institution, but she wasn’t and still isn’t about complaining. She also said that she can’t go up to an audience and say “Oberlin is nine million in debt but its all good,” because it isn’t all good. However, she has the mentality of getting to the problem and doing something to fix it.
President Ambar left the students with one last piece of advice. Be bold. Clear, straightforward, doable, and positive. That last piece of advice really does sum up how the lecture was: a lot of information that was presented in a way that was understandable and optimistic despite there being a lot going on with the mess that is Oberlin. Everybody at Oberlin knows that what comes next is not going to be easy, I’m talking about the cuts and changes, but with President Ambar leading the way, I can get down with that. Catch me being bold around campus.
Contact contributing writer Eder Aguilar at firstname.lastname@example.org.