On Monday, nearly half of the students still living on campus were told that they had to move out of their dorm rooms in the next two to four days. This news came in the form of an email from Dean of Students Robin Hart Ruthenbeck explaining that students living in residence halls other than McBride, Mather and Caples would need to move into one of these three dorms, while apartment residents could remain in their spaces until the end of the semester.
After receiving this email, many of the students who would have to pack up expressed concerns about being asked to move into these dorms, which, along with the short notice, struck some as possibly unsafe.
“People weren’t happy about it in general — that’s the sense I got,” said Coco Liu ’22, who currently lives in Old Kenyon.
The administration, for their part, has responded to concerns about preparedness by extending the move-out deadline to Tuesday of next week, by which point students must remove all belongings from their former dorm rooms.
“I want to acknowledge your requests for more time to move, and let you know that we heard you,” Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 wrote in an email sent on Tuesday to students on campus.
Along with extending the move-out deadline, Bonham’s email also explained the College’s rationale behind moving students to the three North residence halls: This decision, it said, was made in part to “eliminate the issue” of having few students living by themselves in large residence halls—two students, Bonham explained, had been living alone in the College’s two largest residence halls.
Bonham also clarified in the email that the move was intended to work alongside AVI’s new grocery box system by providing students with additional kitchen spaces.
The grocery box system, which rolled out Wednesday, reduces the amount of meals students receive at Peirce Dining Hall from two to one, and instead provides them with the groceries they request each week alongside a daily hot lunch at Peirce.
Emi Cardinale ’21, who has remained on campus since the start of spring break, said that when she got the news a week and a half ago about the grocery system, she had assumed she would be moved into somewhere with a private kitchen. For this reason, she expressed anxiety about moving into a dorm with communal kitchens, rather than into an apartment. “I kind of assumed it was going to be an apartment, that they we’re going to move us all to apartments [so] that we would have our individual kitchen,” she said.
According to Ruthenback’s original email, students living in McBride, Mather and Caples can also use the kitchens in Crozier, R-17, Weaver Cottage, the Craft Center, Allen House, Ganter-Price Hall and the Center for Global Engagement. Rutheback also advised students to find an alternative kitchen or return at a later time “if you see two or more persons using a space” in order to maintain social distance.
In her email, Bonham further explained that moving students into these three dorms would promote consolidation while at the same time allowing students to socially distance effectively. The selected dorms provide the greatest number of bathrooms and also allow each person to have their own room, thereby reducing the risk of exposure from roommates.
In addition, Bonham explained that the move was calculated to disrupt the fewest number of students. Finally, she noted that the move to consolidate would “assist our Campus Safety staff in monitoring and ensuring [the students’] safety, and lessen the burden on our Maintenance staff to maintain the remaining residential buildings.”
While she still feels uncertain about some aspects of the College’s decision, Cardinale said she felt more assured about the situation after receiving Bonham’s explanatory email.
“The email explaining it did make it a little bit better … because the original email just felt like this is completely unsafe,” Cardinale said. “So I appreciate that they explained it a bit more and why they’re separating roommates, because that didn’t really make sense to me either.”
Director of Residential Life (ResLife) Jillian Yoder encouraged students feeling anxious about the move to continue practicing social distancing and to treat their fellow residents with kindness.
“Mather, McBride, and Caples were selected because each student can be provided with their own room, and because they feature many smaller restrooms that will be regularly cleaned and sanitized by Kenyon’s Custodial team,” Yoder wrote in an email to the Collegian regarding advice for concerned students. “Please continue to be mindful of others, allowing for 6’ distance as often as possible, and continue to wash your hands often and well.”
Yoder also encouraged students with questions or concerns to reach out to ResLife at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We know that this challenging time requires work and flexibility on everyone’s part, and we are here to support you,” she wrote.