Gray modular units line Ransom Lawn. Temporary orange fencing circles Gund Gallery. During the day, noise from construction happening near Lentz House and on Gaskin Avenue disrupts the peace. Some Kenyon students lament that the construction happening on campus makes the campus uglier (see the Facebook group “Kenyon Memes for Modular Unit Loving Teens”).
One can wonder, though, how prospective students feel about the campus in flux. As it turns out, Kenyon tour guides and the Office of Admissions do not find it very difficult to advertise the changing campus.
“I’m just pretty transparent about it,” Ethan Bradley ’20, a tour guide, said. “The fact that we won’t have a library for a couple of years is probably not the straw that broke the camel’s back. If a prospective student decides not to come here, there were probably other, more significant, reasons why.”
Prospective students and their parents are at worst indifferent towards the construction, according to tour guides. The guides do not have to make any particular effort to explain the construction because, they say, prospective students have the same reactions they have always had to Kenyon’s campus.
“I think the weather recently has been much more of a concern to people, to be perfectly honest,” Co-Head Tour Guide Nate Rosenberg ’18 said. “And while there is a lot of construction happening, it does not take away from how beautiful all these buildings are … A lot of people are still commenting on how beautiful the campus is.”
Bradley concurs. “[Prospective families] still see Old K. There’s no construction on South Campus so that all still looks really pretty. It’s all still gorgeous upon first impression.”
Thomas Stanton ’19 thinks prospective families view Kenyon’s devotion to campus improvement as a positive thing.
“I mention the 2020 plan … throughout my tour,” Stanton wrote in an email to the Collegian. “I think a lot of parents especially view [the plan] positively. More development equals more resources that their student will be able to use when they come to Kenyon … In town, I discuss the new retail space and bar that will be constructed. Prospies respond positively — they are excited about having a new library and new spaces to haunt during the weekend.”
The construction also fits nicely into part of the general brand that they say Kenyon projects to prospective families, according to Stanton. “We like to say that we are aware of our issues and we aim to constantly improve things,” Bradley said. “Sunset [Cottage] is not accessible to people who are not able-bodied, so they’re making new English buildings and they’re making them accessible. And there’s going to be a huge renovation to Ascension to make it accessible too. So it’s not hard to put a positive spin on all of the construction because it is positive.”
But one sophomore, a specialty tour guide who shows prospective students and families specific parts of campus, mentioned that they find it difficult to seem excited about the 2020 Plan when it will not be completed until after they graduate. They wanted to keep their name and gender anonymous due to fear that the Admissions Office would not view them as the right person to promote the College. Although prospective students do not usually ask about the construction, the sophomore dreads needing to seem enthusiastic when they do. “It’s like working at Disney,” they said of making sure the tour leaves a good impression.
Yet for future community members, the construction happening at Kenyon seems to be sign of much good to come.
“For the most part people see change as positive,” Bradley said. “Because [prospective students] don’t go here yet … they don’t have the lens of what Kenyon looked like before informing what they think of the campus. It’s still a gorgeous place to be, up on this hill in rural Ohio. Kenyon is still Kenyon.”