On Monday, the Center for the Study of American Democracy hosted a debate between Gambier’s three mayoral candidates.
Fewer than a dozen students showed up.
Every election cycle the argument emerges that Kenyon students shouldn’t vote in a place where most are living for only four years. But the lack of student interest in this race is troublesome for a number of reasons.
The main point against students voting here in Knox County is one of economics: it reeks of elitism when disproportionately wealthy (and liberal) voters come in to approve tax increases and other measures that won’t apply to them for long, if at all.
But this race is different.
The mayoral race — and this is the only time current Kenyon students will be eligible to vote for the mayor of Gambier — has the potential to reshape the culture and aesthetics of Gambier and the College.
Before the College constructs a new building or significantly restructures infrastructure on campus, it needs to get approval from the Village’s planning and zoning committee.
So whoever’s at the helm of the Village has at least some sway over how Kenyon will look in the future.
The candidates — councilmembers Liz Forman, Betsy Heer and Kachen Kimmell — offer distinct perspectives on the relationship between the College and the Village.
While Kimmell rightly fought for a traffic study to gauge the impact of closing a section of Scott Lane to open a patio, Kimmell has shown less skepticism about the need for such a patio in the first place. Forman has come out against the patio and Heer said at the debate that she likes Gambier “pretty much the way it is.”
While a patio in the center of Middle Path may strike some as a welcome addition to downtown, we remain wary of the need for such a development. The master plan calls for many changes to the campus, most of which would appear to transform Kenyon into a higher-ed version of Disneyland.
At the debate, Kimmell characterized her approach to dealing with the College as less “antagonistic” than Heer’s.
But we should not be so quick to confuse antagonism with healthy skepticism, a critical part of any democracy.
That is why it is vital that students, whatever they support or oppose, get out and vote for Gambier’s next mayor. The future of the Village, and the College, depends on it.