By Celine Aenlle-Rocha
Every Kenyon student knows how nerve-racking the word “comps” can be, whether they’re in the midst of them now or still in their first year. The process can be both engaging and grueling, but either way there is a question as to how fair or even necessary comps are.
Some have proposed standardizing comps across all majors to make the process more uniform and fair for all seniors. However, this would restrict the amount of creativity that people could involve in their projects if they were all composed of, for instance, a test and a research paper.
I’m a double major in Spanish area studies and English with creative writing, and I was able to replace a research paper with creative projects in both senior exercises. The English department recently decided to offer senior seminars in both the fall and the spring semesters so students can complete the senior exercise, either a critical essay or a portfolio of creative writing, through a course guided by a professor and with the option of feedback from other students. This structure is an improvement on its predecessor, in which English majors were expected to design a research project and turn it in by January with little to no guidance. By making the senior exercise more interactive, it becomes less of a homework assignment and more of an opportunity to engage with professors and students over a subject about which the senior enjoys writing.
What might best prepare us for the world beyond college and grad school isn’t simply the ability to write a research paper and pass an exam, but the opportunity to recognize our interests and develop our intellectual or creative confidence by creating a long-term personal project. Standardizing comps is not necessarily the best option because there are so many different majors at Kenyon that allow for varied interpretations when it comes to the senior exercise. Standardizing the major might require, for example, studio art majors to write a paper or take an exam instead of focusing all their time on an exhibit that could better demonstrate the skills they’ve developed at Kenyon.
While it’s always a good idea to question and revise the comps process and make it fair for all seniors, ultimately what each senior deserves is the opportunity to take advantage of what freedom comps do allow and produce something new and informative, so that the resulting spectrum across all majors will be more diverse, not more similar.
Celine Aenlle-Rocha ’15 is a Spanish/English double major from La Cañada Flintridge, Ca. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.