The Center for Global Engagement (CGE) has faced difficulties over the past few months, with the coronavirus outbreak putting a hold on student travel plans. Now the CGE faces a new challenge: overwhelming demand for off-campus study. This year, an unprecedented number of students have applied to study abroad, specifically in the spring 2021 semester. The CGE has been forced to place some of these students on waitlists while it decides how to accommodate the immense demand.
On Feb. 20, 30 students who had applied for off-campus study received an email from Marne Ausec, director of the CGE.
“The number of students who wish to go on OCS in spring is much greater than the number who wish to go in the fall,” Ausec wrote. “After giving students the opportunity to switch, we still cannot accommodate all requests for spring. After a stratified random sort of names, you have been placed on a waitlist for Spring 2021.”
It’s not unusual for more students to apply for off-campus study in spring semesters than in fall. In most years, the CGE is able to lessen this disparity by advertising the benefits of fall off-campus study and encouraging applicants to consider changing their plans. However, this year the difference is too great for the CGE to manage: of the 272 students who applied to study abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year, over 70 more students want to travel in the spring than do in the fall. While Ausec has encouraged students to reschedule when they plan to go abroad, only a handful have done so.
For a college as small as Kenyon, a difference of 70 students is significant — each year the College must create an operating budget that estimates how many students will be on campus, and a difference of 70 from one semester to the next could make a variety of operations more difficult. According to Vice President for Finance Todd Burson, the number of students on campus could put excess stress on Peirce Dining Hall during mealtimes and on the academic division during enrollment period. It would also become more difficult for the Office of Residential Life to find enough beds for students in the fall, while leaving lots of empty ones in the spring.
“The College does not like to fill every bed so that if there is an emergency of some type, then there are beds available for those students that are being displaced,” Burson wrote in an email to the Collegian. “If we were to have more students than beds, there are not a lot of housing options in the Gambier area to help with the issue.”
Many students were upset by the CGE’s announcement. Ausec says that some have expressed anger or disappointment, while others have been more sympathetic to the CGE’s situation. Many of the students want to know how long they will be on the waitlist, and whether they will be able to study abroad at all. Ausec wishes she could tell them, but the situation is relatively unprecedented.
“We’ve never done this before,” Ausec said. “I don’t know if all of a sudden people are going to decide they want to go [in the] fall. I don’t know if people are going to drop from spring so we can move people off of the waitlist. I just don’t know because we’ve never done it. Students would like answers, and I can’t give them answers at this point.”