On Nov. 18, the College published the results of a student housing survey from May 2020, which showed preferences for newer, apartment-style and South campus residences. Recommendations based on the survey data include both renovations of existing residences and construction of new residences, as well the demolition of the New Apartments.
Students ranked Mather and Caples residence halls and the New Apartments lowest. The New Apartments have long had issues, including repeated infestations of mice and mold which led to residents of affected apartments being temporarily relocated.
The College’s newest residences — the North Campus Apartments and the Farr Apartments — received the best ratings, although students also expressed a preference for South campus housing. Student priorities for renovations, according to the survey, include more convenient access to laundry facilities and environmentally conscious construction.
These results come after over a year of discussion as to which residential buildings students prefer most. In January, Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 established the Housing Study Committee and tasked it with developing a plan to improve Kenyon’s residential options in dialogue with students and administration.
The College hired Brailsford & Dunlavey, a consulting firm, to create a plan for the next steps in the housing process. The firm prepared the survey and subsequent report, which showed that 84% of respondents were “generally satisfied” with their residential experience.
Student Council Chair of Housing and Dining Ever Croffoot-Suede ’23 wrote in an email to the Collegian that she sees the report as an accurate assessment of student feelings, and that this is at least in part due to the high response rate — almost half of the student body. Brailsford & Dunlavey consultants noted that this response rate was higher than what they had seen at Kenyon’s peer institutions.
In sharing his thoughts about the report, President Sean Decatur emphasized the importance of quality, on-campus housing at a college that is typically fully residential. “The pandemic has reminded us all of the central role our residences play in learning at Kenyon,” he said. “As we look into the future to preserve and enhance that defining feature, and remain competitive as higher education continues to evolve, improving our housing options will be a key focus.”
Decatur said the next steps are establishing the timeline and budget of projects recommended by the report, as well as figuring out how new projects might fit into the construction already happening on campus.
Decatur explained that construction of new buildings is essential to allow for renovation of existing residences, and to eventually replace the New Apartments. He also noted that some smaller renovations that can be done over the summer may happen sooner.
Any new construction, based on the report’s recommendations, would only be possible if donor funding is secured. Depending on the availability of funding, renovations could begin as soon as this summer, Decatur said.