Kenyon’s campus was largely deserted for Reading Days this past weekend, but it still showed several bright spots of color with rainbow flags displayed across campus. The flags celebrated the College’s inaugural Pride Weekend, which brought both alumni and prospective students to the Hill.
“I was more excited about this than I was about the Supreme Court decision, which is pretty surprising,” Robert Bennett, professor emeritus of classics and former associate provost, said. In the 1980s, Bennett became the first to teach gay and lesbian studies courses at Kenyon.
Kenyon Historian Tom Stamp ’73 presented his research on GLBTQ faculty and students in Kenyon’s early years and Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, critiqued the legal reasoning of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
A panel including President Sean Decatur and the student co-managers of Unity House, Nathan Durham ’17 and Rachel Gorlin ’17, discussed the need for a more cohesive queer community at Kenyon.
“I think [Pride Weekend] is very much in alignment with the principles of the Kenyon community,” Decatur said in an interview with the Collegian. “I think Kenyon … aims to be an institution, a community that is welcoming and supportive to all students and I think that’s an essential message for us to get out there.”
At a humorous presentation hosted by Everyone Is Gay co-founder Kristin Russo, audience members asked for advice on coming out to parents, being out in a conservative state and politely declining plaid from overly supportive grandmothers.
The College also hosted many events for prospective students throughout the weekend, including a discussion at the Crozier Center for Women.
“When I was a prospective student myself … there weren’t the resources on Kenyon’s old website to look up what they were doing LGBT-wise and that’s really changing this year,” Alicia Wright ’16, one of the co-hosts of the discussion and co-manager of the Crozier Ceter for Women, said. “I think it really helps add a face and a personable connection for them.”
However, some critiqued the weekend’s lack of diversity. All the former faculty and alumni highlighted by Stamp in his history presentation were white. There were also no transgender or non-binary presenters during Pride Weekend, according to Jillian Watts, assistant director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“I think, in general, finding representation of color at Kenyon College is something that we are working on to increase,” Watts said. “And that’s not just within our LGBTQ+ community, but within, a lot of other programming around the college. That’s one of the challenges for being at a predominantly white institution.”
Gorlin also addressed the issue of Pride Weekend’s diversity. “If we’re going to talk about intersectionality and stuff, let’s get people who are not necessarily cisgender, white,” Gorlin said.
Others took issue with the decision to host Pride Weekend over October break, a time when fewer people tend to be on campus.
“A lot of people are gone, and I think it would be a lot more prideful if everybody was here,” Evie Kennedy ’17 said.
Despite criticism, many alumni, students, and prospective students were glad the College hosted Pride Weekend.
“I’m excited to see what they’ve done for us,” Gorlin said. “People have their complaints, and I sometimes agree with them, but how cool is it that our school is doing this?”