Kenyon College no longer has a fully residential campus — at least for this year. With a historically large number of students on and off campus for the 2021-22 academic year, Kenyon’s Office of Residential Life was forced to find new housing options for students. These include off-campus living for a select group of upperclass students in a break from a long-held residency requirement. Since settling in and starting classes, students have begun to discover the advantages and disadvantages of living in these new, atypical residences.
The Kenyon Inn, a hotel that typically accommodates short-term visitors to Gambier, has been converted into a residence for the fall semester only, housing approximately 50 students. Complete with an assigned Community Advisor (CA) and consisting primarily of doubles, the Inn is spacious and centrally-located. However, the location can be inconvenient as it is relatively far from most residential areas and students can only enter from one back entrance. Each room has air conditioning and a private bathroom that is cleaned by the Kenyon Inn Staff weekly. Hotel furnishings, including the bed and television, have been removed and replaced by campus furniture, though several students reported shortages of desks and drawers due to campus’s high enrollment.
Roommates Sally Vogel ’23 and Eleni Bethke ’23 picked the Inn as their first-choice housing option because both plan to study abroad in the spring. With traditional dorm rooms in such short supply, neither wanted to claim one just to vacate it the following semester. “We also thought it would be a perk living in a hotel — you know, the suite life,” Vogel said.
In contrast to most traditional dormitories, the Kenyon Inn has no communal spaces to gather in, reducing the chance of organic encounters with neighboring residents. Vogel doesn’t take that as a loss, figuring those spaces have become less used since the pandemic began. Despite the private setup, there is clear evidence that college students live there: “We’ve never met our neighbors, but we hear screeches and concerts through the walls,” Bethke said.
Another option available for students this year is the McIlvaine Apartments, located a short walk northwest of Bexley Hall. The 10 apartments housed faculty members until they were first reclaimed for student usage during the 2020-21 school year, and now fit three students per unit, an increase from last year. Paul Ridder ’23 lives in a single room with two housemates and finds the accommodations, which include a kitchen and furnished common area, comfortable. Despite having access to a myriad of amenities, commuting — including walking to campus and laundry facilities — is a notable disadvantage. “Every day, I have to plan when I have to leave the house and what time I come back,” Ridder said. “It’s a 20-minute walk from Peirce [Dining Hall], so if I forget something, I can’t just walk back to get it.”
Despite the distance, Ridder reported that he was satisfied with his choice. Jack Cheston ’22, another McIlvaine resident, really enjoys living off campus, even if only by a short walk. “It gives you an opportunity to engage in the parts of Kenyon that you enjoy or [that] are good for you and disengage from the rest,” he said. Cheston also mentioned that the residence feels more like a home than other options and speculates that it may eventually become a more social part of campus. Cheston’s only complaints are the lack of space — it’s a bit too cramped for three residents — and that the considerable distance from campus forces him to drive more frequently.
While the McIlvaines are a 20-minute walk from campus, students who live in the Pines of Apple Valley commute just as long by car, the furthest departure from Kenyon’s previous residency requirement. Students looking for that change chose an apartment in one of several configurations before the housing lottery began. The Pines units provide greater amenities than most on-campus apartments, including a dishwasher, in-unit laundry machines and access to a golf course. Though the distance is a barrier to students who do not own cars and rely on the Knox Area Transit (KAT) shuttle for transportation, Katie Mazzolini ’23 finds it provides a useful boundary between her classes and living space that hadn’t been available during previous semesters. “Sometimes, living so close to where you learn can be too much,” she said.
Though the departure from the campus residency requirement was far from intentional on the part of Residential Life, students are finding the best — and worst — aspects of their new choices.