On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) released a white paper titled “Brackett’s Path” detailing the alleged financial consequences of actions taken by Kenyon’s administration, the Board of Trustees and its chair, Brackett B. Denniston III ’69. The 37-page report was distributed via all-student email, and printed copies were placed around Peirce Dining Hall.
The report analyzes Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) information and other data that Kenyon self-reports to the federal government, and compares Kenyon to its self-selected peer institutions. “Brackett’s Path” argues that Kenyon has systemically underinvested in students and student support services in favor of expansive building projects and overenrollment. Kenyon reports 35 full-time student support staff (a broad category including librarians, counselors and academic affairs staff, among others), compared to a median of 151 among its peers, many of which are of a similar size. This low number means Kenyon averages 46.1 students for every individual student support staffer, compared to the median 13.1 among its peers. On the other hand, compared to its peer institutions, Kenyon has a much greater number of employees in business and finance, both numerically and per student. The release purports that this has coincided with an overreliance on and exploitation of student work by the College.
Further, the report says that Kenyon under Denniston has gotten substantially more expensive and argues that this is especially the case for students from the lowest income bracket. Pulling from IPEDS data, K-SWOC reports that in 2013, the average net tuition paid by a student from a household making less than $30,000 a year was $2,813. By 2019, this increased 431.7 percent to $14,958.
Though the report doesn’t mention K-SWOC’s unionization effort, which has been the organization’s primary focus for the past two and a half years, members see the paper as part of their broader goal of supporting student workers. “We wanted to let student workers know about this problem,” K-SWOC member Ammar Raslan ’26 said. “We are trying to use these numbers to support this point that something isn’t right. … These changes are going to affect students that could come through in years and years to come.”
K-SWOC member Emma Kang ’25 further addressed questions about the report. “Comments I have heard have pertained to the lack of K-SWOC’s connection to these issues, but as these issues all involve the welfare of the Kenyon community, these issues are directly related to issues that affect student workers,” she wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Acting President Jeff Bowman disputed both the spirit and content of the report. “While we welcome any examination of our performance from college stakeholders, K-SWOC’s analysis is flatly wrong,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. He did not point to specific inaccuracies.
He went on, “Although calling for transparency, the white paper does not acknowledge any author, nor does it engage in debate that is informed, honest, or respectful. This is in contrast to the members of the Kenyon community it seeks to undermine — not just Brackett Denniston and the Board of Trustees, but President Decatur, his team, and the faculty, staff and student leaders who help guide the direction of this College in keeping with our values. Integrity, respect, and kindness are chief among them.”
Raslan noted that K-SWOC is open to a dialogue and welcomes both affirmative and dissenting opinions, such as Bowman’s. “We want to use this point to inspire discussion about what the stats mean for us, and what we can do about them,” he said.
K-SWOC will host a town hall to discuss the report on Friday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m in the Gund Gallery Community Foundation Theater.