Among the several proposed revisions to the student handbooks, many quickly fixated on restrictions barring the creation of new local Greek organizations at Kenyon.
The stipulations first came to light on Monday when the Collegian tweeted a photo of the draft Student Organization Handbook that it had obtained. The document included a paragraph that does not appear in its former version, detailing the “expansion and reactivation procedure” for new Greek organizations: Whereas the initial document includes no restrictions barring new local Greek organizations, the draft of the revised Student Organization Handbook includes explicit language prohibiting students from founding new local Greek organizations on campus.
“Kenyon College will not recognize any new local fraternities, sororities, or societies (local organizations previously or currently recognized by the College would be permitted to be considered for reinstatement),” the document reads. “Any organization wishing to expand at Kenyon College must have an established inter/national headquarters; an active minimum $1,000,000 liability insurance policy for non-residential organizations; and working governing documents.”
While a good deal of the policies for Greek organizations remained the same in the revised handbook, many people found the slight changes to be striking. Among several alumni and students that reacted to the news was short-story writer and novelist Apple Jannotta ’00, who contrasted the policy with her own experience at Kenyon searching for all-female spaces. “These rules would have stopped me cold in my tracks,” Jannotta wrote on Twitter. “There’s no possible justification for this that is legitimate.”
Despite the scrutiny it has received, members of the Kenyon administration have claimed that this policy has actually been in effect for years, and so constitutes no real change.
“Rather than having students go through and expend the time and energy into coming up with a rationale and a plan for a new organization and only to be told no, we really wanted to make that [policy] clear,” Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said in an interview with the Collegian.
Another factor complicating this supposedly established rule is the current student organizations that are caught up in it. The Delta Phis (D-Phis) in particular, who have spent the past several months working to cut ties from the national organization, will be adversely affected by this change. Yet the administration claims the D-Phis have already been informed of this policy and are aware of its implications for reforming their organization.
“[The D-Phis have] already been told that,” Bonham said. “So, again, we want to make sure that students know all of that before they go down the road of trying to incorporate as a local organization only to be told no at the end.”
Apart from the fact that such an interaction seems at odds with the fact that D-Phi has spent months planning its transition to a local Greek organization, the D-Phis have said that the administration never informed them of this policy.
“I never received such information,” D-Phi President Cooper Murray ’21 wrote in a message to the Collegian. Murray also said that he’d never had a conversation with Bonham and that the only contact he’d had with the administration was through Director of Student Engagement Sam Filkins. He also noted that there had been no email communications to the D-Phi organization regarding this policy.
“I’d also just like to say that it’s quite the coincidence that we bring up disaffiliating as a possibility and possibly creating a new group then this policy just appears, essentially blocking our ability and the ability of any other group to create something unless it has a national affiliation,” Murray wrote. “Kenyon’s greek life organizations have never really been representative of national orgs … and I think they [the administration] have their own motives for what they’re doing.”
The Peeps O’ Kenyon (PEEPS), who were recently suspended for three years, were also concerned by the implications of this rule, especially considering its timing. However, Bonham has clarified that this rule will not apply to the PEEPS or any other organizations with a “strong historical connection to the College already.” The revised Handbook also notes that organizations “previously or currently recognized by the College” would be permitted to be considered for reinstatement under this policy.
The differences between the policies on Greek life, however, don’t end there. The revised version also stipulates that members of international and national Greek organizations “may not solicit, recruit, or initiate Kenyon College students without consent of the Office of Student Engagement,” and organizations that fail to comply with this rule will be suspended for at least two years. Moreover, while the old Handbook requires organizations wishing to be recognized by the College to have a minimum of 10 members, the revised version does not specify a number.
The new policy also includes a much more in-depth guide for petitioning to create a new chapter organization while removing a large chunk of details on recruitment and new member education included in the old Handbook. Finally, the revised version includes a clause on “unrecognized student organizations,” which warns against participating in unauthorized student groups.
“Individuals involved in unrecognized groups are subject to sanctioning through the Student Code of Conduct,” the document reads. “Charges could include, but are not limited to, failure to comply, providing false information, and/or violation of any College policies, rules and regulations.”
The administration has apologized for not reaching out to students for feedback sooner. “Over the last six weeks, other matters have consumed our attention, and this initiative fell behind schedule,” Bonham wrote in a Student-Info email sent out Thursday morning. “For that, I am sorry, and hope to help rectify matters by offering several opportunities now for students to provide their input and feedback.”
These opportunities include a discussion at the final livestreamed Student Council meeting on Sunday, May 10 at 7:00 p.m., a virtual forum with Student Council and the administration next Thursday, May 14 at 5:00 p.m. and the opportunity to give feedback via a form that is available until May 22.