Section: Editorial

Staff editorial: Trustees should mix more with students

Beginning today, Kenyon’s trustees will meet, mostly behind closed doors, to discuss big-picture priorities and plans for Kenyon’s future, including President Sean Decatur’s 2020 plan and ways to make Kenyon more economically accessible. This year and last, the Office of the President invited a few students to have lunch with members of the board. Such opportunities are valuable, and we wish the College organized more events like it.

After all, many trustees are Kenyon alumni themselves, yet many students know nothing about these individuals and do not realize the substantial influence they hold over Kenyon’s future. Admittedly, some of this ignorance is simply due to students’ failure to read their emails and educate themselves on College affairs, and thus cannot be blamed purely on a lack of effort by Kenyon’s administrators or the trustees themselves. Nonetheless, both sides — students and trustees — could do a better job of reaching out and meeting each other in the middle.

A positive step in this direction was the trustees’ recent pledge to match every Kenyon senior’s donation to the College with $50, as long as the original donation was over a dollar. This fundraising effort is commendable, especially since it’s collaborative. However, such efforts are not enough.

While donation-matching and the occasional shared lunch are good starts, they do not address the core problem of a student body and a board of trustees that are largely estranged for the majority of the students’ four years. Trustee donations to the senior gift are beneficial, but perhaps more beneficial would be increased interest in how the student body would like to see that money spent by the board.

We saw some collaboration last year when President Decatur invited students to participate in three 2020 focus groups and communicate their concerns directly to him. The input from these programs was included directly alongside that of faculty and staff and will be part of what the board considers this weekend. Why limit these focus groups to years when the board is deciding on a 10-year plan? If it were done annually, it would be a valuable barometer for campus sentiment from year to year. Additionally, we’d like to see some of the student-trustee meetings occur without administrators present, since we believe this will encourage students to speak more candidly. Lastly, although we’re sure the trustees will be extremely busy during the coming weekend, we encourage them to approach us students just to chat. We promise — we won’t bite.


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