On September 10, the Kenyon community received an email via Student-Info containing a short survey. The survey, which has since closed, asked participants to consider what they felt was most important about Kenyon in an effort to update Kenyon’s mission statement.
“What single aspect of Kenyon has had the greatest impact on your college experience thus far?” the first question said. The second asked, “What makes Kenyon Kenyon? What distinguishes it from other colleges?”
The new mission statement seeks to define Kenyon’s identity and core values. The current mission statement—which can be seen on Kenyon’s website—is viewed by many as no longer relevant. “It’s very outdated and not very in tune with what Kenyon is today,” Delaney Barker ’20, president of Student Council, said.
The statement describes Kenyon’s changing identity “over the 185 years of its life” (the school is now 195 years old) and emphasizes the school’s connection to the Episcopal church, which many members of the Kenyon community feel isn’t as central as it once was. The statement clocks in at 746 words, uncommonly long even among our peer institution. For reference, the Kenyon’s fellow nine North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) schools mission statements come to 921 words combined.
“The problem is to make it shorter, more relevant and inclusive,” Delaney said. “President Decatur—and, I think, the senior staff as a whole—wants to use this as an opportunity to unify the Kenyon community and have those discussions about what Kenyon is about.”
The revision process began in April, when the Board of Trustees invited a select group of students and senior staff to hold a discussion about Kenyon’s core values. Shortly afterward, President Sean Decatur appointed a Mission Statement Committee made up of 15 students, faculty, and staff members. The committee will spend the following months collecting opinions and holding discussions before drafting a new mission statement and sending it to the Board of Trustees for approval. The committee hopes to have a new mission statement in place by February 2020.
While the results of the survey have yet to be analyzed, Decatur believes that they will play a key role in shaping the final mission statement.
“There’s no target [response rate],” Decatur said. “We’re not aiming for some percentage to have a confidence level. It’s mainly [that] we’re looking for [responses] that are thoughtful and well-considered. To me, that’s more important than large numbers. I would rather get a large number of folks who are responsible and have thought about it a lot.”