The number of Kenyon student organizations is constantly expanding. This past year, the campus has seen the establishment of several new clubs, including Bee Club and Fermentation Friends. Among the latest is the Kenyon Vegetarian, Vegan, and Plant-Based Society Student Organization.
Although the Vegetarian Society made its debut as an official organization in the fall semester, the idea started last year during the spring of 2019, when Cameron Austin ’20 sent a campus-wide email with the subject line “Goats Should Not Be Roasted,” gauging interest in founding a vegetarian student organization. Austin’s goal was to highlight the “way that our choices can affect other students and the lives of animals.” Initially, about 50 students showed interest, and since then, Austin has worked with his peers to establish the club as an official organization on campus.
“A lot of liberal art schools have similar organizations,” Austin said. At Oberlin College, for instance, students have the option of joining an Animal Rights club. Meanwhile, the College of Wooster also offers a Vegetarian Society. Austin was inspired by these organizations and even contacted Oberlin’s Animal Rights Club to obtain further information.
While the official titles of these clubs vary, their overarching focus remains the same: They serve to educate, raise awareness and provide a space for students who “care about their impact on this planet and want to engage in a more compassionate way of living,” according to Austin.
Although the name of the organization may seem intimidating, the club is by no means exclusive. Dina Knott ’21, the current Vegetarian Society president, affirmed that the club serves as a welcoming space for all.
“We’re not a hard-line vegan club,” Knott said. “It’s more about education and options.” Current members aren’t only vegans and vegetarians—some are simply interested in reducing their current meat consumption. She also believes that the club can mean different things to different people.
“For me, it’s mostly about climate change,” Knott explained. “There are a lot of different ways and reasons to eat less meat and less animal products and we want to be accepting of all of that.” Inclusivity is at the core of the club, and both Austin and Knott aspire to reach students who might otherwise be intimidated by such an organization. At the end of the day, the society can serve as a space for students to become more involved in environmental activism, animal rights and climate issues.
“We need a lot of people reducing some, not a few people being totally perfect,” Knott added.
Austin, who served as president last semester, said that much of the club’s work during the fall was taking the steps necessary to be officially recognized. After becoming an official campus organization, its goals turned towards education, awareness and outreach. They already made steps towards these goals at the end of their first semester with a screening of The Game Changers, a documentary about athletes who eat plant-based diets. The screening, which took place on Dec. 11, was the first of many educational films that the organization wishes to share with the Kenyon community.
In addition to screenings and educational events, the Vegetarian Society advocates for “better options in the dining hall and at catered events,” which Austin says is a recurring topic during meetings.
Future goals include inviting a speaker to campus and creating theme housing.
“We want to support students who are choosing to eat a more compassionate diet and educate students on the benefits of that,” Austin said.
This upcoming Friday, Feb. 14, the organization will host a Vegan Valentine’s Day event in the Cheever Room of Finn House.