By Julia Waldow
This semester could be the dawn of a new era for the Student Activities Office (SAO). The SAO has rerouted its system to create a different hearing process for Greeks and to more effectively cater to students in the wake of former Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Christina Haas’s departure last school year.
“When someone leaves an institution, you really do have the perfect opportunity to step back and examine what works and what doesn’t,” new director Laura Kane said. “And that I think is just super helpful for growth and development. It doesn’t have to necessarily be [during a] transition, but it’s a natural time to reevaluate.”
During Haas’s time at Kenyon, she presided over Greek-related cases while simultaneously serving as the advisor to these groups. These types of cases will now be brought directly to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Samantha Hughes said she thought the old system “made it confusing for the students.” “Like, ‘Are you my advocate or are you our adversary?’” she said. “[The new system] is more in line with what I think should have been happening.”
Kane also likes the new plan, which allows her to submit a report related to Greek life and then serve as a resource for students following a hearing process.
“I’m really excited about the changes because I think it allows me to do my job better and the [Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities] to do their job better,” Kane said. “I’m very much a part of identifying the problem and then also the solution, but there are other checks and balances in there with the [Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities], so that way there’s never the perception of favoritism. The office [of Rights and Responsibilities] exists for a reason, so why not use it?”
According to a Greek life member who asked to remain anonymous, favoritism surfaced during Haas’s administration, when groups with similar violations received different punishments.
“I think her relationship with certain people in certain groups affected the way that she disciplined people,” the student said. “If you were a group that had a lot of experience with her or had met with her a lot or were on good standing with her, it was easier for you to feel like you were fairly treated, compared to a group who didn’t really hang out with … her as much.”
In addition to outsourcing Greek-related hearings, should they arise, the SAO has divided up responsibilities within the office. Kane will be in charge of all Greek life and matters pertaining to the Business and Finance Committee, and Sam Filkins, assistant director of student activities for leadership, will direct organization and leadership matters. Kim Blank, assistant director of student activities for programing, will preside over programming.
“I think that the changes will be helpful in that students will know more precisely which professional in the office to go to,” Kane said. “It clearly defines our roles better.”
The SAO will also no longer facilitate Relay for Life. Instead, Lacey Filkins, the assistant director of new student orientation and community programs, will take on the task.
“Especially because it’s such a large thing, … it really does need the attention of the community service office,” Kane said.
This program is not the only thing to move, however. As “the last piece of the puzzle” in a relocation process, the SAO is slated to take over the former Office of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) spot in Gund Commons in the spring or the summer, Kane said. ResLife will move into the room next door, which used to serve as a computer lab.
“I’m really excited about it because it feels like a more lively space,” Kane said. “From what I’ve understood so far, a student needs a purpose to come to the office, and I don’t necessarily want that to be the case. I want students to feel comfortable stopping by, whenever.”
The SAO is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.