Frozen Middle Path: It’s Really Not That Funny

Pretty, but not worth it.

Pretty, but not worth it.

The ice has descended. And if you had the absolute displeasure of walking through the Gates of Hell over the weekend, you experienced the equivalent of a perfectly Zamboni’d ice rink instead of the familiar Middle Path gravel. I was slowly shuffling north through the Gates of Hell one evening, and heard a sickening crack behind me. The familiar sound of someone crashing to the icy ground resonates all too well, and I knew how he would be feeling that in the morning.

The effects of this frozen farce even reach (literally) close to home for me. Just downstairs in lower Lewis, CA Sarah Adrianowycz ’16 is rocking a pretty fierce looking black eye, amassed from a night walking home on the treacherous ice. When prompted to speak on her injury, she very sternly told me, “The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club.” People have been asking her if there’s anyone they need to beat up for her. Amusing, especially when you imagine some sort of buff upperclassman trying to punch the ice on Middle Path.

In asking other people, I discovered that pretty much everyone knew at least one or two people who had fallen and sustained some sort of minor injury. Spanning from bruises to twisted ankles to wooziness-inducing bumps on the head, the injuries were all fairly minor but still there and a stark reality to the slapstick comedic value we derive from watching people slip and tumble around campus.

There was a scathing Kenyon Confession yesterday that really rang true for me.

kenyon confession

Now, to be fair, this person was a little heated. Telling alumni to “shove their tradition” is very disrespectful, especially since alumni really do keep this school going. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree. It is irresponsible and disrespectful to keep Middle Path as dangerous as it is. If you were the head of a car manufacturer in this day and age, and the only memories you had when you were a little kid were of riding in a car without seat belts or airbags, would you put the safety of others at risk just to continue to indulge in your dangerous nostalgic bliss?

It may be fun and games to joke about falling on icy Middle Path, but let’s be honest with ourselves: getting injured is not fun. Period. We shouldn’t romanticize dangerous situations. Minor injures at this point can escalate to serious injuries. Not everyone who walks on Middle Path is a college student, either. We may be young enough to sustain minor injuries from a fall like that, but older and elderly professors, visitors, family, and alumni are in much more danger. Their injuries could be much, much worse. As with all dangerous issues, it should not take a serious injury or grave consequence for action to be taken. It should be stopped before it gets to that point.

Gravel-covered Middle Path is already fairly inaccessible on its own for those with physical disabilities, and with the ice it is even worse. On the aforementioned Kenyon Confession, some peoples’ reaction was to buy better shoes or shoe attachments that facilitate walking on ice. To this, I can only emphasize the extremely eloquent words provided by Lin Miao ’17.

lin

So on point.

As an able-bodied member of the student population, I cannot speak to this with the credibility of someone who has experienced it. To me, however, the reality of it is pretty clear. You can’t deny that keeping Middle Path dangerous and inaccessible is ableist and wrong.

I’m sorry, but I won’t joke with you about falling on Middle Path. I won’t laugh at your stories or check “Falling on Middle Path in the Winter” off of my Kenyon Bucket List, because it’s not funny and it’s not on there.

34 responses

  1. I know able-bodied people love throwing around the term “ableist”– congrats, you seem quite conscientious. However I haven’t heard the disability services or the disabled community at Kenyon actually make statements about this, so please don’t speak for them. I personally have limited balance and some difficulty walking because I’m losing my vision. Yes, I do find it difficult to walk on the ice without hurting myself (and in the dark, the rain, the snow, etc.). No, I don’t think the answer is paving middle path. I love how beautiful middle path is unpaved. I work around it. Please note that I’m only speaking for myself here: I suggest you do the same.

    • I have some difficulty walking due to perception problems from deteriorating eyesight, and have fallen 3 on Middle Path due to the ice this year alone. I do think the answer is paving it. Beautiful means nothing if I can’t be safe walking from South to North, etc. Although working around it is possible, it doesn’t mean I should be forced to.

      In my four years here, I’ve learned not to say anything. Why? All I get is incredulous stares and ‘that’s all?’ looks. Because it’s just ‘bad balance’. Of course. Don’t assume people don’t speak out about this because we prefer it kept that way. Sometimes people need others to speak for them.

      And really, don’t take out the ‘you can’t speak for me because you don’t have _______’ card. It’s rude and useless.

    • Actually, disability services has been campaigning for YEARS to get middle path paved (or some compromise that’s easier for disabled students to use). I only know this as I work with them for some non-mobility disabilities and I’ve heard Erin Salva talk about it a lot. They don’t mention it particularly now because Middle Path freezes over most years and shouting “we need to pave this thing” from the rooftops every winter starts to hurt one’s credibility. Clearly the administration doesn’t see the need to pave it, or it would have been done long ago.

