The following is an open letter to the Kenyon community written by Student Council with support from select editors of The Thrill.
To the Kenyon Community,
Student Council has been working to serve as a voice for the students after years of stagnancy. The fact that the administration continues to release announcements without collecting our input, or giving us any forewarning, suggests that they either do not trust students to be strong advisors, or they do not believe student input is necessary.
We have our own feelings about the recently announced changes, but rather than write from our own perspective, we will let the students speak for themselves. Below is a compilation of feedback from emails with student council, a survey by The Thrill, YikYak posts, and Facebook posts, followed by a request for a response from the administration on behalf of Student Council.
The Thrill‘s Survey Results:
As of noon Wednesday, 214 people had submitted responses to the Thrill’s survey.
In response to the question: Do you like the new Sendoff changes? 210 people responded “no,” 3 people answered “indifferent” and 1 person left no response. No participants indicated that they were in favor of changes. The following are brief comments submitted by students.
“These changes are ridiculous. Not only do they conflict with already planned events (Dance Concert, Kokes Concert) but they also guarantee more problems with alcohol. Having it the last day of classes only encourages more drinking, and removing Extendoff won’t keep people from drinking all weekend – it will just encourage them to do it secretively, which is not only dangerous, but it ruins the quiet for those who need to study.”
“This is ridiculous- send off is a huge deal here and honestly the fact that you guys are changing this really just sucks. Really really disappointed with Kenyon right now.”
“No student input whatsoever is not an appropriate way to treat us as adults.”
“The new administration is taking this school in a very non-Kenyon direction. I decided to come to Kenyon four years ago because it claimed to be a place the fostered community and respected and listened to its students’ unique voice. I feel like I’m watching that voice be strangled out as the administration tries to craft its own new image for the college. I can’t believe I’m at a point in my life where I can honestly say I can’t wait to leave Kenyon, because these changes are moving us towards becoming a school I would never have applied to. No wonder some of the most widely respected and cherished administrators, who have helped shaped Kenyon into a place we know and love, have decided to leave. Seeing where Kenyon’s going, I would bail out too.”
“This is probably one of the most ill-advised and inconsiderate decisions the school has ever made. Those involved are delusional if they think that this is in any way beneficial to the student body. Not only will students not be able to fully enjoy themselves on an “hey, we did it!” end of the year celebration of our social, emotional, and academic goals but also the academics that proceed sendoff will be greatly affected. In addition this, in my opinion as a senior, is very telling of the direction the school is going in terms of their views, values, and encouragement of social aspect of life. Namely, the school is now making it harder and harder for students to entertain and enjoy themselves. The “small community” aspect that I came to Kenyon for is now unappealing because of the restraint that Kenyon puts on those who live in the community.”
“This alum said it perfectly: As an alum, this is highly disappointing. When I was a student, I was treated like an adult, and encouraged to make my own choices and live with the consequences. It appears that the administration is now taking the role of ‘babysitter’ in lieu of actually leading. I plan to withhold all future donations until this administration restores lifetime traditions and freedom’s back to the students.”
“Am I wrong in feeling that this year has been the administration doing things that the students hate, the students getting mad, and the administration ignoring us?” 114 upvotes
“Seriously the worst part of the cove/sendoff is realizing we as students have no real recourse when we’re getting fucked over. There’s no accountability for the admins to the students they administrate.” 36 upvotes
“The problem I have with the administration is that even after all of us being upset, they’ll ignore it and offer no explanation. it’s like they think we were 5 and they’re our parents.” 47 upvotes
“This is some bureaucratic bullshit attempt to control what little we had left in terms of social gatherings, and for what? Congrats Kenyon admin, expect no one to support the Kenyon fund this year” 37 upvotes
“I hope Kenyon is ready for people to tell admitted students not to come here because the administration is ruining the social life.” 61 upvotes
“Admins don’t respect the student body! They are manipulating us by putting Sendoff before reading days so they can indiscriminately shut down all parties that weekend! Were we not supposed to notice?” 71 upvotes
“Before sendoff was a safe space for people to socialize and, yes, drink. I fear that it will now become yet another event for which students feel the need to pregame. That is dangerous.”
“Since Kenyon has effectively eliminated the idea of a safe, regulated party on South Quad during Sendoff, students will no longer drink outside. Students, and specifically those underage – the very students you are trying to target. They will be drinking hard alcohol, 80-proof and up, because that’s what will be available, and by expediting the process of getting drunk, the chance of being caught is lower.
This entire year, I and my fellow seniors have watched as Kenyon has gradually thrown away things that help make our community special. Getting rid of off-campus housing. Demolishing the Cove (with no real plans to establish anything in its stead). I always hoped that as an administration, you had faith and trust in the students that you selected for admission to this institution. I know now that you do not.”
A list of student groups whose events will be affected by the changes, submitted via email and in person:
- Kokosingers Spring Concert
- Colla Voce Spring Concert
- Spring Dance Concert
- Psychology students who are presenting at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference
- Kenyon’s Track and Cross Country Team
- Queer Women’s Collective
- Beta Fraternity
- Fools on the Hill Improv Comedy Group
- Kenyon College Men’s Soccer
…and likely countless others.
This list represents a number of groups whose events and their importance will be marginalized by the change of date. If your organization has been affected by the date change or you have any feedback for Student Council, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will update this post.
Does this cover every opinion on campus? No. But if nothing else, we hope the excerpts above underline that students are angry, and not just about the changes to Sendoff or the closing of The Cove. Students are angry because they have been ignored and disrespected.
Still, the fact of the matter is, Kenyon is our school: regardless of all of the things that make us different, we are all Kenyon students. This is an opportunity for us to take a hard look at where the school has been and consider where it should go. If we can come together, stand up for one another and fight for what we deserve, we can make a change. Should we be mad? Sure, get mad. But also, get smart, be directed, be intentional and constructive.
To that end, on behalf of Student Council, we ask that the administration answer, in writing, why they did not get student input in making this decision. In answering this question, we can begin a constructive discussion about where we will go from here and work to preserve channels of dialogue between students and the administration. We ask that they provide a response by Student Council’s weekly meeting, Sunday at 1pm. As usual, everyone is invited to attend our meeting which will be held in Leach Dining Room. Failure to respond to this question will lead to further review by Student Council and Campus Senate.
We want to believe that the administration loves this school. In fact, we do believe the administration loves this school. What we do not believe is that this was an oversight. If this is a place that fosters critical thinking, critical dialogue, collaboration, this action and the actions of the past few weeks have distinctly contradicted that. If we’ve noticed anything, it’s that this announcement has brought students together against the administration. If that is what they want, that is what they’re going to get.