Students launched two separate campaigns over the past several weeks to express frustration with recent administrative decisions. The “thumbs-down Kenyon” campaign is comprised of posters and lists of demands hung in dorms while the Alternative Senior Fund is focused on diverting money away from the College. The Alternative Senior Fund was started by Sam Troper ’18, while the “thumbs-down Kenyon” posters were created by Paul Murphy ’18, with input from others.
The campaigns are not affiliated, but they address a similar set of coconcerns. Troper and Murphy both said the administration has a tendency to implement policies without student input and, when the College does solicit input, they do not seem to care what students say. Troper and Murphy feel their campaigns are larger than any single situation or policy change. Rather, they said, their campaigns are about greater concepts: a lack of democracy, unequal representation by students on issues that affect them and miscommunication between administrators and students.
Both cited the implementation of the restricted K-Card access policy as the most obvious example of this disregard.
Murphy said, to his understanding, the topic of restricted K-Card access went to Campus Senate in 2014 and was not approved. “Two years later, it was enacted without being brought to Campus Senate,” Murphy said. “To me, that indicates a clear change, a decrease in the level of democracy.”
Student Council President George Costanzo ’19, who went through the 2014 Senate meeting minutes, said the K-Card policy was never voted on. “The concept was mentioned [in Campus Senate] and then just not discussed further,” Costanzo said. “Following that, Campus Senate stopped operating as a body.”
The “thumbs-down Kenyon” posters list several demands, including that “students should be given maximum freedom of choice” and “Kenyon should be a democratically self-governed community.” The majority of the posters are hung up around South Campus, particularly in the windows of Greek division housing. Murphy said more are on the way.
Troper started the Alternative Senior Fund on Oct. 26. He announced its launch in two emails: one addressed to the senior class and one to all residence halls on campus.
In the emails, Troper wrote about the administration’s “poor leadership.” He said he planned to donate $100 to New Directions, the Domestic Abuse Shelter and Rape Crisis Center of Knox County, instead of the Kenyon Senior Fund. He invited other students to give to New Directions “as a way of showing the administration that we would rather give our money to a cause that will use it well than a college which will misuse it,” according to the email.
The Kenyon Senior Fund is an annual initiative by the senior class and the annual giving staff, to raise money for the College. On average, seniors raise between $1,500 and $2,000, Director of Annual Giving Shawn Dailey said. Dailey said that as of Nov. 14, 30 percent of the senior class had participated this year.
Troper said 20 people had donated to the Alternative Senior Fund as of Nov. 14. Next semester, Troper plans to approach student groups on campus and compile what they say into a list of demands to give to administrators. “Ultimately, the idea of the Alternative Senior Fund is to be representative of all students, particularly students that have been affected the most in the most negative ways,” Troper said.
Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 believes a degree of conflict between students and administrators is normal. “I think there’s always going to be some amount of tension or chafing between students and administrators because we have different goals, different perspectives, different interests even,” Bonham said. “That’s natural and exists at probably every college and university in the country.”
She also feels that student voices matter now more than ever at Kenyon. Specifically, she cited Campus Senate’s recent restructuring. Though Senate has functioned sporadically for the past several years, it dissolved officially last semester. Now, the 13-person body is back. Last week, they created a sub-committee to revise their constitution in the hope that they will be able to clarify their role on campus, according to President of Campus Senate Ben Douglas ’18.
“Students for a long time were not involved in decision-making because these [Campus Senate and Student Council] were not as active and functioning as they should be,” Bonham said. “Now … they are more involved in those discussions and decision-making than they were in the past.”
The “thumbs-down Kenyon” poster campaign began on Nov. 9 partially in response to Senate’s revision of its constitution. Murphy said he hopes students will push members of Campus Senate to give themselves the authority to have a say over major policy changes about social and residential policy.
Murphy knows some students think the posters are vague, but said those behind the posters have specific concerns and demands. For instance, Kaylin Allshouse ’19, who helped create the idea for a poster campaign with Murphy, said many students do not know how administrators are interpreting the restricted K-Card access policy. Though many students sidestep restricted access by entering dorms behind residents, Murphy and Allshouse said they were told students can be written up for this behavior.
“How can we justify something that isn’t even written down and also that hasn’t been filtered through the government that Kenyon has in place for things like this?” Allshouse said. Bonham admits that there is no available document that indicates the punishment for students entering residence halls that are not their own without being let in by a resident.
Murphy hopes to show that there are many people who have similar opinions. He also welcomes the input of those who don’t. Manager of Snowden Multicultural Center Juniper Cruz ’19 is one of those skeptics. Cruz said she agrees that the administration has a paternalistic attitude toward students, but believes the poster campaign is misguided.
“A lot of this is talking about … party policy,” Cruz said. “But what about policies that have to do with diversity? Trans students, students of color? Things that are more complex.”
She added that she mistrusts the calls for a democracy. “When you have democracy at a college that is majority-white, majority-rich, they’re not equipped to make the best decisions for people of color,” Cruz said. “Talking about the idea of an absolute democracy doesn’t always have everybody’s best interests in mind.”