Kenyon tours fascinate me. Sometimes it seems like tour guides are in a rush, walking far ahead of their group, talking rapidly over their shoulder as mothers push their timid high schoolers ahead of them. Other times, I can hear their enthusiasm through my open window and can’t stop myself from looking out to their group as they round the corner of McBride and cross the street to Middle Path, working their way into the heart of the Village.
This time last year I was a prospective student when my tour guide pointed out various buildings of the Village: our historic-bank-turned-Black-Box-Theater, the Village Market, the Cove, the Village Inn and Wiggin Street Coffee. I remember my guide almost proudly pointing out the solo red brick building beside the VI — the only building downtown the College doesn’t own, besides the post office.
I was smitten. Kenyon is the most idyllic small-town, middle-of-nowhere intellectual liberal arts college I know of. It’s my childhood vision of what a college should look like, come to life. Administration, I think you know this. That’s beside the point.
This weekend I ended up hanging out with not one, but four prospective students. I had a really nice time showing the students my favorite parts of campus. I took them to class, showed them the Village and made sweet potato fries with them late at night in the McBride kitchen.
I was genuinely impressed by some of the questions they asked. I hope they were a realistic representation of the incoming class because they were enthusiastic, respectful and genuinely interesting people.
The low point of their visit came when the subject turned to theater, the student theater groups and, eventually, the Black Box. I wasn’t about to lie to them, especially with a prospective drama major in tow. Kenyon can’t promise them a Black Box during their time here. In fact, I grimace remembering the conversation. There isn’t much the prospies saw on their tours here we can promise will stay the same.
The Kenyon I was introduced to just a year ago is now gone. I doubt the College will demolish Old Kenyon, I think Ascension is probably safe and I doubt Rosse Hall is going anywhere, but the Village is getting a facelift. The administration will tear down our library in favor of book trailers for some of my time here, and Sunset Cottage is not the only historic space that might be bulldozed for the sake of some-higher-power’s plan.
I haven’t been here long, and I understand some change is good for the campus. My little brother will be applying to colleges in about eight years and maybe a new library and enormous underground parking lot beside Sunset Cottage’s bones will draw him here. But here’s the kicker: The College should care about my quality of life for the next three years. I chose Kenyon for its quirky Black Box and sense of community.
If I wanted to go to a school where all the buildings look the same, I could have gone to an institution closer to my hometown in South Carolina. Instead I chose this school, and have invested my time, money and future in it.
Kenyon is a private institution, and I am sure this opinion will come off as entitled. Kenyon is not required to share all its private building or economic plans with me. That said, students cannot allow the College to sell a future to students that does not exist. I challenge them to be open to parents and incoming students about the changes they will make.
Jess Kusher ’19 is a biology and film major from Spartanburg, S.C. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.