Following Kenyon’s announcement of anti-racism initiatives this summer, the College has made additional plans to combat racism as an institution. One aspect of this is the creation of a new Resource Advisory Committee, which will review community proposals for anti-racism initiatives. Applications for the committee are currently open.
Associate Provost of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ted Mason sent out an email on Sept. 23 detailing a list of anti-racism actions the College has taken thus far. These include professional development training sessions, the formation of a committee focused on the mental health of Black students, hosting a production of Theater of War’s show Antigone in Ferguson on Oct. 8 and the formation of the Committee.
The Committee will help determine the allocation of College funds, from a presidential discretionary fund, towards anti-racism initiatives. According to Mason, it will be “as broadly a representative committee as possible,” consisting of four students, four faculty and staff members and four alumni.
Proposals for anti-racism initiatives can be submitted by any member or group within the Kenyon community. Mason described the work of the Committee as reviewing and assessing these proposals. “There are a lot of ideas out there,” he said. “Let’s hear them, and let’s decide which ones we’d like to support.” According to Mason, whether a proposal receives funding will be determined by “the scope and size of the project.”
Mason highlighted this as an exceptional opportunity to receive funding for ideas. “We hear voices everywhere appropriately saying, ‘we really do need to combat racism and that’s everybody’s job,’ and here’s an opportunity to have resources to support the things you’d like to do, now being offered by the President, and I would hope that folks would take advantage of that.”
President Decatur, too, was enthusiastic about students’ input. “The important things are something that has the potential to impact a broad number of … students, faculty, staff, others on campus,” he said, “that has the potential for a significant long-term impact on the College.”
Conversations about mental health, specifically that of non-white students, are ongoing. The College is planning ways to prioritize the mental health of Black students and students of color. In the most recent update, Mason said that the College is considering employing a service similar to Talkspace, the remote therapy service that was made available to students after they were sent home in the spring, but that these plans have not been finalized. Mason identified medical licensing laws as one possible roadblock in making these resources available to students studying remotely outside of Ohio. “This gets a little complicated because of licensure issues … but we’re trying to find ways to work within these constraints, and I think we’re going to be successful.”
Additionally, Kenyon is making anti-racism training and resources available to local law enforcement. Decatur and Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 have been in conversation with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office as well as the Mayor and Safety Service Director of Mount Vernon. President Decatur expressed optimism at their potential for change. “There are a number of groups in Mount Vernon that have taken a strong interest in the past few months about taking an anti-racist position,” he said.
In reflecting on the work the College has completed thus far, Mason gave credit to the Board of Trustees. “They have taken an aggressive stance on educating themselves,” he said. The Board has, and will continue to undergo, anti-racism trainings, Mason said. Additionally, the Board and each of its subcommittees have outlined annual goals for this year related to anti-racism work.
The Resource Advisory Committee, like Kenyon’s other anti-racism initiatives, places an emphasis on community. Mason stresses this as central to Kenyon’s plan. “Holding each other accountable is really the only way this kind of work gets done,” he said.“This is a task for everyone.”