Campus Senate — a group of representatives from the student body, staff members and faculty — had aimed to revise its constitution by the end of this year, but the deadline is now expected to stretch into early September.
The revision has been in the works since October. In the past, Senate has acted both as an advisory body and as a source of legislation on campus. While day-to-day affairs regarding student life are passed through Student Council, Senate communicates directly with Kenyon’s president to pass legislation and make substantive changes.
Senate representatives agree that the organization’s current constitution is outdated.
“The last major update to it was when women were admitted to the College. It’s been too long since it’s changed, and basically the structure doesn’t represent what we do anymore,” Benjamin Douglas ’18, a co-chair of Campus Senate, said.
The constitution references a number of organizations that no longer exist and describes Campus Senate as an intermediary between Student Council and the president. While Douglas acknowledges that this is an important role, he also believes that Senate should act as a “sounding board” for other organizations on campus.
“It’s so that, when groups are considering making decisions and they want opinions of other groups, they have a place where they can go and communicate that,” Douglas said. Campus Senate gets input from Student Council and other organizations on campus in order to fully represent campus opinion.
Laura Kane, director of student engagement, assistant dean of students and head of a Campus Senate subcommittee, believes one of the core problems is clarity. “A constitution should be a roadmap for how to conduct business,” Kane said. “The Campus Senate wasn’t functioning at all last year. Because it wasn’t functioning, other things on campus couldn’t function.” Organizations such as Student Council and Greek Council require the Senate to ratify internal changes.
These complications arose due to confusion surrounding the purpose of Campus Senate. “We spent a lot of time clarifying the role of staff representatives in Campus Senate,” Kane added. “Previously they hadn’t been represented equitably.”
Campus Senate completed their first draft in February. They had hoped to have a draft of the new constitution approved by the end of the year, but due to the unexpected scope of the project, that deadline is no longer feasible.
Despite these difficulties, Douglas expressed optimism that Senate will one day have a more positive impact on campus.
“When people say ‘This feels very Kenyon’ about anything, I think what they’re talking about is a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” Douglas said. “And I think the Campus Senate has a really incredible power to be that place.”