As students traveled back to campus from spring break, the residents of Sisterhood theme housing in R-17 — more commonly referred to as Old Snowden — returned to a residence that felt a bit more like home than it had before. After months of disagreement and miscommunication about the extent of access residents had to the spaces in the building, the six students and administration came to a written agreement for a suitable housing arrangement for the remainder of the semester.
While R-17 can still be reserved by student organizations, it is no longer a study space from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. As part of the new agreement, the residents were also given more access to the kitchen and were assured that they would be notified when student organizations reserved the downstairs space.
On Feb. 25, the residents of Sisterhood theme housing sent out an open letter to the Kenyon community detailing issues they faced in connection with their housing situation in R-17 — a building in which the first floor is overseen by the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) and the second floor by the Office of Residential Life (ResLife). Upon receiving this letter, over 40 different student organizations forwarded the email to show their support.
The letter described, among other issues, the ongoing construction when they first arrived in August which led to construction workers arriving unannounced and miscommunication over who could use the downstairs space and when/how they could use it.
“After constantly voicing our concerns to the Office of Residential Life, the Office of Student Engagement, the Title IX office, the Vice President of Student Affairs, among others, we are admittedly tired of not being heard,” the residents wrote in the letter. “We want to reach out to the Kenyon community as a whole to hopefully get our message out to you all, and to find a louder resolution to the silent struggle we’ve been facing.”
After the circulation of the open letter on Feb. 27, the residents met with the administration to further discuss their housing concerns and potential solutions. The meeting included all of the Sisterhood residents as well as Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ted Mason and staff members from ResLife and OSE.
“Once the emails were coming in, we were talking about the ways in which we can try to accommodate the residents,” Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said. “So we had already talked about some potential solutions prior to the residents actually presenting us with their requests.” According to Bonham, all of the resident’s requests could be accommodated. The day after the meeting, the Sisterhood residents sent an Student-Info email to thank the Kenyon community.
“Struggling with this alone for so long made us doubt the legitimacy of our concerns a number of times, but seeing the support you have all bestowed on us brought us to tears,” they wrote in the email. “While it is unfortunate that it had to come to this, the noise you made helped amplify our voices. Clearly your response has had as much of an impact on the College as it had on us.”
Bonham also sent a follow-up email to the Kenyon community, recapping the meeting with the residents. She also mentioned that the administration would work to arrange training opportunities on implicit bias and active listening.
Mason is currently working on a report to review the situation, outlining contributing factors and identifying areas for improvement. He is in contact with all the parties involved and plans to submit it to President Sean Decatur on April 5.