Consciousness-Raising at Oberlin College During the Second Wave: Gender and Sexuality Conferences and Workshops

Part 1: Student-Focused Consciousness Raising     |      Part 2: Staff-Focused Consciousness Raising
Part 3: Administrative Response to Consciousness Raising    |     Appendices

Document 5: Workshop on Unwanted Sexual Activity    |       Document 6: John Thompson to George Langeler, 15 October 1987
Document 7: Letter from Jan Cooper to George Langeler      |      Document 8: Unwanted Sexual Activity Brochure

Document 5:

Visual 1: Title: Oberlin Review 1987, “OC faces rape with new polities, hot line // Awareness, education called keys for confronting rape issues at OC” Source: The Oberlin Review, 6 November 1987, O.C.A.
Visual 1:
Title: Oberlin Review 1987, “OC faces rape with new polities, hot line // Awareness, education called keys for confronting rape issues at OC”
Source: The Oberlin Review, 6 November 1987, O.C.A.

Title: Workshop on Unwanted Sexual Activity

Author:  probably written and revised by George H. Langeler

Date: 18 September 1987

Location: Series I. Administrative Records, Subseries 14. Subject Files, Box 7. Dean of Students Papers, RG 12, O.C.A.

Document Type: Typed document


Content Warning: discussion of rape and sexual assault.



            By 1987, student consciousness raising had led to a great deal of student awareness on the problems faced by women on campus, particularly sexual assault. In the fall of 1986, a female Oberlin student was raped inside her locked dorm room in North Hall. This sparked huge amounts of outcry among college students, and led to an intense conversation on campus about the role of the college in preventing sexual assault. Amid this heightened tension, several other cases of assault or harassment occurred.

This 1987 workshop for the Oberlin faculty and administrators on “Unwanted Sexual Activity” was likely at least partially in response to this chorus of student outrage and concern. Led by Dean of Students George Langeler, the workshop’s goals were:

  1. To create awareness of the problem of coercive and unwanted sexual activity and the degree to which it is being experienced by people at Oberlin and elsewhere.
  2. To raise participants’ consciousness regarding individual and societal beliefs, values and systems that contribute to and perpetuate violent and coercive sexual behavior.
  3. To help participants clarify own values, beliefs, opinions and feelings as regards sexuality/gender issues particularly responsibility, aggression/power, initiative/risk-taking, victimization, and communication in sexual interaction.[1]

The following document is a draft of  Langeler’s opening speech for the workshop, which was held off campus in Cleveland. It gives a general outline of why the administration held this workshop and highlights key concepts such as “raising our consciousness” and sex roles. This introduction is key in understanding the campus climate at the time. The administration sought to move forward on issues of gender discrimination and sexual assault, but, like many other campuses at the time, struggled to find a starting point. The workshop thus included statistics, case studies, existing knowledge about the issues, and discussion for future directions.

Note: handwritten additions to a typed document are indicated with arrows <like so.>

Original                       Both                    Transcription






<Workshops on Unwanted Sexual Activity[2] Attention>

<Introductory Remarks GHL>



DRAFT 5/20/87

REVISED 9/17/87[3]



The problem of acquaintance rape and unwanted sexual attention is [Written in above line: <^certainly very>] real and finally being talked about.  The purpose of this workshop is to help us become as knowledgeable as possible:  [written on above line: about the problem] we will focus on becoming more aware, raising our consciousness about the problem and clarifying our values.  After coming to a better understanding of the issues, we will turn to implications.

My own view is that we are dealing with a very significant, troublesome and complex issue.  We have tried to design a workshop that will help us better understand the issues so that when we are thinking about College policies, sexuality education, rape awareness education, counseling and handling discipline cases we will produce statements and programs that speak in appropriate ways to various forms of behavior and the ways we deal with them.

The workshop will start out looking at the highlights of data that have been gathered elsewhere and on the Oberlin campus and then at some actual cases that have occurred within the past year in the College.  This part of the program is aimed at helping each of us become more aware of the problems.

We will then turn to raising our consciousness by looking at sex roles and responsibilities, i.e. where women are coming from and where men are coming from and how these roles get translated into the sexual games people play.  A summary of the thinking of four people who have given a good deal of attention to these matters will be presented with an opportunity for discussion to


follow.  The hope is that by looking at the way knowledgeable people have conceptualized their sense of what is going on in the behaviors of women and men, we can expand our own capacity to look at these issues with some new understandings.  Following these presentations we will again have an opportunity for small group discussions in an effort to sharpen our own thinking and values.

At the end of the workshop, we will have a chance to talk about implications and where we go next.






[Transcribed by Tory Sparks]

[1] “Unwanted Sexual Activity Workshop” 1987. Series I. Administrative Records, Subseries 14. Subject Files, Box 7. Dean of Students Papers, RG 12, O.C.A.

[2] Crossed out with “Attention” written above it

[3] It seems that Sherry Gutman (see document 7) influenced the outline of the workshop, as indicated by a June 15 communication to George Langeler in which she writes “Here is the latest draft of the Workshop outline.” A May 21 Memo indicates that Janet Stocks, (Co-Op Area Coordinator, Rape Education Coordinator, Department of Residential Life and Services) and John Thompson (Director of Psychological Services) were also involved in the creation of the workshop (Subgroup I. Series 14. Box 7. Dean of Students Papers, O.C.A.).

[4] This is typed and then crossed out in red pen.

[5] This is at the center of the bottom of the page.

[6] Much of the blank space on the second page under “22-76” is stained with what appears to be coffee.