What do Kenyon’s student body, administration and board of trustees have in common? If your answer is “Nothing,” “I don’t know” or even “What exactly is the board of trustees?”, you’re not alone.
There is a disconnect between these segments of the Kenyon community. Within any organization or institution, trustees are expected to allocate funds, among other duties, in the best interest of its members.
Similarly, the administration at Kenyon, according to Kenyon’s mission statement, should be working to “afford its students a higher sense of their own humanity and to inspire them to work with others to make a society that would nourish a better humankind.” But the actual interaction between the student body, the administration and the board paints a starkly different picture.
Not long ago the student body expressed outrage over the administration’s decision to change the date of its beloved event, Sendoff, without receiving input from the student population.
Both students and administrators have expressed doubts and discontent with regard to the trustee’s decisions regarding the College’s budget. In my experience attending dinners with trustees, I sense a general lack of awareness about campus culture, including students’ traditions and aspirations for the College’s future. So, where do we go from here?
To promote change among them, each of these segments of the Kenyon community must, first and foremost, acknowledge that this pervasive disconnect exists and examine the role it plays in perpetuating its existence. When perusing the Kenyon website, one can see, on the Board of Trustees page, only the names of the individual members. Nowhere is there a mission statement, a promise to advocate for the best interests of the larger Kenyon community or even a short description detailing the board’s hopes and activities. Though information is available regarding the various administrative positions and who currently holds what titles, the provided text is fairly limited and legalistic, confusing readers about who holds responsibility for which campus policy. The student body, though recently active and outspoken about these issues, often waits to advocate for more information and clearer standards until multiple unfavorable outcomes have already occurred.
Each of these segments of the Kenyon community can improve its communication with the others. It is likely the student body, administration, and board have similar goals but lack the necessary understanding of one another to achieve them. A focus on facilitating clarity and discourse, both in person and across informational media, as opposed to finger-pointing and blaming, would likely fix these issues.
Hayley Yussman ’18 is an English and political science major from River Forest, Ill. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.