On Feb. 22, the Kenyon Alumni Student Collective (KASC) posted a list of five demands to their Instagram account directed at the Kenyon Business and Finance Committee (BFC). The demands focused on specific grievances with the goal to make funding for student organizations at Kenyon more equitable. They ranged from calls to remove implicit double standards from the BFC’s evaluation process and make it more publicly accessible to a plan to implement a bylaw that would ensure equitable funding for marginalized groups.
KASC was created during the period of prolonged protests against racism and police brutality over the summer. It originated as a means for students and alumni to reflect on the ramifications of institutional racism within the Kenyon community, with one of the primary issues being the inadequate support provided for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) affinity groups on campus.
The organization’s demands come as the Black Student Union reported difficulty getting funding for their keynote speaker from BFC. They also follow Kenyon’s recent release of an interim report on anti-racism activities. One of the intended activities involved the BFC and the process by which student organizations and activities receive funding, most of which is overseen by Student Council.
KASC took issue with disparities involving the barriers created for certain groups by BFC’s bylaws. Under its current system, the BFC’s funding tends to be distributed proportionally to the size of an organization and the scope of its events. Because of this, groups that host programs with a broader scope are more likely to acquire funding. KASC believes that this system disproportionally burdens BIPOC affinity groups.
“At a predominantly white institution like Kenyon, this structure guarantees that BIPOC students will always have to prove the value of their programming and will constantly be denied funding when their programming is not seen to benefit the largely white student population,” KASC wrote to the Collegian.
KASC also discussed the difficulties it has had in scheduling meetings with the administration and student council.
“Rather than meeting with KASC to discuss the demands prepared on the students’ behalf, the administration decided to ‘listen’ to affinity group student leaders by forcing them to attend a two-hour meeting on a Saturday,” KASC said. “These students were asked to repeat the sentiments they have been voicing since September — points that have fallen on deaf ears at Kenyon and have been purposefully included in KASC’s list of demands.”
KASC has expressed disappointment about the administration’s lack of engagement with their demands, believing that the demands fall well within the administration’s stated anti-racist goals. To them, the unwillingness to engage puts an unfair burden on BIPOC students.
“The funding of affinity groups is just the tip of the iceberg; the pain and exhaustion felt by BIPOC students at Kenyon goes beyond being belittled and shorted by the BFC,” KASC said. “[Our] mission is to support students and push Kenyon to create the changes necessary to follow through on its goal of becoming an anti-racist institution.”
Representatives from the BFC have stated that, while they have heard second-hand about the concerns expressed by KASC, they have not met with them directly.
“To my knowledge, no one affiliated with KASC has approached me or my committee to have a discussion or voice concerns with the current student activity fee allocation process,” BFC Vice President Rocco Danese ‘23 said. “I have been hearing all of the information second- or third-hand and also via social media.”
When asked about their experience corresponding with BFC and the Student Council, KASC said they avoided a number of the meetings because they felt that students would potentially be targeted by the administration. While KASC states that Student Council had expressed a willingness to work with them, the collective said the administration prevented them from doing so.
“We were blocked from attending the February 28th public meeting because the administration pressured students to not meet with us and pushed us to the alumni council, which has nothing to do with this situation which is why we have not engaged them,” KASC wrote. “The reason we have not had students present these and come forward to represent KASC is because students are afraid of being targeted by the administration.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said that the lack of meetings came from difficulty getting into contact with the members of KASC. “Until very recently, the members of KASC were anonymous,” Bonham said. “And given that as far as we can tell the group is mostly composed of alumni, we felt that it would be more appropriate for them to meet with Alumni Council leaders.”
While KASC does not describe themselves as an anonymous group, only a few members have identified themselves. They stated that while alumni and student members do not actively disclose their affiliation with the group, there are members that have posted about the collective on their social media accounts. In addition, alumni have submitted notes on behalf of the organization in which they were named. However, KASC maintains that they would rather not focus on individual members, stressing that the organization is intended to work as a collective.
In the meantime, KASC is continuing to pressure both the BFC and the Kenyon administration as a whole by posting testimonials by alumni, including former BFC members, expressing support of their demands.