This was originally published by The Kenyon Observer on January 14, 2013.
Today marks the beginning of a new (and my last) semester at Kenyon. People are back from winter break, or from semesters spent off campus ready to enter again into the daily grind. After every break, I find comfort in returning back to a place which holds friends, memories and familiar campus landmarks. In my first week of classes as a freshman, the president of my a cappella group advised us that every new year necessarily involves changes which require thoughtful consideration and a flexible outlook. As I enter my last go-around on this Hill, I can’t help but notice some of the changes underway, here in this place which can often feel so static and familiar.
What was originally dubbed a campus wide smoking ban apparently goes into effect today. No official proclamation has come from our Student Government, but emails from last semester indicate that the new regulations and designated smoking areas go into effect in January 2013. Though the language and regulations evolved following community input, this marks a milestone in the College’s regulation of its students’ behaviors from a public health angle.
Paving the Way
At the start of last semester, people were caught off guard by sections of Middle Path, in front of Old Kenyon, which were roped off and re-vamped. A number of aggregate compositions of gravel and concrete were being tested to determine the possible renovation of the campuses beloved “central artery” to make it more accessible.I haven’t heard anything recently, but expect the debate (and endless alumni input) to continue.
Greek life at Kenyon is shifting, with proposals for both a new fraternity and sorority making their way through Greek Council last semester. Greeks are also seeking recognition and a vote as part of Student Council. Frat.
In my four years, Kenyon has added Programs in Islamic Civilization and Cultures, Latino/a Studies, and expanded the Asian Studies program to include a joint major, the first of its kind. Rumors are circulating that the Environmental Studies program is considering adopting a similar structure. Enrollment in Arabic is at an all-time high, as are rates of study abroad. A coalition of students, faculty, and administrators recognize the challenges facing current Kenyon students and the rapidly-globalizing world they will enter upon graduation. These people are promoting changes in the curriculum and social fabric of campus which expand what it means to be a liberal arts institution while retaining Kenyon’s character, essence, and traditions.
The debate that started with an announcement about potential outsourcing of maintenance staff has yet to reach a conclusion. Negotiations are still underway, after the receipt of recommendations from the advisory panel formed last fall. The decisions that are made in the coming weeks impact how the College is perceived by its employees, the surrounding community, and by concerned alumni and students.
One of the largest changes facing Kenyon in 2013 is the departure of President S. Georgia Nugent. The search is underway, and those involved are encouraging student and faculty input on what should be required and expected of the new head of the College.
In her address to the entering class of 2016 during the annual Matriculation ceremony, President Nugent commented on the inextricability of beginnings and endings. Both bring new challenges and decisions to be made; they shape those who experience them. Kenyon is undergoing a series of changes, some more readily apparent than others. Deciding when, how, and to what extent these alterations are made requires the continual and persistent input of the student body and faculty, as well as a supportive and receptive administration. Kenyon’s Mission Statement declares that, “… A liberal education forms the foundation of a fulfilling and valuable life. To that purpose Kenyon College is devoted.” From the long-term health of students, to their mobility on campus, to the rights and assurances given to those the College employs, and what is available as a program of study here, decisions are being made which impact what that “fulfilling and valuable life” might look like here in Gambier. As students, we should resolve to be part of the process.