    • Is this your first year at Kenyon? That would be the only understandable explanation for your not hearing from “the disabled community” (as though there is such a thing here). Perhaps you don’t know that Public Affairs had to make a documentary about the various gravel possibilities because many alumni are worried about the “crunch factor”. The fact is that Middle Path is extremely difficult to traverse in winter, no matter how balanced, physically fit or careful you are. People have been complaining about it for years so Molly is merely adding to the conversation as a human with legs (as opposed to speaking on someone else’s behalf).

  2. While this is an important topic that is absolutely worth discussion, I don’t think this article is a good way to start one. Not only does it give a very obvious point of view (which is fine), but it also takes the time to call anyone who disagrees with its points ‘ableist.’

    This makes it impossible to speak on the other side of the debate without first adding paragraphs of clarifiers, and even then you can just negate an entire argument with “You’re able-bodied, so it doesn’t matter.” That is not a good discussion environment.

    The car metaphor specifically is a complete misrepresentation of what the Alumni mean. ‘Middle Path’ is plastered all over a significant portion of promotion material for Kenyon. All those pictures of how beautiful this campus is, that go around the lists every fall? Middle Path is a main focal point. Any change to the path is a massive change to the environment of the college; it’s not just some alumni’s Nostalgia Trip.

    Then there’s the implications paving the path actually brings to the college. It runs right down the center of campus; how do you propose they pave it without disrupting everything on camps? You couldn’t even consider doing it while the college is in session. And summer is when a lot of prospective students visit; having construction equipment up and down the center of campus, ripping up one of the college’s iconic images, isn’t a great message.

    It’s also important to note not all of Middle Path is Kenyon property. It expands into the center of Gambier (And paving that part of the path would be ridiculous, as there are proper sidewalks less than a foot on either side).

    Beside, if you want to talk ableist problems with this campus, Middle Path is absolutely not the place to start. What about the fact Caples laundry rooms are inaccessible without using stairs? Caples isn’t even old enough to justify that. What about Ascension? Should we renovate them as well? After all, you can still reach everywhere on campus without needing to use middle path. That can’t be said for third floor Ascension.

    Middle Path has its problems. I’m not denying that. But discrediting several legitimate arguments as “snarky alumni” and “Ableist” is not the way to start a discussion for solutions; it just fans the flames.

    • ” ‘Middle Path’ is plastered all over a significant portion of promotion material for Kenyon. All those pictures of how beautiful this campus is, that go around the lists every fall? Middle Path is a main focal point.”

      If something being beautiful (and profitable) is reason to disregard legitimate safety and accessibility concerns, society is in a very bad place.

      • Did you finish reading? It’s pretty easy to get to different buildings without crossing Middle Path at all. What do you say about Ascension? You can make every single one of the exact same arguments for that building. And yet, no one has.

        This is part of what I meant about the difficulty of this discussion. Rather than address any of the points, you took one line and just threw a veiled accusation of ableism at it.

  3. Paving Middle Path would make the iciness worse, in my opinion. Yes, it is slippery now, but there is usually some gravel that sneaks through the ice and creates desperately needed traction on the icy surface. A paved path would just be an expanse of frozen danger, like the sidewalks are now.

    • do you not see how the paved walkways are cleared? they can salt them and shovel them off. shoveling midle path right now would destroy it.

    • I completely agree. Paving the path would be not help the problem. A simple solution is too salt and put sand down on the gravel path immediately after snow. Also, it is winter in Ohio which means everything is icy, snow covered, and dangerous.

      • paving it would solve the problems + your argument makes no sense. just because everything is dangerous to some extent doesnt mean we shouldnt make something not as dangerous. u feel me?

    • If they were to pave it, they’d use the same warming technology that they have on the path to the KAC. We don’t have that on the other sidewalks so the pavement sucks everywhere but the KAC path.

    • “Shallow, Spoiled and Entitled.” While you intended it to be ironic, it really does sum up most of the student body. Or, at least those commenting here.

  4. This is just classic Kenyon. I love this school, I love 99.9% of the student population. This place is truly great, but the one constant annoying part is everyone has the overwhelming need to complain. Its ice, it happens everywhere. If it was paved, it would still ice unless they salt and sand it. The problem isnt Kenyon, its that the school did not salt or sand it until later. People blaming them falling on the ice is like a driver blaming the accident on ice. Sure, sand and salt should have been put down more, but the driver should be driving more carefully, its the winter! Maybe we should all walk a little slower on middle path, put down the phones and look where you are walking. Yes Kenyon, this may require you all getting up a little earlier for class…I’m sorry. Ruining one the great things of this school because people can fall seems like end to the means, not means to the end. Lets put down salt and sand and walk a little more carefully!

