Section: Opinion

Persistent vandalism of campus unbecomes Kenyon

I make my way down the many stairs of Old Kenyon to the first floor, exit the stairwell and head toward the main door. It’s been a long night, and I don’t notice anything until my hand is on the doorknob and something seems wrong. And something is — the glass normally present in the small glass window of the door is, well, not present. I assume it’s been broken by a revelrous student, shrug and leave, hardly thinking twice.

But, after the incident of the broken art installations a few weeks ago, maybe it is time to think twice. Maybe it’s time to think about the numerous cases of Kenyon vandalism as something more serious than “a little drunken fun.”

Because, to be honest, it’s not that funny. It’s not funny to the students who are made uncomfortable by it, and are no longer able to feel like Kenyon is a safe place. It is not funny to the administration, who have to spend extra time and money cleaning it up. When it happens in residence halls, it’s not funny for our CAs who have to deal with it and it’s not funny for all the other residents who have to help pay for it. At the end of the night, what are we left with? No declaration of celebration or good times, nor even a spark of wit: just a scribbled piece of writing on a wall, a smashed mirror or a demolished expression of another student’s voice.

I am by no means on a crusade against drunken revelry or the many parties that are thrown on campus. On the contrary, —I think that, when done safely and responsibly, they can be great ways for us to relieve the stress Kenyon unquestionably places on us. When done safely, I might even go so far as to say that partying can improve one’s mental health. The problem isn’t the drinking itself, but what seems to be our attitude toward it: that it gives us an excuse.

I say “our” knowing that the majority of the student body probably doesn’t participate in the acts of vandalism of which I’m speaking. However, when the identity of the vandal remains anonymous, they do essentially become “our” acts, as we have a shared responsibility for them and a shared responsibility to tackle the problem. Yes, we all know that drinking severely impedes one’s cognitive reasoning and decision-making skills, but does that make it any more right to deface another’s property? Does being drunk give one an excuse to break the law, make someone else’s life harder or cause another student discomfort?

No, of course it doesn’t. By simply accepting the destruction that goes on each weekend, we’re both disrespecting ourselves and disrespecting this beautiful school we are all privileged to attend. Kenyon students are creative and resourceful, and I know we can think of better ways to have fun when we’re drunk than by damaging campus property. Even if what you’re about to do seems funny at the time, I’m sure that that hilarity will have dimmed by the next morning, and will definitely be gone within a couple days. Kenyon doesn’t have to be the kind of place where one long weekend means valuable artistic statements get obliterated. But that choice is yours.

Kate Ridley ’18 is undeclared from Piedmont, Calif. She can be contacted at ridleyk@kenyon.edu.

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