As students enter the final weeks of the semester, administrators are busy imagining what life at Kenyon could look like in the fall.
On Friday, President Sean Decatur sent an update to the community about the College’s preliminary plans for the fall semester. He noted that the College has put together a planning committee for the fall, and is considering several possible scenarios to resume its residential program next semester. Decatur also emphasized the importance of maintaining the in-person nature of the Kenyon experience.
“Kenyon is a residential college, and the physical place — our presence in Gambier, the setting of the campus, the iconic Middle Path stretching from Old Kenyon to Bexley Hall — has shaped the experience of our students, faculty and staff for nearly 200 years,” Decatur wrote. “Lasting connection to people and place is a deeply held value, and we intend to honor that in our plans for next year.”
Decatur’s email included some options the College is considering, such as delaying the start of the academic year, mandating certain social distancing requirements on campus and implementing further health and safety precautions. The new public health standards that guide the world of the pandemic, he said, will likely spill into the Hill’s cloistered walls come fall.
At Kenyon, these measures could include anything from requiring students and employees to wear personal protective equipment, consistently monitoring the health of students and employees, maintaining high sanitation standards and strictly following social distancing requirements.
Decatur also emphasized that much of the College’s planning for the fall semester will rely heavily upon health and safety mandates put forward by the state, a sentiment seconded by Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs. In addition, Bonham said that a good deal of planning will depend upon student attendance in the fall, especially in regards to the state of study-abroad programs and the ability of international students to return to campus.
“Our entire model is predicated on people living, eating, studying [and] working together in a very communal manner, and so it’s hard to wrap our minds around what that will be if we have to implement social distancing strategies,” she added.
Bonham said that both herself and Decatur have been in constant contact with colleagues at the Five Colleges of Ohio as well as other colleges and universities across the state. “It’s actually been a really nice, very collaborative and open approach across colleges and universities, because we’re all trying to figure it out — nobody has the magic solution to this yet,” Bonham said.