Section: News

New policies and initiatives characterize the Fall semester

Over the course of the semester, the Collegian has covered 27 new initiatives launched, policies implemented and statements released by student government, faculty councils and administrative offices.

According to President Sean Decatur and Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, there’s no single reason for the uptick in activity, though Bonham believes Campus Senate finalizing its constitution played a role. Both Bonham and Decatur also referenced the College’s response to external events and the role of new hires.

Our Path Forward

On Oct. 13, the College launched the public phase of its largest capital campaign to date, with hopes to raise $300 million by 2021. Thus far, the campaign has raised $226 million. The goal of the campaign is to build Kenyon’s endowment, which could produce 5 percent returns annually. The campaign aims to raise $125 million for scholarships and financial aid, $60 million toward academics and $80 million to construction and infrastructure with the remaining $35 million earmarked for the annual operating budget via the Kenyon Fund and the Kenyon Parents Fund.

Responding to Government Changes

The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI), the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) and the Office of Civil Rights have all worked with the Office of Communications to respond to the Trump administration. In September, ODEI and CGE reached out via email to the student body, encouraging trans students to consider applying for a passport in the wake of the U.S. State Department using less inclusive language in a recent update to the passport webpage.

In October, ODEI released a statement articulating its availability to students in response to the Trump administration’s plans to potentially change the federal government’s definition of gender. In December, in reaction to a draft of the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed new Title IX regulations, the Office of Civil Rights issued a news bulletin articulating that the office will continue to operate as is until changes are finalized.

For Bonham, this trend of College departments communicating stances to the student body is attributed both to external factors and administrative hires. She cited the creation of her position in 2015, the College’s hiring of Janet Marsden as vice president for communications in April 2017 and Samantha Hughes’ work as Civil Rights/Title IX Coordinator as factors leading to increased communication.

New Initiatives

College departments also launched new initiatives this year. The first of these is “Kenyon Listens,” a series of facilitated conversations spearheaded by Carrie Knell, the College’s ombudsperson. According to Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ted Mason, a goal of this initiative is to build the College’s capacity to handle tension by increasing opportunities for conversation.

The Office of Admissions introduced its Catalyst initiative in September, which combines summer academic programs like Kenyon Educational Enrichment Program (KEEP); K-STEM, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics summer program; and the Kenyon Academic Partnership (KAP) and Camp 4.

The “Eat Well, Sleep Well, Be Well” campaign, created by the Cox Health and Counseling center, has included panel discussions and speakers and hopes to promote a more health-conscious culture among the student body.

Health and Counseling

Alongside the “Eat Well, Sleep Well, Be Well” initiative, the Cox Health and Counseling Center has been part of several changes resulting from the transition of the Peer Counselors (PCs), the former Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMAs) and Beer and Sex advisors into departmental organizations.

Health and Counseling and the Office of Residential Life decided in September that CAs would be required to sit in on the Beer and Sex meetings that occured in first-year residence halls. The Beer and Sex advisors are currently a departmental organization under the supervision of Health and Counseling, though their leadership told the Collegian in September that they will reevaluate this relationship in January.

In October, 16 of the 17 former SMAs decided to break from Health and Counseling to create a new student group called the Sexual Respect Peer Alliance (SRPA), primarily in response to the loss of confidentiality and the discontinuation of their 24/7 hotline, changes that came after Director of the Cox Health and Counseling Center Chris Smith’s hiring in October 2017. Decatur said that  administrative change is often followed by policy change.

“I do think that some new hires have been connected with restructuring — for example, the retirements in Health and Counseling led to restructuring as well as new hiring — that is accompanied by a review of policies and procedures,” Decatur wrote in an email to the Collegian.

New Hires

At the beginning of the academic year, Timothy Bussey assumed the role of ODEI’s assistant director. He has rearticulated the office’s commitment to LGBTQ+ students through updates to the office’s web page and a push to make MyBanner, Kenyon’s online student portal, more inclusive by giving students the option to self-select pronouns.

Making Revisions

Campus governance groups such as Student Council, the Faculty Affairs Committee and Campus Senate, as well as members of the College’s Student Affairs Division, have enacted or discussed changes to long-existing policies and procedures.

First, in September, the faculty revised their handbook to explicitly recognize diversity initiatives in regards to staff promotion and tenure evaluation. In October, Campus Senate finalized its constitution after a two-year process, emphasizing its role as a forum for students, faculty and staff. This constitution will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019. That same month, Senate approved a rewrite of the College’s Matriculation Oath to better articulate Kenyon’s values.

In November, Campus Senate began to circulate its draft of a new protest policy, which would be its first update since the Vietnam War. At the same time, members of the faculty and staff created a formal College policy that clarified the rules and procedures for political campaigns and candidates that come to campus. Also in November, the Collegian reported on a committee of six students and staff putting together a new student handbook that they hope will be clearer and easier to read; the committee aims to put it into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Bonham said that Campus Senate’s finalizing of its constitution was consequential for many changes this semester, as rewriting that document brought attention to the Student Handbook’s limitations.

“I think it’s just been an evolutionary process over the last few years because once you start it’s like peeling an onion,” Bonham said. “Once you start working on one area and realizing that there are fairly significant intersections with another area, then it opens up other opportunities for enhancement and clarification.”

Matt Mandel ’19 contributed reporting.

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