At its March 7 meeting, Student Council continued its discussion of the Merit List policy for spring 2021. Currently, the Committee on Academic Standards (CAS) plans to continue with the policy adopted in fall 2020 and publish the list privately.
When students were first sent home in spring 2020, they expressed concerns that the list would be an unfair representation of success given that a number of students were in significantly different living conditions. While CAS ultimately decided to publish the Merit List in fall 2020, they decided to do so privately in order to accommodate the complications brought about by the pandemic.
If a student qualified for the list, it was noted on their transcript. This differs from Kenyon’s traditional policy of publishing a public list. According to both Dean of Academic Advising and Support Thomas Hawks and Student Council Vice President of Academic Affairs Delaney Gallagher ’23, this policy will remain in place while part of the student body studies remotely.
“Per the Student Council recommendations to CAS, back in August and reaffirmed in January, [those on] the Merit List will be notified privately with notation on the transcript,” Gallagher said.
The privately published Merit List seeks to address both sides of the concerns that arose out of the past two hybrid semesters. On one hand, it attempts to recognize the fact that the pandemic has exacerbated preexisting inequalities among studies. On the other, it aims to continue the intended goal of the Merit List as a way of recognizing students’ academic success.
“The big takeaway is that we want to honor the work that students do academically,” Hawks said. “We recognize that academics [are] very central, but that GPA doesn’t always tell the whole story.”
While the plans for this semester are to continue with the private list, Hawks is hopeful that the unconventional semesters can be a learning experience for the administration.
“I hope that one of the things that develops from this is that we use some of the things that we did during COVID-19 to think about which of our practices we’d like to move away from, which that we want to go back to and what changes and revisions [we want to implement],” Hawks said. “I could easily see the Merit List being part of that discussion.”
While plans will not change significantly for this semester, Hawks said that there will likely be meetings reevaluating the role played by the Merit List and similar practices after the pandemic. Nevertheless, the Merit List will remain a staple of future Kenyon semesters.
“As of right now, the Merit List is here to stay,” Gallagher said. “I think it’s something students value and, when outside factors dramatically impact the equity of it, we make adjustments. Not all of those will hopefully be lasting, and recognizing academic achievement is still something students and the College value in the meantime.”