On Oct. 14, the Kenyon Inn (KI) sent an all-student email offering “day use” rooms to students this semester for $75. This is the first time the hotel is offering discounted, single-day rooms. Thus far, no students have rented one of these rooms.
Because of the College’s COVID-19 regulations, as well as the ongoing construction of Chalmers Library, there are currently fewer permanent study spaces available on campus than usual. In response, the KI decided to offer discounted rooms as alternative study spaces. The decision angered both on-campus and remote students.
“The opening of the Kenyon Inn as a study space feels like an unofficial recognition by Kenyon that the college does not have enough study spaces available to its students,” Toby McCabe ’21 wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We want to study, collaborate with our classmates, and explore all that Kenyon has to offer. However, charging students for services [and] spaces that should already be included in the tuition furthers the divide between socioeconomic classes at Kenyon.”
Although the KI is College property, it is independently maintained. According to Kenyon Inn General Manager William Houston, the KI made the decision to offer priced study spaces unprompted by the College. The rooms are available for individual use from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The usual nightly rate for a room at the KI is $175 plus tax, according to Houston. The $75 cost of the day use rooms only covers the cost of housekeeping labor, he said.
Houston said the decision to offer day use rooms was intended to help cover the revenue loss resulting from COVID-19. This semester, the College is not allowing the usual amount of campus visitors, who typically make up about 75% of the KI’s business; the KI has not been fully booked since move-in week. “Our revenue is really down, and I also know that the campus study spaces seem to be very limited, so I thought the combination of the two of those could be a fair trade,” said Houston.
Houston noted it was never in the intention of the KI to frustrate students. “Sometimes things can be perceived in the wrong [way],” he said. “I was hoping it could just be something that, even if only one student decided it would work out to their advantage, that it would be good for them.”
Still, students like McCabe view the KI’s decision as a part of a larger trend of inequity in higher education. “The system of offering paid study spaces limits that space to only those who could afford its very high cost and that extenuates my fears of wealth disparity and inequity in education,” McCabe said.