Section: Features

Tighter rules accompany evolution of Summer Sendoff

Tighter rules accompany evolution of Summer Sendoff

By Emma Welsh-Huggind

With finals just around the corner and classes wrapping up, it’s time for Kenyon students to send off with Summer Sendoff.

This annually anticipated and somewhat controversial event brings with it a history of administrative strife that began when students first thought to convene on the South Quad one spring evening long ago. Even before Sendoff was an official event, an affair known as “Spring Riot” was referenced by a 1980 op-ed piece in the Collegian. An apparently more violent affair, it was criticized for an incident involving injuries after fireworks were thrown into a crowd on the South Quad. This event, held originally “on the first warm Thursday night of the year,” would transform into today’s delight of the student body, and prickling source of consternation for the administration.

“It was just fun,” William Taylor ’85 said. “It’s fun to be out in the music and celebrating spring.”

In the 34 years since the first official Summer Sendoff in 1980, the face of traditional debauchery in the late spring sunshine has changed. The year-end celebration began with refreshments of beer for students, musical entertainment and as another Collegian article exclaimed in 1982, “a good opportunity for everyone to escape from academic pressure and relax before exams.” Taylor recalled one amusing incident in which The Romantics, creators of the popular song “What I Like About You,” mistakenly shouted “Hey Mount Vernon,” to the crowd.

But in 1987, changes were instituted that would begin to limit the heavy drinking and pleasant depravity assumedly involved with the occasion. Alcohol was available that year only by purchase, and by 1988, it would be banned from the event completely. Along with this new policy, the entire affair was moved to Peirce/Ransom Hall lawn, in order to remove the proximity to easily accessible alcohol in fraternity divisions in South Quad.

In 1990, students were encouraged by a member of the administration quoted in the Collegian to, “grab a blanket, a pair of shades, forget about the paper due Monday, leave the alcohol at home and plan on spending the entire day listening to the music.”

Throughout the early 1990s, Sendoff continued as a staple of spring at Kenyon. The event was held on a Saturday in late April each year, with musical acts that ranged from the relatively unknown to the fairly popular. Professors and other community members would bring their young children to sit upon picnic blankets, enjoying the day as a somewhat family-friendly event.  The administration, responding to complaints by these parents — one such objection was published in the Collegian — of student drunkenness and misbehavior continued to increase limits on the event. In 1995, students lost the ability to bring in their own cups or containers to the concert, with closer scrutinization by Campus Safety officers. As Heath Binder commented in the Collegian in 1997, these new policies took away from the spirit of Sendoff. “I used to think illegal substances made Summer Sendoff fun. Now I think they make it bearable.”

This somewhat forced theme of community participation has continued into the 2000s, as the administration made clear their intentions with such quotes as to “keep campus busy with events that are non-alcoholic and hopefully have interaction with the Village,” in 2002.

The final straw for many students was the 2012 decision to change the official day of Sendoff from Saturday to Friday, since Social Board claimed better bands could be booked for a Friday performance rather than a Saturday performance.

Experiences, criticisms and expectations for Sendoff vary broadly across our community and it is unlikely that there will ever come a day wherein the administration and the student body agree on the best way to celebrate the end of the year. The unbridled joy that manifests itself in the celebration of another spring at Kenyon cannot be diluted by administrative policy.  But even as the tradition is forcibly changed, its essence of chaotic happiness will continue to run more deeply than the rules.


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