By Henri Gendreau
President Sean Decatur made his first appearance at Student Council on Sunday to discuss his nascent Kenyon 2020 plan, calling on the Council to form committees to explore policy implementation next fall.
In discussions he has had with members of the Kenyon community, Decatur said the cost of and accessibility to a Kenyon education have emerged as dominant themes.
In the past few months, Decatur has visited seven cities across the country, speaking with hundreds of parents and alumni about what the future of Kenyon should look like in the coming years.
He said accessibility emerged as an important priority with those constituencies, too.
“There’s remarkable consistency across all of the conversations,” Decatur said.
Decatur said elements of the 2020 plan would include explorations into how Kenyon could increase the amount and type of financial aid, how the College could control the rising cost of tuition and what ways Kenyon could incorporate internships, experiential learning and possibly change the calendar year into a Kenyon education.
“In the course of the next two weeks, I’ll have a kind of initial summary of those conversations that will be shared with the whole community,” Decatur told the Council.
He hopes to have it posted online so parents and alumni will have easy access to the plan.
Rising tuition and lack of financial aid are “by far the thing that comes up number one on the list in terms of challenges across the board” that Kenyon needs to address, he said.
“Number two is the notion of demonstrating the relevance of a liberal education,” he said.
Decatur stressed the importance of finding ways to incorporate the curricular with the co-curricular. “We need to find ways to better connect and integrate those,” he said.
One focus that did not come out of his conversations with alumni and parents, though, was that “on campus, I’d say one of the things that’s most striking is everyone is super stressed out,” which Decatur said could lead to “squeezing out time for meaningful reflection” in both student and faculty schedules.
“His impressions of the school in my mind were actually really accurate for someone who’s been here for eight months, nine months,” Student Council President Kevin Pan ’15 said.
“Down the road I expect to see a lot of change just in building the school up in general, making Kenyon this place that paves the way for other liberal arts schools,” Pan said.
“I’d like to form, basically, working groups that are mixtures of faculty, staff and students to look at some of these [issues],” Decatur told the Council, to address “what are ways that we can get some of this organized over the course of the next four or five weeks before everyone leaves, so as soon as folks are back on campus, we can get a really strong start.”