The Community Planning Group submitted a list of recommendations to President Sean Decatur on Feb. 25. The group was convened in response to the controversy over Playwright-in-Residence Wendy MacLeod’s The Good Samaritan, which critics felt included a racist portrayal of a Guatemalan character.
Decatur created the group two weeks ago to address issues of racial insensitivity and freedom of artistic expression. This need arose after members of the Kenyon community reported they felt alienated and unheard in conversations following MacLeod’s cancellation of the play.
“People on various sides of the disagreements … felt that, one, they were not being heard or heard correctly, and two, they did not feel as though they had been given the opportunity to speak,” Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ted Mason said.
Rita Carmona ’19 is a member of the working group, as well as a member of several affinity organizations, including Latinx student association Adelante. “There’s a problem on campus with critical discussion, so we need to a foster a culture on campus and also create a community that can critically listen and critically speak,” Carmona said.
The group is working in the wake of activism that has swept campus in the past several days, including a sit-in protesting racism and hate speech.
On Feb. 26, several students sent emails with a statement addressing offensive usage of the n-word, stating that College administrators have not done enough to adequately address discriminatory actions on campus. Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said the Community Planning Group is an example of the College addressing racial tension on campus.
“One question is, how do you effect cultural change?” Bonham said. “And that’s something that we need everyone to be engaged with. The conversations that we’re having through the community planning committee will hopefully help in that regard so that we can really hear each other when things happen and try to resolve them.”
The other students in the group are Sriya Chadalavada ’19, who serves as Student Council’s vice president for academic affairs, and Ben Douglas ’18, the co-chair of Campus Senate. Mason, Bonham and Provost Joe Klesner are co-chairing the group. Mason and Bonham declined to discuss specific recommendations because Decatur has not yet reviewed them.
In a blog post on Wednesday night, Decatur wrote that one recommendation the Planning Group offered was a campus common hour event on April 3 “addressing how we might engage in difficult conversations in the future.” He wrote that more details will come after spring break.
“I know that there is a strong desire for action,” Mason said. “I share that desire, but at the same time, if we’re going to do something that is comprehensive and significant for the institution, that’s going to take … a bit of time for the president to figure out what he wants to do, what the implications are for those things, how you set aside time or resources, et cetera.”