Just as the U.S. has historically excluded people of color and the LGBTQ+ community, housing at Kenyon has been similarly exclusive in the past, according to Juniper Cruz ’19. But she feels that as a campus, the College is improving access to inclusive spaces.
Her new home behind Farr Hall is a testament to that improvement.
On the grounds where the Gambier Grill — colloquially known as the Cove — once stood, two new buildings were constructed this summer: one white, the other mustard-yellow. Unity House and Snowden Multicultural Center, respectively, moved into the new apartments this semester, and the students who live inside them are excited about the coming year in these spaces.
Cruz is the co-manager of Snowden alongside May Chen ’20. Both expressed that they like the new location and Chen added that it already feels like home.
Part of the rationale for moving Unity and Snowden to this spot was the desire for a more central location. Whereas in the past their programming took place on the fringes of campus (Snowden was on Chase Avenue near the Eaton Center and Unity was a North Campus Apartment), their spaces are now easier to access.
Chris Kennerly, associate dean of students and director of diversity, equity & inclusion, serves as an advisor and administrative liaison for both Snowden and Unity. He emphasized, however, that it’s the students who run both houses, not him.
“We had talked about — in the 2020 Plan and the Master Plan — about bringing Snowden and Unity closer to the center of campus,” he said.
Cruz said she appreciates the centrality, even though Snowden’s new building is smaller than the previous one. “Old Snowden definitely felt like a different part of the world because it was so far from everything, so removed,” she said.
Inside Snowden, students filter in and out of the common room and up and down the staircase. Both Snowden and Unity have the capacity to house eight students, but currently only seven reside in Snowden. Various works of art lean against the walls, and Cruz and Chen mention that they hope to hold an “open shelf” program in the house this year that will allow students to drop off and pick up art supplies and books.
“It’s very much a public space,” Chen said. “We want to make this as accessible as possible.”
Cruz and Chen are developing new programs for Snowden, some of which are already happening. Every Sunday at 12 p.m., they hold weekly meetings in the house, and they are in the process of setting up coffee houses. Sisterhood (an organization that provides support for women of color at Kenyon) holds their meetings in the space every Friday at 6 p.m., and Cruz imagines that other groups will likely do the same going forward. They plan to hold themed events as well, like an event at Halloween — Cruz’s favorite holiday — in which they’ll discuss monstrosities in different cultures.
“This space is one in which people come here and they know already that they don’t have to explain themselves,” Cruz said. “They don’t have to prove that they are worthy of existing.”
Ez Raider-Roth ’19 and James Lituchy ’20 are the co-managers of Unity House, and both appreciate the new location. Raider-Roth said that many more people are stopping by compared to the number of visitors during their tenure in an NCA, and that this feels like an upgrade from the previous setup.
Raider-Roth, who uses they/them/theirs pronouns, said that it “feels like our house instead of an NCA that they wanted to make into our house.” Lituchy agreed, adding, “It feels like its own space.”
Unity holds its weekly meetings on Sundays at 3 p.m. Students come and discuss topics related to the LGBTQ+ community, some of which are preset before they gather. Brightly hued flags representing different sexual orientations and gender identities hang in the windows on the first floor, and snacks are laid out on a table near the kitchen.
Other programming is still in the works, according to Lituchy, but they plan on holding Queer Beers — a party in which all the LGBTQ+ groups on campus gather in a less heteronormative space — every month or so and participating in LGBTQ+ Pride Month in October.
In terms of other Kenyon housing being more or less inclusive for LGBTQ+ students, both Lituchy and Raider-Roth cited the reaction to transitioning some restrooms in first-year housing to a gender-neutral designation.
“There was some conflict that arose,” Raider-Roth said. “People showed their ugly sides at times of change.”
Additionally, they added that the south part of campus does not always feel like an inclusive atmosphere for the LGBTQ+ community.
“I feel like South [campus] tends to feel a little bit more stiflingly heteronormative,” Raider-Roth said. “And that probably just has to do with Greek life, not in a bad or a good way, but … Greek life, by definition, is binary and heteronormative.”
Lituchy affirmed the necessity of having spaces like Unity set aside for students, as did Chen and Cruz. Chen added that Snowden will be purchasing the flags representing the countries of origin of all the international students who attend Kenyon, and Cruz described the joy her Puerto Rican friends feel when they come into her room and see her Puerto Rican flag.
“When you see people who share a culture with you, and share experiences with you in a very general sense, it’s comforting to see,” Cruz said. “Their room becomes a room in which you feel celebrated.”