Section: News

Students and administration clash on COVID housing policy

Kenyon’s firm COVID-19 policy prevents students still living on campus from returning if they leave the local area. Any student who chooses to travel more than one hour from Kenyon will not be allowed to return, with no exceptions.

For Shara Morgan ’22, this is a devastating policy. Morgan’s grandmother has contracted bacterial pneumonia and pre-existing health conditions have exacerbated its severity. Despite the seriousness of her grandmother’s illness, Morgan was unable to visit her at the time because she lives in Florida. Morgan reached out to Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane, to see if there was a way she could travel to see her grandmother and return to campus after the trip, but was told she would not be allowed to come back. Morgan then appealed to Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92, who also rejected her request, reiterating that the policy was put in place to ensure the safety of the Kenyon community.

Bonham told Morgan, “We make decisions that are mindful of all the students who remain on campus,” and later emphasized to the Collegian, “we need to be very careful given that our students are in a congregate living situation.”

Morgan said that the rigidity of the policy made her feel as though the administration was unsympathetic to her situation. She offered to isolate herself in her apartment following her visit, but the administration said they were planning to pair her with a suitemate and didn’t want to put additional students at risk. Morgan was frustrated they wouldn’t allow her to continue to live alone where she could self-quarantine. “If I am alone, it is not impacting anybody,” Morgan said. “But the decision [the administration] is making is going to impact me for the rest of my life.”

Yet Kane and Bonham believe this policy is in the best interest of the Kenyon community. With the students living in such close contact with one another, a single person returning to campus with the virus could spread it rapidly.

“If students do have a compelling reason to be traveling elsewhere, then students will have a difficult choice to make,” Kane said.

Although Morgan was not granted permission to return to campus, she ultimately made the decision to depart from Kenyon. She will leave her belongings at her friend’s house in North Carolina and drive to Florida to see her grandmother for a week before driving back to live with her friend for two weeks until her lease is available in Washington, D.C.

According to Kane, all students living on campus will begin moving into apartments after finals week. This move will be completed before off-campus students return to retrieve their belongings starting May 30. The administration’s objective is to make sure students are staying safe during the 12-day retrieval, and provide each student with an in-house kitchen.

However, Ezra Moguel ’21 has voiced concerns that the administration is not acting in students’ best interests, citing that the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) is not fulfilling his housing accommodations. Moguel, who is approved to stay on campus for the summer, lived in a dorm this semester but recently received accommodations from ResLife for a private bathroom. After spring break, all students approved to stay were moved into Caples Residence Hall, McBride Residence Hall or Mather Residence Hall for consolidation. Although students already living in apartments were allowed to remain there, Moguel was not moved into an available apartment despite the specifications outlined in his new housing accomodations. Instead, Moguel was moved into another dorm residence that he said, “wouldn’t be good for [him] because [his] accommodations specify living in an apartment.”

All housing and dining policies will remain in place until August 1, when they will be re-evaluated.

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