“You don’t have a student union?” My family’s shock surprised me when I told them over Family Weekend that Kenyon doesn’t have an apparent staple of college life. While at first the idea of a student union seemed old-fashioned to me, the more I thought about it the more sense it made.
My parents haven’t been the only people to comment on our lack of such a space; such comments have been cropping up in conversations lately as a solution for several different issues. I’m a Community Advisor, and after a duty weekend involving many alcohol-related incidents other CAs noted the incidents happened on a night when there were no all-campus events. They figured much of the socializing (and drinking) might have taken place in more discreet dorm parties, where students might not have been able to monitor their alcohol intake as closely as they would if they had been at a more public event.
If there were a space that was always open, the pressure would not be on fraternities and sororities to provide this type of activity on the weekend. The development of a new space would also present opportunities for student employment, helping address another issue the College faces.
The purpose of a student union is to provide a relaxed space, open late into the night. Aside from small parties or shows at the Horn Gallery, there are few shared spaces at Kenyon where people under 21 can go hang out later at night when there aren’t any all-campus events.
I envision the space as more casual than the Village Inn or the Cove: While student groups from time to time could host events, it could also be a space to swing by on the way to someplace else. The student union could be a place to see student bands on a regular basis or get some food, but its scope could also be wider. For those over 21, it could serve as a bar. Oberlin College’s student union includes a bar as well as a bowling alley and a club where student DJs and bands play. Students would ideally be able to define the new space and its function and, most importantly, its hours; a union would further engage us in campus life.
It’s not as if I’m dreaming. Peirce Pub could provide the space. In the past, it has served this purpose. Having a student union would be another opportunity to enhance our community and nightlife. We have to recognize our location: We’re not located in a bustling metropolis where there is something to do every weekend. Student groups like Social Board should take more responsibility for pursuing more long-term solutions, like the creation of a student union, to address the dearth of activities here during the weekend.
Gabrielle Healy ’18 is an English major from Fairhaven, Mass. Contact her at email@example.com.