On March 22, President Sean Decatur and the Campus Senate co-chairs hosted a virtual open forum for alumni to discuss the ongoing moniker change process. In the forum, they announced the current frontrunners for a new moniker, which include the Crows and the Owls.
Campus Senate began a semester-long review of the Lords and Ladies monikers in spring 2021. It concluded that the current monikers are not in line with Kenyon’s values and recommended that the College select a new one. Though the voting process was initially scheduled to happen in the fall, the process was delayed several times, until Decatur announced a timeline earlier this semester. As recent Collegian reporting shows, the debate over the Lords and Ladies has been around since they were used as nicknames in the Collegian (“lords” in 1936 and “ladies” in 1976), after which they grew into popular use.
Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell ’84, faculty co-chair of the Senate, emphasized the monikers’ contentious history during the forum. He said that, unlike with the Lords and Ladies, students, alumni and other community members should have formal say in the new moniker. “I think that we should be more intentional and more thoughtful about this process,” he said.
At the forum, Vice President for Advancement Colleen Garland shared that the moniker suggestion form, sent out to the community in February, has already received 1,300 responses from alumni, students, parents, faculty and staff. According to Garland, a significant portion of responses are from alumni, and most alumni responses indicate support for a new moniker.
The Senate co-chairs began the meeting by sharing their perspectives on the moniker change. Delaney Gallagher ’23, student co-chair of the Senate and a women’s lacrosse player, shared that she feels it is important for Kenyon’s sports teams to compete under one name and one moniker. She then addressed alumni athletes on the call, saying that the values of Kenyon athletics will continue, even under a different name. “It is that character and that value and that sense of shared community that should be represented as a tradition to be kept. Not necessarily every name that we use to embody them,” she said.
Assistant Director of Community Partnerships Alyssa Gómez-Lawrence ’10, staff co-chair of the Senate, raised that the Lords and Ladies monikers, in addition to not being gender inclusive, are insensitive given their classist roots. Tazewell added on to this, sharing his perspective as a student-athlete alumnus. “It’s important to me that this place is a place that not only says that it holds everybody and has a place for everybody, but that represents that in the way it represents itself to the world,” he said.
Many of the alumni on the call demonstrated support for the current monikers by wearing Lords and Ladies merchandise, and their questions expressed skepticism of the change. Some raised concerns that a new moniker will erase history that is important to them or will take away something that makes Kenyon unique. The panelists assured those on the call that a new moniker will not erase any alums identity as a Lord or Lady.
The call concluded with the co-chairs sharing their personal favorite moniker suggestions. Tazewell voiced his support for the Owls, donning a Kenyon Owls hat. Gomez-Lawrence, however, supported the Crows, another leading contender. But Gallagher had different ideas altogether, campaigning for the Salamanders. Decatur said that while naming is not his strong suit, he has confidence in the Kenyon community to select a new moniker.
Molly Vogel ’00 shared more alumni insights in an article for the spring issue of the Kenyon Alumni Magazine. The article shares the perspectives of several alumni on both sides of the issue. Kellyn Caldwell ’12, who supports keeping the Lords and Ladies monikers, argued that instead of changing to a new moniker, Kenyon should instead expand the definitions of Lords and Ladies to be more inclusive.
On the other side, Ken Schultz ’00 wrote that changing the moniker is an essential demonstration of support from the College for trans and nonbinary students. “Every message Kenyon can send that supports LGBTQ+ students living as their true selves will be a godsend,” he wrote.
The moniker suggestion and feedback form will remain open through April 11, at which point Campus Senate and the Office of Communications will review all submitted suggestions. Up to five top suggestions will appear on a ranked-choice voting form, which will be sent out to the Kenyon community on April 22.