Unity House will throw its first all-campus party ever on Oct. 28. As co-host of Peeps O’Kenyon’s (PEEPS) annual Halloween party in Old Kenyon Residence Hall, the group hopes to cement its role on campus and improve the College’s weekend scene for queer and transgender students.
The Halloween party comes at the same time as a larger campus conversation about promoting diverse and inclusive party spaces. Last month, the PEEPS hosted their annual Deb Ball, a party that, in past years, was advertised as a crossdressing event. Although PEEPS did not promote it as such this year or last, some students still interpreted it this way, a fact some transgender and nonbinary students said they found hurtful and alienating. The College also dealt a blow to the campus party scene in September when the athletics program decided they would not allow sports teams to host registered alcoholic events. This move cut down on the number of non-Greek organizations who have the resources to host parties for the entire campus.
“A lot of queer people on campus have voiced that all-campus parties do not feel accessible/safe for them due to the heteronormative environment that accompanies many greek life parties,” Ez Raider-Roth ’19, who co-manages Unity House and uses they/them pronouns, wrote in an email to the Collegian. They said queer students were more likely to feel included in a party that had Unity’s name attached to it. “We need to show queer people at Kenyon that they have as much right as anyone else to go and enjoy a party at Old K,” they said.
PEEPS has struggled to fund its Halloween party in past years, according to PEEPS co-president Alexander Bennett ’18. This is because the organization keeps its membership dues low and therefore has a smaller party budget than most social organizations. PEEPS was a Greek organization until 2014, when it voted to leave Greek Council. It used to sponsor the party with the Alpha Delta Phi (AD) fraternity. Last year, when the ADs were not co-sponsors, the PEEPS struggled with the heightened financial cost of throwing the party alone.
Raider-Roth said they recently started attending PEEPS meetings and approached the PEEPS about co-sponsoring the party.
Neither organization interprets this event as a direct response to Deb Ball. “We have been wanting to collaborate with peeps [sic] for a long time because of their alternative, easy-going vibe,” Raider-Roth wrote.
In an email to the Collegian, Bennett said PEEPS was “excited to host this weekend’s party with a group that reflects the inclusivity and acceptance Peeps believe in to a much greater degree than our former co-sponsors.”
Some students see it as a step forward. In the week leading up to Deb Ball, Cat March ’19 published an article on The Thrill criticizing the event. They said they are excited for the Halloween party. “This is exactly the kind of progress I was hoping for when I wrote my article,” March wrote in an email to the Collegian. “I’m also excited to see how the PEEPs and Unity plan to work together to create fun, inclusive spaces moving forward.”