    • except they salt and sand the paved sidewalks and they are clear. so what you’re saying is not even a detractor to the author’s argument. and what you’re saying is very insensitive to those with disabilities, like myself, who must take longer detours to avoid middle path when it gets like it was this past weekend.

  5. . There is more than a fair argument to be made, even just taking into account the comments on this page, that the proposition postulated by the author – that the purported benefits of paving middle path outweigh the detriments – is far from uncontroverted. Heck, even the proposition that a paved path would be “safer,” or “better” for its users is not without its detractors. So, as a modest proposal (sorry Jonathan Swift fans, I am not proposing anyone eat the Freshmen, the able-bodied, or even the author), I would suggest that before engaging in name-calling, and hyperbolic rhetoric, the logical first step would be to answer those questions. Until you do so, it is the height of immature arrogance to “demand” that one perspective or another hold sway. And, keep in mind that what is happening here is really a demand for those purportedly “irresponsible and disrespectful” alumni, and others pejoratively deemed to be “abelists,” who dare to disagree with your unsupported hypothesis, PAY to implement your “solution.” As Bartleby the Scrivener would aptly say “I would prefer not to.” Or, perhaps you are proposing a tuition surcharge be imposed on all students to pay for the work? No? You don’t like that idea? Well, here is a news flash, there is no magic money. There is no free path. And the very alumni you decry, but whose pockets you are looking to pick, have every right to say “no.” Stop whining and go do something constructive, like studying for finals.

    • Pure, unadulterated douchebaggery.You are an alum? Well, that pretty much confirms my degree from this place will be worthless. Hopefully I won’t also be a jerk … like you.

      • Though the Alum put it crassly, he is 100% right. Where will this money come from? Will it come from the alumni we are currently trashing? Or will we pay for it? If it is the latter, we will have to read another article on the thrill about “having a tuition surcharge and how unfair that is.” BTW, your degree from Kenyon is only useless if you want it to be. It seems you want it to be. Or maybe you are using your “worthless degree” to hide the fact you did not want to work for the success that can come with this highly sough after degree. Just a hypothesis.

    • I dont think the author was trashing alumni. She cited someone who did and then renounced their trashing of alumni. As an alum myself, I was not offended. Please refrain from ad hominem attacks. I think this article is spot on and would be willing to contribute to the efforts to pave Middle Path.

    • In terms of payment, concrete is much easier to upkeep than gravel. It lasts years upon years (especially since there’s no heavy car traffic), and doesn’t need to be leveled and have gravel added each year. Do it once and it pays for itself.

  6. Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
    You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away.
    Whoa G-d only knows, G-d makes his plan
    The information’s unavailable to the mortal man
    We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay
    Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away

  7. “Ableism”? Really? You’ve shut down the possibility of anybody trying to reasonably discuss this matter with you by branding them with a dreaded “ism” before they even get a chance to speak for themselves. This discussion has already devolved into hyperbolic hysteria over a relative non-issue. Is safety something that is controversial? No! But the tenor of this discussion from the beginning was made combative by throwing an “ism” at people who might not agree with you initially. You’ve lost the chance to convince them by insulting them before you even tried. Shallow, spoiled, and entitled? In more ways than you think…

    • By calling it a “non-issue”, you are being ableist. There is a solid group of disabled students at this school who feel that Middle Path is a problem. Quite rude of you to call the author shallow, spoiled, and entitled when their entire argument is geared towards a reasonable proposition that is aimed at helping others and benefiting the community.

  8. i just don’t get why it’s such a sin to make light of negative situations…. i mean, fix middle path, pave it, whatever, i dont care– safety is probably more important than tradition and beauty.

    but if i fall on middle path and get hurt, whether it’s a scraped elbow or a busted lip or a broken arm, yes, it’s going to suck, but yes, i’m going to laugh and joke and tell slow-mo stories of my tumble. making humor out of misery is HUMAN. i’d really rather not have people pissed off at me for laughing it off when i slide headfirst through the gates of hell instead of going home to write an angry email.

  9. I am sick of falling down on middle path. Middle Path is beautiful because of the trees and buildings around it, the people on it, and the sky above. When I am walking on the currently icy MP, I have to stare 6 inches in front of my feet the whole time so I don’t fall. Sure, crunchiness is nice, but I would trade crunchiness any day for the chance to walk down middle path in the winter and be able to look around me at the glittery snow all over the ground and the trees.

    Also, if the people who first built Middle Path knew that we were still using gravel, they would probably laugh their asses off.

  10. I like how they put dirt or whatever on top of the snow, that was genius. It really helped because you could get some traction. The sidewalks do get cleared, but not before they are iced. Sure, then they are salted, and everything is okay, but all of my falls have been on paved sidewalks, before any of the precautions could go into effect.

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