By Lili Martinez and Thomas Mattes
In an emergency meeting last night, Student Council conditionally approved a proposal to host an event on Saturday, April 28 following the official Social Board Sendoff on Friday. The approval was contingent upon the fulfillment of several requirements, and administrators present at the meeting expressed genuine concern, citing issues with planning and time constraints. At the end of the meeting, seven Council members voted in favor, none opposed and five abstained.
A five-member Student Council subcommittee, led by Ryan Liegner 13 and Charlie Fine 12, has been working since the announcement of Sendoffs date change to plan a Saturday event including food, a fenced-in drinking area and a contract with an outside security company to check student IDs and enforce school policies and state law. Student Council would host the event with volunteer support from Kenyon Student Athletes and student and Greek organizations volunteering their time. The event will be called Castaway.
Student Council approved the proposal on the condition that organizers resolve several issues raised during the meeting before the bodys next meeting on Sunday afternoon. Some Council members and administrators at the meeting were concerned about training for proper and safe handling of food, the layout for the fenced-in and cookout areas and limiting the amount of alcohol of-age students can bring into the area. They also asked the subcommittee to clarify rules for cleanup, the role of Maintenance and how they would recruit and train volunteers. The Council additionally required a contingency plan for the possibility of the events shutdown and asked the group to more fully consider liability issues with the outside security company contracted to work the event.
Liegner said the proposed timeline is reasonable, given the last-minute nature of the meeting. It seems like an acceptable timeline for Student Council of course its an exceptional timeline but it seems like something theyre ready to work with, he said.
Some are less confident, given the gravity of the issues left to resolve and the short timeline.
Right now, if youre asking me as an individual, Im not absolutely convinced that its possible to do this and to abide by regulations and be safe and responsible, Dean of Students Hank Toutain said. What happened this evening, I think appropriately, is that approval of the event and funding for the event was made contingent on a variety of requests. They have to do with following rules, how you can do this safely and responsibly, and well see later on whether it can happen or not. It wont be for lack of trying.
A Food Court on South Quad
Castaway, as proposed, centers on a picnic held on South Quad from 11:00 a.m. to roughly 4:00 p.m. AVI would cater an outdoor lunch followed by volunteers serving local hot dogs, quesadillas, pizzas, ice cream, wraps, snacks and candy. People Endorsing Agrarian Sustainability (PEAS) will help with the food.
Students 21 and over will be allowed to bring alcohol into the event, in keeping with the party policy used last year. Fences, with four entrances manned by an outside security firm, will contain the area in which drinking can occur.
Liegner and the rest of the subcommittee hope to preserve the Sendoff of past years. To not have Sendoff on Saturday would lose the camaraderie and tradition that Sendoff Sendoff on Saturday represents. With nothing on Saturday, we run the risk of students resenting those who make decisions like this for them, he said.
Liegner also said the subcommittee aims to show the student body that student government listens. [That we are] making this effort to make sure something happens on Saturday says something about what our school can do when we have a difficult and complex situation and turn it into something beneficial wanting to show that student government can do something good, something important for the sake of the students were meant to represent, he said.
Contesting the BFCs Bylaws
The night before the emergency meeting, the Business and Finance Committee voted to approve the subcommittees emergency budget request, sending the entire proposal to Student Council. The request, which totaled $3,194.40, included $1,130 for food and catering and $1,814.40 in security fees for both an outside firm and Campus Safety.
Perhaps the most complicated issue concerns the potential presence of alcohol at the event and whether the committee can reconcile that with BFC bylaws, which prevent it from allocating funds to events involving the consumption of alcohol.
Though students responded well to Liegner and Fines presentation at the BFC meeting Tuesday, Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Christina Mastrangelo strongly opposed the BFCs decision to go against their bylaws regarding alcoholic events.
Fine explained that the event was given a BYOB permit, allowing students to consume their own alcohol, but not for it to be served. [Associate Dean of Students] Tacci Smith extended this permit because of the special circumstances of the event, seeking to replace a tradition that was lost, he said.
Mastrangelo took serious issue with the BFCs decision. There is never a question as to whether or not we should fund an event with alcohol. We dont even give time and energy to those types of requests, she said. And they dont come our way because it is clear that thats not something the BFC funds … I dont agree with the money being used in the way that it is being used and I think it is really unfair to groups that have come to the BFC all year for things that follow the bylaws 100 percent.
