Section: Features

Owls, AI and protests: the many roles of Campus Senate

Kenyon’s Campus Senate may not have 100 senators, but what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in dedication. Section I of the Senate’s constitution claims its first function is “to serve as a forum in which students, faculty and staff communicate and consider matters of general concern to the College.” But how does this forum communicate, and what matters do its members discuss? 

Cooper Bertschi ’26, student co-Chair of the Senate, described the Senate as a place to “express what needs different constituencies have and see where those groups can work together.” Campus Senate generally serves as an intersection between different facets of campus life, including student government, the student body and staff.

Bertschi is one of three co-Chairs alongside Associate Professor of Physics Madeline Wade, who currently serves as the faculty chair, and Database Analyst and Student Work Manager Jon Lawrence, who is the staff chair. In addition to the chairs, the Senate includes one representative for each Senior Staff member (the President, Vice President and Provost). There is also a representative from each class year. Chairs are elected by the entire student body, while each class year’s representative is elected by their class. 

Each co-Chair attends their respective Council meetings. As the student co-Chair, Bertschi attends the weekly Student Council and monthly Senate meetings. One of his key roles is communicating information between the Senate and the Council. For example, the Council announced that social spaces including Weaver Cottage and the Gunderdome are being updated, which Bertschi conveyed to Campus Senate. Likewise, when Wade announced that the faculty council decided to switch from credit units to credit hours, Bertschi communicated that to the Student Council. 

“It is a misconception that [Senate] is a policy-making organization,” Bertschi commented. He explained, “Campus Senate is not necessarily a be-all and end-all in terms of making policy, it’s more … talking about things being reviewed and making suggestions.” Campus Senate voting to approve something does not mean it is definitively approved; however, it does move the initiative forward toward those who can make final decisions such as Senior Staff and the Board of Trustees.

Each year, the Senate receives a major task from Kenyon’s president, typically a request that could be resolved with a new statement or policy. They then send this policy back to the president for consideration. Past charges include changes in protest policy, smoking policy and picking out a new moniker for the College (that resulted in the Owls). Given that President Julie Kornfeld is newly instated, the Senate does not have a major request this year. 

Another recent project of Campus Senate was reviewing the “new policy on posting, email communications, and signage,” Bertschi said. “We reviewed the policy drafted by Senior Staff, gave them feedback, and then that was instated.” The result was that event promotion emails are no longer sent to student-info; instead, KCon sends a list of the day’s events every morning, and events-digest summarizes them all each evening. Campus Senate played a large part in helping this policy come to fruition, hoping to declutter people’s inboxes. This change does not affect all-student emails, which remain an unmoderated Google Group.

The Senate is currently working on a policy regarding AI, as Kenyon does not have a consolidated statement regarding its usage on campus. Campus Senate is holding an open meeting on April 2 during Common Hour in the Alumni Dining Room, where all students are welcome to attend, ask questions and make suggestions. “Anyone interested in this topic is welcome and encouraged to stop by to share their thoughts!” Bertschi wrote.

While Campus Senate may be slightly more removed from day-to-day student life than Student Council, it is an excellent space for students, faculty and staff to come together and discuss topical issues. Monthly Senate meetings are open, and Bertschi encourages anyone interested to join them!

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