How Oberlin Works

Ask me how.


Where You Are

This site is meant to help Oberlin students, faculty, staff, and alumni better understand how Oberlin works.

The site includes two sections:

  • An overview of the large-scale structures that govern Oberlin
  • An encyclopedia of the offices, positions, and committees that make the school work

Although this site was created with the whole Oberlin campus community in mind, we hope it will be most used by students seeking to effect change in the institution. Faculty and staff learn the ins and outs of how Oberlin works during their tenure here, whereas students have just four or five years to learn how to navigate administrative structure and how to most effectively make their voices heard.

We invite students who are seeking to create change at Oberlin to examine the large-scale structures introduced in the Overview section, as well as the micro-level opportunities to make change covered in the Encyclopaedia. There are groups that make long-term planning, budgeting, and program decisions at Oberlin, and there are groups that make decisions that affect a smaller section of the institution. Both levels can be improved by well-considered student, faculty, staff, and alumni input.

By understanding how Oberlin works, students will not only be able to engage with Oberlin critically and productively, but they will also be better prepared to make effective change in their future institutions.


This site was inspired by Professor of History Steven Volk’s wish to create a mandatory course on how Oberlin works. We hope this site accomplishes some of what he envisioned.

The overview section draws heavily on the Charter and Bylaws of Oberlin College, and also the 1991 winter-term project of Matthew Lindeman ’93, who created a document called "How Oberlin Works" that explains the large-scale governance structures in Oberlin (much of which remains accurate two decades later).

A group of students—Jesse Baer ’09, Michael Balantekin ’11, David Clarke ’11, Benjamin Klebanoff ’09, and Aminah Roberts ’10—spent winter term 2009 researching and compiling information on many of the 200-plus entries within the Encyclopaedia section. They were supervised by communications fellows Lillie Chilen ’08 and Shane MacDonald ’08. Harris Lapiroff ’11 designed and built this site.


How Oberlin Works is an ongoing project maintained by the Office of Communications. If you have corrections, additions, or updates, send them to