Student mobilization opens a window for change
At the Student Council meeting last Sunday, I was elated to witness a level of student engagement in the administrative policies of the College I had not experienced in my time here. Writing for the opinions section of the Collegian occasionally feels like shouting into the void, but here was a manifestation of the efforts of various students pushing back on the decisions made without their input, from the PEEPS O’Kenyon to the Community Advisors, WKCO DJs to a student employed by the Gambier Grill.
I feel a great deal of respect for Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 and Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman addressing a myriad of student voices in person by coming to the meeting on Sunday, but wished their answers had been more substantive.
What concerned me most was something articulated by Student Council President Phoebe Roe ’16 at the outset of the meeting. I don’t want this unprecedented mobilization of students to culminate simply in more meetings, in more great ideas that never get implemented. I hope this semester ends with a series of realistic policy changes that increase transparency between students and administrators. That’s what it seems this debate is about: more student involvement in shaping College policy.
Students aren’t demonstrating over the elimination of free beer at Sendoff — to say so trivializes the efforts of those who have been working hard on solutions since these changes were announced. If we don’t take advantage of this window, I fear we will have lost an opportunity to effect important changes that only comes around once in a great while. These changes could have implications that last long after our collective time at Kenyon is over. If these are the most serious policy initiatives in which we are involved during our lives, we will be lucky, as we will eventually leave the Kenyon bubble. But to call this reaction foolish continues the cycle of disempowerment that brought about these potentially dangerous changes.
If we take advantage of this moment, it might be possible to carry this momentum into other areas that need attention: ensuring pay equity for professors of all genders, the omnipresent student housing dilemma and paying student employees a fair wage, among other examples. This window is far from closed.
Gabrielle Healy ’18 is an English major from Fairhaven, Mass. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.