Section: Opinion

Accessibility is a strong selling point

By Brianna Levesque

Ask a student for her opinion about the one and only Wiz of Kenyon, the Great and Powerful Graham Gund ’63, and she will certainly throw her impassioned two cents at you. Some revere him for his work; some criticize him for his at-times idiosyncratic preferences regarding the reality that his artistic masterpieces must become an everyday space of mundanity for those who reside in Gambier. Yet all those connected to Kenyon know of him or, at the very least, recognize his family’s name. It’s hard to miss, seeing as a typical day for a student could involve leaving her cozy cocoon of a bed in Gund Residence Hall to hurriedly print out a paper in Gund Commons before playing icy-Middle-Path-hopscotch while heading off to class in — you guessed it — the Gund Gallery.

The Gund family appears inexplicably tied to Kenyon’s history, but it is Mr. Graham Gund himself who holds its future in his hands. Simply mentioning the ubiquitous presence of He-Who-Probably-Designed-It is sure to get students stirred up, but he is a particularly salient topic of conversation at the moment. Last week, the Collegian featured a thorough article by Victoria Ungvarsky ’17 (“Unveiling a new master campus plan”) laying out Gund’s updated “master plan” for Kenyon’s architectural future. All the press he and his ideas have been getting is for a reason: The man and his associates are highly influential regarding Kenyon’s dynamic, yet enduring, identity.

The master plan is ambitious and compelling, positing numerous laudable amendments to the campus’ current state. One of the key positive aspects of the proposed renovation is an increase in the College’s accessibility. Our campus, for all its commendable features, minds and attitudes, is simply not friendly at the present to those with limited mobility. Ungvarsky mentions that Ascension Hall and other older buildings are slated for an accessibility remodel, with elevators and ramps (required by current law) slated for construction. I feel this is one of the most imminently necessary tenets of the master plan because, although the registrar may change a class’s location to accommodate students with limited mobility, the institution should not settle for a solution which others those members of our community and inherently creates spaces of privilege (such as the currently inaccessible beauty of Philomathesian Hall) on our campus.

Although I would prioritize the efforts to provide for those who face challenges of mobility, I see some other aspects of the plan — such as the proposed new library, construction of a West Quad. And renovation of the Village’s main strip — as still being worthy of consideration, albeit in the more-distant future. These fascinating changes are an opportunity for Kenyon to grow into a more accessible, functional, aesthetically pleasing and hopefully more sustainable (please hear me, Mr. Gund and associates!) environment for those who will traverse Middle Path long after our own tassels are flipped.

While many students discuss Gund’s almost comic familiarity coupled with mystery, he is inarguably integral to the direction Kenyon will take in the coming years. Think what you will of the man, but to me, he is to be admired. Perhaps his ambitious ideas must occasionally be reined in by the banalities of money, time, politics and reality, but at his core I believe he is truly interested in making Kenyon a place of excellence, in the best way he knows how. I deem him successful, looking at the contributions he has made thus far, and have hope his future endeavors will continue his legacy of improvement.

Brianna Levesque ’17 is from Medford, Ore. She can be reached at levesqueb@kenyon.edu.

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