Oberlin responds to complaints about arch honoring Boxer Rebellion deaths

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Graduates of Oberlin College -- a cradle of social justice movements like abolitionism -- have never had to look very far for activist opportunities. Indeed, the college's commencement ceremonies actually seem tailored toward students who want to make a political stand. The processional has traditionally run beneath Oberlin's Memorial Arch, a controversial structure that either symbolizes the sacrifice of missionaries killed in China or the repression wrought by American imperialism, depending on one's point of view. For those who take the latter position, bypassing the arch -- and breaking with the established processional route -- has become something of a tradition.

It appears, however, that Oberlin officials are ready to literally sidestep the controversy that the arch provokes on graduation day. Administrators recently decided to change the commencement processional route, bypassing the arch altogether, The Oberlin Review first reported.

The Memorial Arch was erected in 1903 to recognize Oberlin graduates who were killed during the Boxer Rebellion while serving as missionaries in China. Critics have long charged that the arch honors questionable acts of American imperialism, while at the same time doing little to recognize the deaths of Chinese people killed in the uprising. Students who hold that view have made their disdain clear on graduation day, walking around the monument or -- in one case -- climbing over it with the aid of a rope.

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