The above are some of the 14 recommendations a student-elected working group submitted to President Sean Decatur on April 19, four days past their announced deadline. This comes following student complaints earlier this year about a lack of transparency in administrative decision-making. Amid tension stemming from the closure of the Gambier Grill and planned changes to Summer Sendoff, Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, gave the eight-person group the responsibility of creating tangible policy recommendations for improving communication between the administration and student body.
“Collectively, the recommendations suggest a change in protocol and perception that we hope will result in consistent, clear, and fair communication between students and administrators,” working group co-chair Anya Schulman ’17 said.
The group, which has met five times since February, came up with short- and long-term recommendations. Some are concrete, such as the creation of an official bulletin board by the entrance of Peirce Hall to display pertinent announcements, while others are more loosely defined, such as educating first-year students about Kenyon’s administration during orientation.
Many of the group’s recommendations center on strengthening Student Council as an intermediary between the student body and administrators.
For example, the first recommendation suggests that each Council representative partner with one administrator to have regular weekly or biweekly meetings. It calls for monthly dinners between senior staff, members of the administration and Council representatives.
“One of the reasons why there’s been a lot of problems this year is that Student Council president Phoebe Roe, God bless her, does a lot,” Timothy Broderick ’16, chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, said. “A lot of the administration just goes for Phoebe. That is a problem when only one person is really the communicator. We’re hoping that, due to this increased interaction, when there are administrative policies that affect students … [the administrators] will already ask students because they’ll have formed relationships with students.”
The Board of Trustees may also play a role: the eighth recommendation is that Decatur hold open forums when trustees are on campus where trustees and students can air their concerns to one another.
The working group will have a follow-up meeting with Decatur to discuss the recommendations sometime next week, according to student co-chair Brian Pragacz ’17. To review the progress that has been made towards improving administration/student relations, Bonham and Decatur will meet sometime during the fall.
“Our hope is four members from the group this year will continue on to next year, and four new members will be elected in the early spring of 2017,” Pragacz said. “The idea behind this is that the four remaining students will actively consider issues as they arise throughout the year as well as listen to issues other students bring to those four members when the students don’t feel comfortable going to the administrators directly.”
Decatur did not wish to comment on any of the recommendations before sharing his feedback with the working group.