The Horn Gallery sound technicians were laid off and told that their supervision would likely be changed to fall under Library and Information Services (LBIS) instead of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE).
Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane first informed the technicians of this change in a virtual meeting at the beginning of the semester, telling them that she had been having conversations with LBIS over the summer about transferring over supervision of the group to them. Kane said that, while this management change was not certain, the students would likely not be rehired to their jobs from the previous semester.
The sound technicians had requested the meeting with Kane in order to ask for more transparency and greater communication with their management. The meeting, they said, seemed to reflect the opposite of their requests.
“It was at that meeting that they dropped the bombshell about LBIS,” said Horn Gallery sound technician and practice room manager Richard Shapiro ’23. “Instead of being able to read our demands, we were trying to figure out what was going on. Supposedly, we should have known about this for months.”
The sound technicians’ dismissal comes as a majority of student employees have unionized via the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC). If their union is officially recognized by the College, they will become the nation’s first comprehensive undergraduate union and may gain greater protections through negotiations with the administration. All of the Horn Gallery sound technicians have signed union cards with K-SWOC.
After the first meeting, Kane told the sound technicians that she would be in touch about the rehiring process. After receiving no update from Kane, sound technician Zach Hollander ’21 emailed Kane about having a second meeting to see if the group could get moved to the Maintenance Department instead of LBIS. At this second meeting, Kane told sound technicians that they could not be moved to Maintenance nor would they be hired in the meantime while such decisions were underway. “No one else in the office told us that, nor did anyone tell us that none of us were being rehired,” Shapiro said. “We only found each of these pieces of information out at two separate meetings.”
Kane said that she had assumed the sound technicians had been informed of the possible management change by the time they reached out to her. It wasn’t until the initial meeting with them that she realized this was not the case. She noted that former OSE Director Sam Filkins had been considering changing the group’s management at the end of last semester, and his departure over the summer had led to the confusion.
As for their employment status, Kane claims that she didn’t “outright [say] that people wouldn’t be rehired.” She emphasized that students could reapply for job opportunities when the College “would begin to need that type of role on campus again.”
Sound technicians, however, took Kane’s statements at the meeting as a clear indication that they are not going to get their jobs back, at least not anytime in the near future. In particular, many were frustrated by the administration’s reasoning for this decision: that they didn’t have work for the sound technicians to do without the Horn holding any live events.
“I’ve been in contact with [the Horn managers] over the summer and we’ve been talking about how we want to have a website for the Horn and put on virtual shows, live Q&As,” said Sajara Magdaleno Urquieta ’22, a former student manager and sound technician for the Horn Gallery student organization “Even without bands here, we were talking about how we want student bands to be able to perform in this virtual space as well. … We have a lot of ideas that we haven’t been able to put [on] because the school isn’t letting us do anything.”
Urquieta, who is also a member of the K-SWOC steering committee, explained that sound technicians work in tandem with the Horn to put on shows. The student organization, she said, has ideas for entertainment that they want to carry out but have been unable to do so without sound technicians, who could execute the technical aspects of the Horn’s virtual programming.
The sound technicians had a follow-up meeting with Kane to discuss the change in management and the possibility of being rehired under such a change. At this meeting, Emma Spivack ’21, co-manager of the Horn student organization, mentioned that the group would like to implement programming with the help of the sound technicians. However, Kane did not see this as enough reason to rehire the group, and directed her to the student organization’s advisor to flesh out their specific needs.
“It doesn’t seem right to me to hire a bunch of students with an overly vague or ambiguous job description and then potentially have no work for them,” Kane said. “So we’re just going to wait until the situation unfolds a little bit more so we can see what the needs actually are before we move on with any hiring.”
Notably, other members of K-SWOC also attended the second meeting with Kane, who expressed confusion and surprise by their presence.
“I’m not exactly sure what K-SWOC had wanted to accomplish when they joined the meeting with the Horn Gallery sound techs,” she said. “I wasn’t aware that they were going to be there.”
When Kane became aware that members of K-SWOC had joined the meeting, she invited Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 to join as well. Meanwhile, Kane declined a request to enter from Hayden Schortman ’08, who has been integral to K-SWOC’s organizing efforts and has served as their advisor. When asked about this decision later, Kane suggested that Schortman should “continue to provide advice for [K-SWOC] outside of this meeting.”
According to Noah Griffith-Rosenberger ’21, a sound technician and new member of the K-SWOC steering committee, this gave the impression that Kane did not take the student union seriously.
“K-SWOC’s not just some club,” he said. “It’s a student worker union, and the administration’s got to start to understand that.”
Kinsey Uzelac contributed to reporting.