On Monday, President Sean Decatur announced in a news bulletin that the College will begin the official process to update Kenyon’s athletic monikers, the Lords and Ladies. The email included a “Moniker Suggestion & Feedback” form that provides students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents the opportunity to offer feedback on the current monikers and to suggest new ideas for a change in representation.
The Moniker Subcommittee and the Campus Senate as a whole have spent the past several months deliberating and researching the best way to conduct this process. The survey they created was originally scheduled to be shared with the community in October 2021, although the process was delayed several times. The Moniker Subcommittee itself was created in November 2021, and consists of students, coaches, administrators, staff from the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement, and faculty from the the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), the Office of the President, the Office of Student Engagement as well as the Office of Communications.
The College has been working to change the monikers since it updated its mission statement and values last year. Following these updates, students approached Decatur with concerns that the current monikers failed to reflect these commitments, specifically that they do not represent trans and nonbinary students, the news bulletin reported.
“As the world starts changing and we become these more inclusive people and these more inclusive cultures, we need to move forward,” said Alyssa Gomez-Lawrence ’10, assistant director of community engaged learning and internships, who also serves on Campus Senate. “If we want to be the community that is our ideal community, which is something we always think about, then we need to include everyone.”
The moniker suggestion & feedback form represents the next step in the College’s efforts to change the monikers, allowing the entirety of the Kenyon community an opportunity to contribute to the conversation. As of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22, the moniker suggestion and feedback form has received 850 submissions, of which 706 were a new moniker suggestion or a positive response without a specific suggestion.
According to the updated timeline, the form will be available until April 11. The Moniker Subcommittee will then work to review and narrow down the suggestions it has received until April 22, when a ranked-choice voting system will become available. This voting will close on May 2, with the final decision being announced in mid-May.
Decatur noted that the open-ended format of the form allows community members to submit responses reflecting opposition towards a new moniker, though many people closely involved in the process thus far believe that it is likely that the monikers will change.
“I don’t think there’s any kind of going back,” Gomez-Lawrence said. “I know that some people will probably be likely to suggest Lords and Ladies in the survey, but it’s not conducive to who we are as a community.”
Delaney Gallagher ’23, co-chair of the Moniker Subcommittee, believes that a new moniker will not only align more appropriately with the College’s new commitments, but with its athletic values as well. “The phrase we put on our athletic department t-shirts this year says ‘One team,’ and the goal of this process is to be emblematic of that and be One team with One name,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Though much of the discussion among the Campus Senate and Moniker Subcommittee has revolved around questions of inclusivity and diversity, the value of tradition is another important aspect of the debate that has concerned several members of the Kenyon community. Many past and present athletes in particular identify strongly with the current monikers and cherish the pride that they have representing the Lords and Ladies as competitors in their athletic pursuits.
As an athlete on Kenyon’s swimming and diving team, Drew Grier ’23 does not support the moniker change because he believes that the Lords and Ladies serve as meaningful identities for him and his teammates in their roles as competitors and representatives of the College.
“I feel like a lot of the request change is stemming from non-athletic students, and the Lords and Ladies monikers are not signifiers of the student body — they’re more signifiers of the athletic teams here that we have here on campus,” he said. “It’s the athletic teams, when they go to compete in a competition, who are affected the most.”
Grier referenced the team’s victorious history — the Lords’ 34 national championship victories and the Ladies’ 23 — to explain that because the swimming and diving team consists of two separate groups of competitors based on gender, the current monikers distinguish the successes of the male competitors from those of the female competitors. He also emphasized the sense of pride that he and his teammates have in identifying with these respective monikers. “You have a passion to be a Lord or you have a passion to be a Lady,” he said.
“It’s not an inclusive moniker — it’s a gender binary,” he continued. “But, in my current sport, we only have two binaries — we have male and female competitions. At the current state I don’t see a reason for my team to specifically change it.”
Kenyon has dedicated a website page to the history of the College’s monikers, featuring a quote from Associate Vice President for Alumni & Parent Engagement and Annual Giving Shawn Dailey P ’24. He acknowledges the opposing perspectives and extends an invitation to celebrate the values that the current monikers represent and the importance that they hold to many members of the Kenyon community. “Regardless of the outcome of this process, those who identify strongly with the Lords and Ladies monikers are welcome to continue to use them with pride, as they will always belong to your time here as a student,” he said.
In the next few months as the process continues, alumni and parents will have the opportunity to attend an open forum on March 22, where they will be able to discuss the ongoing process with Decatur and members of the Campus Senate. There are not yet plans to hold a similar event for students. Either way, there has not yet been a definitive decision regarding whether or not Kenyon will adopt a new moniker, and the entire Kenyon community is encouraged to join and participate in the discussion.
“There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Lords and Ladies as they have historically been presented. The moniker simply doesn’t represent all students on campus today,” Dailey wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We aren’t considering canceling Lords and Ladies or rewriting our history, we’re following President Decatur’s call to respond to students who have asked for a more inclusive future.”