In the fall of 2013, as fellow classmates struggled with the ins and outs of living in a first-year dorm, I was making the 20-minute commute every day from my home in Fredericktown to Kenyon, where I was taking a full course-load. It wasn’t much different from the year before, when I’d taken classes at Kenyon as a “guest student” while staying at home — part of a failed experiment in admissions and, as it turned out, for me. In spring 2014, I transferred into an on-campus residence. My experience wasn’t the best, as I felt excluded from the Kenyon community.
Recently, Kenyon has taken a larger interest in students who are choosing to live off campus without agreement from the College, and plans to crack down on those not complying with the policy. While my experience off campus wasn’t the best, I can’t say I agree with the College’s policy or the idea of our campus as completely residential. In a Nov. 19 email sent to students, Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, cited Gambier residents as being concerned about “noise, underage drinking, and garbage in their neighborhoods.” My neighbors at home, who are probably twice my age and have kids, have parties at all hours of the night and throw garbage in their yard — so why is it assumed that a space not occupied by students is automatically going be tranquil and peaceable?
It’s no secret that Kenyon’s residence halls are filled to capacity, but the recently constructed North Campus Apartments provide space for very few students, offering some kind of pseudo-segue into adulthood. Unless Kenyon chooses to expand these options soon, more flexibility should be given to students when deciding where students choose to live. Even though my experience living off campus was College-sanctioned and not so pleasant, I still feel strongly that if upperclassmen want to live off campus, they should have that option. With larger classes being accepted and no immediate action being taken on the part of the College to improve housing, this feels especially pertinent. I understand the College has concerns in regards to the well-being of the students it oversees, but we should open up more options for students, who choose to pay for rooms and pay again to live somewhere else. If legal accountability were shifted away from off-campus residents, the College would not have to worry about the safety of adults who in less than six months might be living on their own anyway.
I wouldn’t choose to live off campus again. Like I said, it won’t be long before I have to live somewhere else and clean my own bathroom. Regardless, I think it’s time to open the lines of communication between students and the administration. Instead of cracking down on off-campus living, the administration needs to listen to what students want, and if that’s a home away from Kenyon, why shouldn’t they consider it?
Reagan Neviska ’17 is an anthroplogy major from Fredericktown, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.