On the heels of the College announcing changes to the timing and format of Summer Sendoff, Student Council has published an open letter to the administration and circulated a petition to return the event to its original weekend and format that, as of press time, had garnered more than 600 signatures.
This year’s Sendoff will be Friday, May 6, the final day of classes, and will include a wristband system allowing those 21 and older to purchase tabs redeemable for up to five drinks, the College said in a Student-Info email Tuesday. No other alcohol will be allowed on the event’s grounds, though Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president of student affairs, said the administration had not yet decided how to mark the boundaries where alcohol will be permitted prior to the event.
Sendoff, an annual concert event to celebrate the end of spring semester, has traditionally been held during the weekend prior to the last week of classes, which usually falls in late April.
Though Sendoff is scheduled for a Friday, students customarily continue the festivities with separate parties through Saturday, often referred to as “Extendoff.” Bonham confirmed that, as usual, 24-hour quiet hours will go into effect on the Saturday preceding final exams, meaning no social gatherings will be allowed on the day immediately following Sendoff.
“There’s no reason those celebrations could not take place the week before, as long as those organizations register their party and follow College policy,” Bonham said. “The format will be to focus on providing an environment for students who are legally of age to drink, as opposed to a more open environment where there was little opportunity for us to control who was of legal age to drink and who was not.”
Some student groups on campus, such as the Beer and Sex advisors, are concerned the tougher policies on alcohol consumption at this year’s Sendoff, as well as the College requiring students to pay for alcohol on event grounds, will lead to increased rates of binge drinking that night, especially among underage students.
“I’m disappointed,” Hannah Zipperman ’16, a Beer and Sex advisor, said. “I think banning underage drinking will only increase the binge drinking of underage students before they get to the event.” Zipperman said the hype surrounding Sendoff contributes to the pressure for students to drink irresponsibly. Bonham said she doesn’t expect binge drinking to be any more of a problem during Sendoff than on a normal weekend night.
Decatur said on Tuesday he was not fully aware of the changes.
“I’m not the best person to ask about it,” Decatur said. “I know that some part of it is the way in which alcohol is available, but that’s it.”
Student Council’s letter, published Wednesday on The Kenyon Thrill, says, “The fact that the administration continues to release announcements without collecting our input, or giving us any forewarning, suggests that they either do not trust students to be strong advisors, or they do not believe student input is necessary.” The letter also asks the administration to provide a written explanation for “why they did not get student input in making this decision” prior to Student Council’s meeting last Sunday.
Since the letter’s publishing, Student Council President Phoebe Roe ’16 said she has spoken with Decatur and Dean of Students Hank Toutain, both of whom she said were receptive to students’ feedback.
Roe was also quoted in Tuesday’s email announcement, prepared by the Office of Communications, giving her opinion on Sendoff in general. Though Roe was told beforehand her quotes would be used in a news release about Sendoff, she did not know the release would be about the date or changes to food and drink plans, and said she was disappointed that the specifics of her inclusion in the email were not confirmed ahead of time.
“I don’t want to say there was malicious intent,” Roe said, “because I just don’t know.”
Sam Clougher ’17, a Student Council member and the junior class president, said Councils petition garnered 628 signatures during Peirce dinner, with signatures on other sheets sent to the library, community choir rehearsal and academic buildings yet to be added.
Kim Blank, associate director of student activities, who is also the faculty advisor to Social Board, said that around winter break, administrators and the board’s student leadership began discussing the possibility of changing the event’s date.
Blank said the other date under consideration, April 29, conflicted with the College’s athletic calendar and the timing of the Board of Trustees’ April meeting, scheduled to occur April 28-30. These conflicts meant a lack of options for large-capacity backup locations in case of inclement weather. Blank also said the traditional timing of the event may have been inconvenient for those who observe Passover, which ends on April 30 this year.
Blank said she was not able to comment on whether the decision to change the date may have been an attempt to limit excessive drinking and associated behaviors during the event.
Those involved in this dialogue to change Sendoff included Blank, Social Board co-presidents Katie Goldman ’16 and Molly O’Connor ’16, Director of Student Activities and Greek Life Laura Kane, Director of the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) Justin Newell and Bonham.
Social Board, according to the 2015-2016 student handbook, is charged with helping plan the event in conjunction with the Student Activities Office (SAO). The previous year’s handbook provided more detailed specifications for Sendoff, such as what types of alcohol could be served and how certain areas of campus were to be enclosed, whereas this year’s version only mentions that the SAO is responsible for planning the event.
The announcement drew a strong reaction from the student body, many saying the new date would conflict with study time for finals, athletic events and musical performances.
The new May 6 date, for example, overlaps with the previously scheduled Kokosingers’ spring concert and the Department of Dance, Drama, and Film’s Spring Dance Concert.
“I was stunned,” Donna Maloney, administrative assistant to the music department, said of the announcement. Due to Sendoff, she said, “in 15 years, I haven’t scheduled any events on the last Friday and Saturday in April.”
“We booked our concert back in July, at Donna’s urging,” said Noah Weinman ’16, musical director for the Kokosingers. The group is now working on rescheduling the event.
Alex Benthem de Grave ’16, a member of Kenyon’s track and field team, said he was disappointed the new Sendoff would conflict with the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Outdoor Championships in Granville, Ohio, which will prevent him and his teammates from celebrating at the event.
“I’ve never been to Sendoff before,” Benthem de Grave said. “This was going to be my first year.” In previous years, Sendoff coincided with track and field’s optional “last chance” meet, which athletes sometimes take part in to improve their times before the end-of-season meets; Benthem de Grave chose to attend this meet during his first three years at Kenyon.
Abbie Erler, associate professor of political science, said she is concerned the date change means her students may be less focused on the final day of classes. Erler also said she found the event to be less disruptive for classes when, in the past, it took place on Saturday instead of Friday.
Some students are worried the date change may affect their performance on finals, whether they take part in the event or not.
“I will use the whole weekend — Friday to Sunday — to start preparing for my finals,” Lauren Wheeler ’18 said. “There are going to be drunk people all over campus … which means I’m losing a day to prepare.”
Emily Birnbaum, Gabe Brison-Trezise, Bill Gardner and Nathaniel Shahan contributed reporting.