Starting next fall, lounges on South Campus will have different rules with regard to use and reservations — and will be outfitted with new furniture.
Although the lounges are technically not owned by any one group most are referred to by an organization name (DKE Lounge, Beta Lounge, PEEPs Lounge), and have the insignia and even composites of that group on the walls. Associate Director of Housing and Residential Life Lisa Train said the College wants to move away from identifying these lounges with specific student groups.
“We met individually with each of the division groups that live down south,” Train said. “Our main message is that not much has changed. It’s just wanting to reaffirm that these lounges are open to everybody. In order to make them ‘yours,’ you have to reserve them officially, through the Kenyon reservation system.”
The lounges will also be sporting new official names based on their location, according to Train. The DKE Lounge in the basement of Old Kenyon Residence Hall will officially be the West Old Kenyon Lounge, the Beta Lounge in Leonard Residence Hall will be the South Leonard Lounge, and so on. Groups will have to remove personal belongings from the spaces, but the administration has stated that composites and group-specific paintings may remain.
“There are no plans to paint over anything,” Train said. “I know that was kind of a source of contention with students.”
In addition, the College will replace the aging furniture in these locations with new wheeled furniture. Train said in an email to the Collegian that the College is unsure how much this furniture will cost; they are still waiting to hear back from the furniture companies.
The issues of ownership came to a head this past year due to Title IX complaints by female students, Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 said.
“This was prompted by concerns raised by female students about their access to spaces, especially on South Campus, for meeting and socializing,” Harper Bonham said.
The administration has been considering the changes for several years, according to Train.
“The Title IX complaint helped bring attention to the issue, but in past years we had an independent rep on division housing boards,” Train said. “They frequently said that the previous system felt awkward, as it wasn’t clear who really owned the lounges.”
The reaffirmation of rules was not received quite as warmly by some members of the Kenyon Greek community, according to Student Council president and PEEPs member George Costanzo ’19.
PEEPs is not a Greek organization, but does have both division housing and a lounge.
“The Greek presidents were all telling me that they were upset that their lounges were being taken away essentially, that there would be things being painted over, and that all their composites would be taken out,” Costanzo said. “They thought that this was the administration trending towards getting rid of Kenyon Greek life all together.”
The rumors that lounges would be painted surprised Train. “I have no idea how those started,” Train said. “We re-clarified with groups that we didn’t say that … I thought we were very clear.”
This unease with the new policies was not shared across all Greek organizations.
“Once I talked to other Greek presidents that weren’t in fraternities, those in sororities said it was a gender equality thing, and that was brought up because of a Title IX complaint,” Costanzo said. “Some of the information that I was getting from all these outside parties conflicted as far as what the information fed to them was.”
AD member Matt Mandel ’19 also felt this confusion.
“Speaking as a Kenyon student, I think it would be nice if the administration would be a little bit more clear,” Mandel said. “I think the administration should utilize Student Council and Greek Council more instead of just doing actions and talking about it afterwards.”
Mandel verified that he doesn’t think the new enforcement of the rules will have a dramatic effect on the way his fraternity uses the lounge.
Despite no immediate changes to division housing, Title IX and equality concerns may play a role in future shakeups.
“Do I give female division more spaces, do I take more away from the men … that’s not equitable. If I balance the male/female ratio, then the independent/division ratio kind of gets out of whack,” Train said. She added that a longer discussion with the division groups, as well as independent representatives, may take place sometime down the road.
The Collegian reached out to several other Greek organization members and did not receive a response.
CORRECTION: In print and in the original post of this article, the Collegian stated that the ADs own the rights to their lounge. The ADs used to own the rights to their lounge, but gave up their rights to the College in an agreement made in the 1990s. The article also misquoted Matt Mandel ’19. The Collegian regrets these errors.