One junior is so concerned about Kenyon sanctioning them for living off-campus that they swipe into their assigned dorm every day.
Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president of student affairs, sent an email on Nov. 19 to Kenyon students and parents reaffirming a longstanding College policy prohibiting students from living off-campus and vowing to enforce it beginning next year, after faculty, administrators and Village residents voiced concerns about the issue when Bonham assumed her position in July.
“If we have a policy, we should be enforcing that policy,” Bonham said. “Students living off-campus has become more of an issue over the last 10 years.”
Concerns associated with off-campus housing extend to strained relations between Gambier residents and Kenyon students, resulting from “noise, underage drinking and garbage in their neighborhoods,” Bonham wrote in the email.
Bonham said the College’s policy is motivated by concern over student safety. “We don’t know that they are living in spaces that have been inspected, [or] if there are smoke alarms in those houses,” she said.
As with all student conduct reviews, sanctions are determined on an individual basis.
“If we have information that a student is living in a non-sanctioned space off campus, then I think it would be as simple as going and knocking on the door of that space, and then moving forward with the conduct process,” Bonham said.
The student handbook states, “All students enrolled at Kenyon are required to live in College housing and enroll in the College dining plan. Students found living off campus without permission from the director of housing and residential life will be subject to disciplinary action.”
Two seniors and two juniors said their decision to live off campus was influenced by such factors as a lack of desirable housing on campus, the stress of the housing lottery system and the price of College housing, which they perceived as too expensive for what it is. Those interviewed wished to remain anonymous, as each was aware of being in violation of College policy.
“I was offered an entire house for the price of an NCA single,” said one anonymous junior, who shares the house with one other student.
The student living in this particular off-campus space said they pay less than the amount they would be charged for a single in an on-campus apartment. That student declined to share the exact dollar amount of their current rent. A single in any apartment on Kenyon’s campus costs $4,050 per semester.
The other junior interviewed said they pay less living off campus then they would living on campus.
Each of the four students living off campus said they have an official on-campus address, paid for by that student’s boarding costs. To avoid an additional living cost for a space they do not regularly occupy, some students enter into an informal agreement with another student, a process known colloquially as being “bought out.” One of the seniors interviewed described arranging to room officially with another student on campus, and then being reimbursed by the roommate for the unoccupied portion of the room.
Jill Engel-Hellman, director of Housing and Residential Life, said ResLife is aware of the practice of buying out.
She said this helps reduce the cost for those living off campus while allowing those who pose as their roommates to acquire double-and triple-sized rooms, which they may not have been able to get in the housing lottery without a roommate.
“Is that fair because only some students have the means to do this and it clearly interferes with the integrity of the lottery system currently in place?” Engel-Hellman wrote in an email.
One of the juniors interviewed suggested the problem of lottery manipulation was one with an easy solution — make it easier for students to live off campus. “If they made off-campus living ‘legal,’ or if they let you get out of Peirce, then there would be no manipulation of the system,” he said. That same student said that they would have opted to live on campus if more apartment-style housing were available.
Echoing Engel-Hellman’s concern about fairness, Kim Davidson ’18, who lives in an Acland Apartment this year and is in favor of the College policy in question, said, “That some people who pay room and board in addition to paying for utilities at a separate house seems a little bit unfair.”
One of the seniors interviewed said cost was the main reason why they pay for off-campus housing.
“The school just built all of these NCAs with full kitchens and everything,” the senior said. “But I can’t afford to cook in my kitchen because I [still] have to pay for Peirce.”
Bonham sent the email hoping to deter students from signing leases before the spring housing lottery, which Engel-Hellman said was intended to give “students the benefit of the doubt that maybe they didn’t fully understand the issue,” promote respect between students and the administration and “make sure the entire community is aware of our intention of now fully implementing this value.”
The email caused some who live off-campus to question what constitutes the Kenyon community.
One senior said, “How, if I live two minutes away from the main campus, am I not a part of the community?”
By Rachel Mitchell