The Collegian sat down with two members of the Board of Trustees — Susan Tomasky P’17 and Deborah Ratner Salzberg P’09 — this past Friday to discuss the Board’s immediate agenda after the recent $75 million donation to the College. Both Tomasky and Salzberg are members of the Buildings and Grounds committee. Salzberg is also part of the investment committee while Tomasky, who is the mother of a former editor-in-chief of the Collegian, is a member of the Budget, Finance, and Audit subcommittee.
The trustees’ priorities during their fall meeting included the new library and the campaign they are pursuing for the library and financial aid. They looked at budgeting priorities and more routine projects along with the West Quad plans, and received updates on campus goings-on, such as admissions trends, which set the stage for tuition and other planning. As part of their fall meeting, the trustees took a tour of several buildings on campus, including Olin and Chalmers Library, Ascension Hall, Ransom Hall and Sunset Cottage.
The new library, which is intended to replace Olin and Chalmers Library in the next few years, was a priority even before the $75 million donation, according to Salzberg and Tomasky. Once the construction is completed, the new library will become another central gathering place for students on campus with expanded study spaces and improved student services. The project’s defining characteristic will be the facility’s ability to house updated technology. “The thing that has always drawn me to the library project, besides just the physical shortcomings of what we currently have, is the opportunity to address a lot of modern issues about academic life in its context,” Tomasky said. This may include an increase in computer lab space. According to Tomasky and Salzberg, there is no plan as of right now to improve the existing infrastructure to support this updated technology.
As stated in President Sean Decatur’s address to the Kenyon community during the $75 million donation announcement on Sept. 15, the College has an absolute commitment to renovating Ascension Hall and in addressing further accessibility issues on campus. Although there are not definite plans involving how the renovation will proceed and how the project will be funded, Tomasky and Salzberg emphasized this project will contribute to Decatur’s promise to increase Kenyon’s accessibility to 90 percent.
The Board of Trustees is still in the planning stage regarding the treatment of Sunset Cottage. Sunset’s long term function is still under consideration, especially in light of the new plans for the West Quad — an academic quad intended to house several social science departments. There is a newfound awareness of the building’s lack of accessibility, so it will be a part of the College’s push toward improved accessibility across the board. “From the tour last night, many of us who hadn’t been in these buildings in quite a while — what it made us all aware of was the accessibility issues and the need to figure them out and the need to address accessibility in those buildings,” Salzberg said. As of now, Sunset has a definite place at Kenyon in the near future.
The Capital Campaign
After the $75 million donation, the Capital Campaign is progressing as the College hoped it would. The College is still in the quiet face, and hopes to go into the public phase by next October. In campaigns like this, the quiet phase is where the College tries to secure significant gifts that send the message to donors that Kenyon has the philanthropic support to move forward. This donation sends that signal. “We need a strong capital campaign,” Salzberg said. “It is key to reaching all of our goals.”
Emily Birnbaum and Noah Nash contributed reporting.