Desire, Commodity, and the Anthropocene: The Search for Yeobie’s Identity

Look, we all want to fuck Yeobie. I get it! Who wouldn’t wanna break ObieSafe guidelines for a night with an eight foot tall albino squirrel with a propensity for Birkenstocks and a Lana-del-Rey-esq mesh mask (reactionary!)? Needless to say, dear reader, I was on your side when I posted in the Oberlin 2021 Facebook group, which had been up until that point floundering in obsolescence and remote trivia invitations. “Seeking any and all information pertaining to the identity of “Yeobie”. Love!” I queried. The response was overwhelming– an impressive 25 likes and responses from my housemates like “Megan, why would you post that?”, “Yeobie is played by the softball coach. I worked in Admissions” and “This isn’t a mystery, it’s just the softball coach. This really isn’t that interesting”.

I received some helpful information as well; one person informed me that they had emailed  President Ambar to ask the exact same thing and replied that Yeobie is played by a rotating cast of three to four people. Another commenter linked me to Yeobie’s biography on the website, which included intriguing tidbits such as, “Preferred Pronouns: they, their, them” and “Height: 7-10” with no units included. I also learned that they are “passionate about politics and the environment” and that they hold the world record for the longest tail ever documented on a squirrel. I’m trembling with desire! And you know what they say about squirrels with long tails…

But the longer I thought about Yeobie’s identity, the more it dawned on me: I was asking the wrong questions. Ultimately, the question is not about who Yeobie is, but what they represent. As the price of higher education has risen exponentially over the past twenty years, small liberal arts colleges such as Oberlin have found themselves in a bind; how do they justify their increasingly exorbitant ticket price in a floundering job market? How do they convince prospective students that a liberal arts education is a valuable asset, worth mountains of debt and the humiliation of majoring in Comparative Literature? For many colleges, the answer has been to sell the student experience, to invest in amenities; luxurious dorms, gleaming new stadiums, spacious classrooms– to go here, they seem to say, is to buy into a luxury experience, a resort vacation with a Bachelor’s degree at the end.

Clearly, Oberlin has gone for a slightly different tactic. Enter Yeobie, Oberlin’s plea for relevance. Yeobie attempts to represent the student body in a suit of faux fur and neoprene, crafting a coherent ideal of a student body in a singular entity, topped off with the suggestion of school pride. Beyond that, the characteristics that Yeobie embodies presents a troubling picture of Oberlin’s supposed typical student: a white politics major who wears Birkenstocks. This is insulting and inaccurate; we’re actually more of a Blundstone campus. Oberlin’s creation of a mascot is one part of a larger shift towards Oberlin as a business, the same moves that have busted a union, closed OSCA, and created (for some unfathomable reason) a business concentration. Yeobie is the harbinger of the neoliberalization of the college campus. Please take me at my word here, because I don’t really know what neoliberalization means.

And the sun sets, rises again, a new day has begun, and a question still lingers: who is Yeobie? And how can I have sex with them? To this, I say only: interrogate your desires, lest you end up fucking the market.