By Hannah Hippen
In late September 1969, a longtime Kenyon tradition died out. The annual Frosh Pajama Parade, or “Fuzzies Debut,” as it was often called, was unofficially canceled on behalf of Kenyon’s first co-ed class. Whether or not the festivities were called off to protect the female freshmen from the chill of an Ohio autumn night or from their pajama-clad male classmates is anyone’s guess, it still doesn’t soften the blow of the loss.
Though the parade dates back to 1824, a simple change in the student populace caused an iconic piece of Kenyon history to begin slipping away. That same year the annual freshman pie-eating contest, halftime cane rush, and nearly all activities related to the “Fussy Hell Week” came to an immediate halt.
Today, with the largest applicant pool and lowest acceptance rate in Kenyon’s history, it seems that the student population is undergoing another monumental change. Unfortunately, the change isn’t like those kooky creations intrinsic to Kenyon’s past, but the loss of spunk like that seen in 1969. Innovation and intervention have always been a part of Kenyon’s identity, but so has individuality. It looks like Kenyon is becoming not just a more notable institution, but home to students who are more institutionalized.
This is not to say that I haven’t met remarkable and incredibly diverse individuals during my short time here, but I haven’t seen a student petitioning to create a Society for Creative Anachronism or a Ransom Lawn Renaissance Faire. I know in the foundation of my being that Kenyon is still attracting these outlandish masterminds who, if supported, will be the architects of a legacy or maybe even a Kenyon Renaissance. These zany concepts of Kenyon’s past have the potential to be reintroduced or, even better, reinvented by our current students. At the very least, or perhaps very best, they could be placed with something just as nuanced but of our own making.
The quintessentially quirky nature of Kenyon can persevere, but only if the student body as a whole chooses to preserve it. Kenyon has always been home to risk-takers and dreamers and oddballs. Or so I thought. I worry that as our student body becomes more “qualified,” we are also being encouraged to become more conventional.
Kenyon is often considered a hidden treasure of schools. I believe it is filled with hidden treasures, too. This wealth exists in our students and their individual and often peculiar ideas and talents. We must cultivate and celebrate this wealth of peculiarity or we’ll lose it.
So I implore you — nay, I beg you — to be vast and varied and downright bizarre. If you want to create a collage, go further. Create a tapestry. If you want to build a birdhouse, commission a brigade of builders and artisans to craft a bustling village of birdhouses. If you want to fence while busting rhymes in iambic pentameter in Portuguese, find me. Find anyone who will join you, and pursue whatever your brainchild is.
Invention for the sake of being new is immature, yes, but invention for the sake of passion is the heart of the Kenyon experience. So let’s be impassioned and eccentric and eclectic. Be part of Kenyon’s twisting, evolving legacy, but make it authentic to you and to your time on the Hill. Kenyon has always been a tad mad, and her estranged nature is part of her charm. Without Kenyon’s almost ostentatiously quirky nature, what’s left?
Truthfully, I don’t know. I don’t want to.
Hannah Hippen ’18 is undeclared from Omaha, Neb. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.