Earlier this semester, Provost Joseph Klesner sent out a news bulletin announcing the adaptation of a new Common Hour policy. The email cited “increasing pressure” to use Common Hour for purposes not related to its original function of providing time for community events and speakers.
In March 2018, College faculty passed a resolution in reaffirming their commitment to reserve half of all Common Hours for events and activities that “are common.” The resolution examined 2,622 Common Hour reservations made between August 2015 and January 2018. 70.67% of the overall reservations were meetings, resulting in a Common Hour that was “rarely a common hour.”
In support of this resolution, Klesner outlined a new policy defining what would be allowed during Common Hour.
According to the new policy, Tuesday Common Hours would be reserved for “public events or speakers that are open to the entire community,” such as town halls with President Decatur or campus ceremonies. Common Hour on Thursday would be for “specialized lectures or speakers likely to draw more targeted audiences and may [also] be used as general meeting time.”
Neither day, however, would allow regular classes, course or student activities, or athletic practices to be scheduled during that time. Klesner stated that the Office of Events & Scheduling would refer to these guidelines when approving requests to schedule events during Common Hour.
The policy is an effort by the administration to put structure behind the faculty’s resolution. President Decatur’s Chief of Staff Susan Morse cites a general sense of students not being able to attend community events as the drive behind this new policy.
“It was a general sense of Common Hour being overscheduled, and people not being able to get to the things that they wanted to get to that were speakers or other events,” Morse said.
Despite these restrictions, student groups will still be able to meet during Common Hour. Morse emphasized that Tuesday is being blocked out for community events, with Thursday remaining as a general meeting time. However, the College is open to negotiation about the policy, if there is enough student support.
Some students have been receptive to the new policy. “I see where they’re coming from and mostly agree with it,” Luke Hester ’20 said. “Having a required event during Common Hour decreases students’ opportunities to attend community events. If, for example, you had to do something in athletics, you couldn’t attend one of these community events, and I think that decreases part of the Kenyon experience.”
While it remains to be seen what impact the new policy will have on campus culture, Morse says it’s going to be an ongoing process.
“I think if students have concerns or questions about their own pressures on their schedules, [then] that’s something we should absolutely have a conversation about,” Morse said.