by Nathaniel Shahan and Maya Lowenstein
Housing is a common source of grumbling at Kenyon, with students complaining about the thin walls of Mather and McBride Residence Halls, the black mold of the New Apartments and the price disparities between apartments and dorm rooms.
The North Campus Apartments (NCAs) have graced the campus since 2012 and provided apartment-style living to hundreds of students. Resembling suburban houses, the NCAs offer amenities unmatched by other apartments at Kenyon, includingfull kitchens with new appliances and ample living space. Construction for the NCAs cost between $500,000 and a $1 million per building.
As the most recently completed housing project at Kenyon, how do the NCAs stack up?
In a Collegian survey of NCA residents, many respondents characterized the NCAs as the best housing Kenyon offers. “It’s a lot better than anywhere I’ve lived the entire time I’ve been here,” Cristina Nunes ’15 said. Many residents, including Nunes, enjoy the apartments for their spaciousness.
Emilia Pazniokas ’15 appreciates the fact that an NCA allows her to get used to post-grad housing, and while she doesn’t have a landlord or a lease, she likes the fact that she is learning how to take care of a house of her own.
Complaints about the NCAs were largely referred to as mere annoyances rather than serious problems and were often the same complaints students in dorms express, such as thin walls. Pazniokas and her roommate Lila Greco ’15 explained that sound carries throughout the entire house and they often hear noise from outside their house, such as shouts from students walking by.
However, the two agreed that they have never been disturbed by music or party noises from neighboring houses.
Plumbing has also been an issue for some NCA residents. According to Reagan Tsimakoko ’15, the kitchen sink drainage has been a recurring problem, as it clogs a lot. “We always have to get a plumber to come in for the downstairs bathroom,” Tsimakoko said. Another plumbing-related issue, Nunes reported. She described her running water as “vaguely rusty tasting” and stated that the problem has not been completely fixed. The College plumber, Thomas Baughman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite these inconveniences, Tsimakoko is glad he chose this housing option. “I love to cook and have people over,” he said. “For what I want to … accomplish my senior year, it is great.”
Cooking as a highlight was echoed by other students, who agreed that the spaciousness and kitchen were their favorite aspects of the NCAs. A sentiment expressed by the NCA-dwellers was the wish to get off the Kenyon meal plan and rely solely on the kitchen. Alisa Rethy ’15 makes great use of her kitchen and believes having a meal plan and kitchen is “financially inefficient,” an idea that Nunes agrees with: “It is unnecessary to have such a big kitchen when we’re still on the meal plan,” she said. She would like to get off the meal plan if possible, a wish echoed by Rethy. Kenyon has made it very difficult for students to get off of the meal plan. If students could get off the required plan, this could help defray the additional costs of apartment living. An NCA single is $1,000 a year more than a dorm single, and an NCA double is just shy of that (though seniors pay the same rate as they would in a dorm double).
Heating inconsistency is another common problem in the NCAs. Pazniokas said, “I can’t get my bedroom temperature to be above 68 degrees.” Rethy complained that her NCA has an “eternal draft” and that the temperatures between rooms is inconsistent. Tsimakoko said the thermostats in his apartments don’t work very well, that the thermostat does not always reflect the real temperature.
In the past the NCAs have come under criticism for their cost and their resemblance to a suburban housing development.
Assistant Professor of political science Michelle Mood has been critical of the NCAs. In 2013, she commented on an article published by the Thrill criticizing the cost of the NCAs. In the article titled “10 o’clock list: Please Listen to Me Complain About My Beautiful House” written by former Collegian Editor-in-Chief David McCabe ’14, Mood commented that “they cost 13 times as much as my house in Gambier cost.” She followed this comment up with links to a real-estate page advertising significantly larger properties in the Gambier area for lower prices than the NCAs.
Mood said in an interview with the Collegian that students had complained to her before about the living conditions in the NCAs. One idea, floated by Mood, was that because students who live in apartments are able to afford nicer housing, they come from more privileged backgrounds and their complaints may be due to the fact that they are used to a certain level of luxury, and thus the complaints should be followed up to see if they are more than just disparities between a student’s home life and dorm life.
As for future housing at Kenyon, Mood believes students should be the ones to decide what the College builds, be it more apartments or more dormitories.
Few comments about the NCAs, positive or negative, have reached President Sean Decatur, though he admitted to never having asked about them. He has toured apartments on at least two separate occasions, once when he first came to Kenyon and again last summer, but never during the year when students occupy them.
Three years in, the consensus appears overall positive when it comes to the NCAs. Despite certain flaws and discomforts, students still consider the NCAs among the best living options at Kenyon. For now, at least, it looks like the NCAs have proven their worth to the Kenyon student body.