On Jan. 23, Abbey Roswell ’19, forward for the Ladies’ field hockey team, got a concussion. But she didn’t get it from a collision with another team’s player or an accident during practice; Rather, she was simply trying to walk to her 10:10 a.m. class in the Science Quad.
“I was just walking on Middle Path,” she said. “I hit a slick spot and my feet went out from under me, and then I fell back and hit my head on the ice.”
Roswell is one of many students who have recently found themselves struggling against an icy or muddy Middle Path.
After her fall, Roswell sought aid from the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC) trainers. One or two other students also sought help for falling-induced injuries, according to Head Athletic Trainer Mark Teeples.
“This always seems to be an occurrence when the weather changes,” Teeples wrote in an email to the Collegian. “With any kind of falling hazard we typically see wrist and shoulder problems. Events like dislocated shoulders, sprained wrists, and even concussions are very typical.”
In 2014, the Collegian reported that after two years of planning, the College would begin the process of resurfacing the Middle Path. These changes came as an effort to increase accessibility in part because Director of Student Accessibility and Support Services Erin Salva observed that an accepted student in a wheelchair chose not to enroll in Kenyon due to concerns over Middle Path.
The Path was resurfaced with “new stabilized granite” that would be more accessible while still maintaining “the Middle Path aesthetic” that was important to alumni.
“Even before I arrived on campus [in 2013] a dozen people whom I had never met before just came up to me and said, ‘Welcome to Kenyon, the one thing to keep in mind is to never change Middle Path,’” President Sean Decatur said.
Since its resurfacing, the cost of maintaining Middle Path has risen, according to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman. Despite these recent moves toward improving its accessibility, Middle Path does not seem able to escape the news cycle.
On Feb. 7, the Mount Vernon News reported “an uneven, thick, slick layer of ice on Middle Path … created by freezing rain mixed with snow and ice” in an article “Icy Middle Path conditions slip into safety discussion.”
This ice not only creates the potential for injury, but it also creates problems for students using mobility devices, according to Teeples. “If a student is on crutches or in a walking boot” he wrote, “Poor traction (Ice, snow, or mud) can be very concerning.”
Problems arose again on the night of Feb. 16 when showers quickly froze over into black ice. But Middle Path was not the only area of difficulty on campus, as students reported injuries near Middle Path as well.
“I was out Sunday night walking from [Ransom Hall] down to the KAC and it was really particularly bad,” Decatur said. “The one thing we can do is just make sure that we are staying on top of getting things salted as quickly as possible.”
Now, students seem to be avoiding Middle Path.
“If I’m in the science quad, I will walk all the way to Peirce and then north to the NCAs instead of to Middle Path and then north,” Conner McEldowney ’19, a resident of the North Campus Apartments, said.
Since the last resurfacing, there has not been a “comprehensive discussion about changing from gravel to some solid surface,” according to Kohlman.
“I very much appreciate the continued conversation of, ‘Do we have the right Middle Path that serves both the community on campus and the broader traditional historical narrative?’” Decatur said. “Those two things are clearly not still in alignment.”
For the most part, it seems that many students want Middle Path to be paved.
“I think that we should pave it, because it’s hard when it’s icy, and it decreases the accessibility of the campus,” McEldowney said.
Rosewell shared a similar sentiment. “I personally would be totally fine with paving Middle Path if that makes things safer,” she said. “Right now accessibility is a lot more important than history.”