Student Council President Ryan Motevalli-Oliner called the event difficult to categorize. Its a BYOB event, he said. So were telling students they can bring alcohol, but the event is not that we could have had a barbeque anyway on the South Quad without anything else. We could have just had the cookout, and students would be out there.
Funding an event that promotes drinking treads a fine line, according to Smith. I struggle personally about whether or not this is exactly how that money should be spent and more importantly about how much time and effort is going to be spent basically for students to spend a day drinking, she said. Smith has been working with Liegner and the subcommittee to make this event happen and to make it happen safely, because that is my first priority, she said.
Student Councils debate negotiated delicate territory Wednesday night for another reason. In voting, the Council chose to fund an event planned, essentially, by itself. Motevalli-Oliner 12 said, One [concern] was Student Council voting what they want as students rather than in their role as Student Council. Still, the decisions that were made were based on what is our role as Student Council, he said.
Toutain argued that the complicated funding situation warranted special consideration.
In this case, youre both the petitioner and the granter, he said. Student Council is asking for the money and Student Council is giving the money, so if you are another organization on campus that may already think that this is just a club for a select group of people, they may not think that youre being fair to their group [by funding your own initiative.]
Providing Safe Alternatives
Before Student Council debated the proposal Wednesday, the BFC took it up in an emergency Tuesday meeting. There, the debate focused more on justifications for funding the event and less on logistics.
One BFC member, Alexandra Kline 12, argued at the BFC meeting Tuesday that without the Saturday event, parties will take place, hosted by student organizations and Greek organizations running the risks of dangerous behind-closed-doors binge drinking trying to make up for the loss of Saturday, she said in the meeting. Is it worth running those risks, just so that the school doesnt need to worry about precedent or liability for what goes on over on the quad?
Another member of the BFC, Sam Baker 13, expressed additional worry about students skipping class for the Friday event. Knowing that the event on Saturday will happen, [students are] a lot less likely to skip class on Friday preparing for Sendoff, since they know it will be going on the next day, too, he said.
Kline said event organizers should make the student body aware of the potentially greater presence of the Sheriff and the state liquor board at the event on Saturday.
After roughly three minutes of discussion without Liegner and Fine in the room, the BFC members voted on the proposal. With eight members present, five voted in favor, none opposed and three abstained. The following night, Liegner and Fine took the proposal to Student Council.
Logistical and Liability Concerns
Despite the BFCs go-ahead, Wednesdays Student Council meeting brought several logistical issues to the fore.
In addition to Toutains concern that the event will violate BFC by-laws, Mastrangelo questioned the liability that hiring an outside security company would create. In previous years, the College has assumed all liability for underage drinking citations on South Quad during Sendoff a move that a professional security company will almost certainly not replicate.
Mastrangelo said at the meeting that Campus Safety, whose officers will be present to monitor the event, will implement a three-strike policy for underage drinking: if three students are caught drinking underage, the event will be shut down. Some students felt this strategy contrasted with past Sendoffs, when Safety officers seemed to be more lenient on students than they would have been the rest of the year.
Others at the meeting raised concerns that the proposal did not address important issues like providing utensils, training students and coordinating efforts with Safety and Maintenance.
A lot of [these] logistics you would typically plan months in advance, not a week in advance, and it feels, as much as theyve put a couple of weeks into this, they couldnt answer any of their questions with specific responses. And that concerns me, Mastrangelo said.
The subcommittee plans to present such details to Student Council at their regularly scheduled Sunday meeting.
Smith and Mastrangelo also both brought up the possibility that holding such an event and receiving funding for it from the BFC would set a precedent.
It is setting a really bad precedent for the BFC, Mastrangelo said. You know, what does this mean for the future? We say that were making an exception now, whos to say that we wont continue to make exceptions when it is convenient in the future?
Smith also said Sendoff itself even in past incarnations doesnt have a positive reputation among administrators. In some peoples eyes some administrators eyes this looks like a joke, she said. It looks like the students excuse for an event so that in the end students can sit on the quad and drink. I dont tend to see it that way, but some do.
For now, Liegner stressed that this event is necessary and will do more than provide a fun Saturday afternoon. We want students to be proud of attending Kenyon, because those helping to run the school have their interests at heart both in routine happenings and in spectacular events like this one, he said. Also, we just want students to have a good time.