By Kat Ridley
Whenever I tell strangers back home that I go to Kenyon, the first response I often get is “Oh, didn’t John Green go there?” With his realistic and relatable portrayal of adolescents and his unique writing style, Green indeed seems to have almost single-handedly both put Kenyon on the map and, more importantly, greatly increased the number of prospies stumbling through Peirce Hall and sending in applications.
The recent fame of John Green ’00 is probably one of the largest reasons for the spike in applications Kenyon has received. While this makes me feel an internal glow being a Green fan myself, it also gives me a distinct sense of unease. What are the consequences of having so many students end up on the Hill simply because of one author? Green certainly has a very distinct “Kenyon quirk” aesthetic to his writing, and I’ve never met a fan of his I haven’t liked, but what bothers me is this: how can we hope to accept so many “quirky” students with similar interests without damaging our diversity? Do we really want the student makeup of Kenyon to be so deeply influenced by a few famous alumni? There’s no doubt Josh Radnor ’96 and Kenyon band Walk the Moon also have contributed to Kenyon’s newfound fame, but something tells me they tend to draw the same type of student Green might.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this type of student, and there’s nothing we can do to affect the number of them who decide to apply. Honestly, I think they should apply; Kenyon’s probably a great fit for them and I’m sure they would make a great contribution to the Hill. However, I also think it is important to keep pushing for increased diversity on this campus, not just racial or religious, but also that of interests and worldviews. I do love Kenyon for its distinct atmosphere and the type of students it attracts; this is one of the only places where I have felt at home in a community. I do not want to get rid of that feeling nor how special Kenyon is because of it, but I also have to acknowledge that I achieve more personal growth when I get the chance to talk to people who are not like me. And, sorry, but I am the quasi-alternative, sock-mismatching, Green fan stereotype that tends to be imagined in the minds of the prospies and parents who’ve read all the college guides.
The most I can ask is just that admissions be aware of all kinds of diversity, and keep in mind every prospective student’s inherent value, whether or not they fit the stereotypical Kenyon mold. Next year, I hope we receive more applications from prospies who are more in love with the professors, the student body or maybe just the College itself. Those are the things that really matter, and those are the aspects of Kenyon that will allow its student body to continue being unique and fantastic, while also enriching the Hill with new perspectives.
Kat Ridley ’18 is undeclared from Piedmont, Calif. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.