by India Amos
For the past two weeks, discussions about the social climate on campus have been taking place on Tuesday nights, with the first in Weaver Cottage and the second in Gund Commons. “There is always an undercurrent of misogyny [on campus] but it feels like, this year, it has been brought to everyone’s attention, and so you can’t really ignore it,” Kayla Arnold ’16, who helped found the sessions, said. “It’s sort of in your face.”
Arnold, a Community Advisor, said she became aware of just how strained the social scene on campus was this year when friends and residents started coming to her to express their discontent with the manner in which acts on campus, such as theft of Take Back the Night supplies from the Crozier Center for Women and various verbal attacks on the social media app Yik Yak, were being handled.
“A big issue we talked about [last Tuesday] is community on campus,” Arnold said, “and how it feels like there is some sort of link missing. We’ve been talking about, first, how we can build a community.”
Madi Thompson ’16, who is a Crozier manager, explained that the first meeting focused around how students felt the administration should have responded to what were perceived as attacks on Crozier. “We kind of talked about our frustrations with how we felt things had been addressed [and how] #RespectfulDifference didn’t get at the heart of it, which was the misogyny on campus and how we all felt there needed to be more happening as a follow-up,” Thompson said.
Arnold said these discussions sought to spark dialogue among members of the Kenyon community. “We should unite as a campus and say [that misogyny] is not okay,” Arnold said. “There has been a feeling that [support] has been lacking thus far.”
Although Arnold and Jill Engel-Hellman, director of housing and residential life, initially organized these climate discussions for the campus, the discussions attracted a crowd not limited to students. Seven students attended the most recent discussion, though around 12 professors and faculty members attend weekly, according to Arnold.
“The people who have been coming mostly have been administrative, I think,” Arnold said. “There’s a good variety.” Anna Cohen ’16, co-manager of Crozier, and Thompson agreed that the administrative turnout is one of the major benefits of these discussions.
“Crozier can’t really reach the whole campus, no matter how hard it tries,” Cohen said. “So I think it’s good to have these separate … branches.”
Peter Granville ’16 affirmed that these campus climate discussions are an important addition to the dialogue beginning to take form on campus. Granville is one of the leaders of the Men’s Discussion Group, which had its first meeting during Take Back the Night and was designed to get men talking about issues surrounding gender and sexuality.
“We’re hoping to defuse a sentiment of caring about issues that often get pushed under the rug,” Granville said.
The participants in the campus climate discussion group hope to continue the meetings until they feel as if the issues have been properly handled by the administration. The group says that the administration could do more to publically convey that misogyny is unacceptable.
“We have plans to meet again and then to try and bring our ideas to some of the senior staff, so there’s definitely a trajectory,” Thompson said. “And it’s cool how [the discussions] kind of started out as … just a gathering to figure out what was going on and [have] sort of become like, ‘We really think we can change this, and we’re going to try.’”