Section: Opinion

We refuse to buy the Kenyon brand

This year represents a major turning point for Kenyon. It was rife with friction between the student body and the administration over a number of decisions regarding student life made with minimal or no input from the student body. From the student perspective, it is clear what is happening: Over the course of the past year, the administration’s goal has been to neatly reduce the Kenyon brand into the kind of image that fits nicely in an admissions brochure, easily marketable to parents and students with the prestige of a shrinking admission rate. In doing so, the administration has opted to force more unsavory behavior underground with Band-Aid solutions.

Decisions to close the Gambier Grill and change Sendoff policies were perhaps intended to curb underage drinking, but both changes appear to do very little to actually prevent it, they simply make it less visible. Underground underage drinking is nice for the picture-perfect Kenyon brand, but students who must drink behind closed doors are less likely to get help if they drink too heavily. Whereas the past two Sendoff celebrations amounted to zero hospitalizations, this year alone saw three hospitalizations related to alcohol consumption.

In the face of these changes, it was heartening to see how students rallied. After the changes to the Sendoff date and alcohol policy were announced, in addition to the closing of the Gambier Grill, Kenyon students came together, unleashing their fury through published articles, Facebook statuses, Yik Yaks and petitions. The Feb. 7 Student Council meeting saw more attendees than any other meeting this year. At the meeting, Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 said “I am in awe that so many students care about this.”

Next year will be even more crucial in determining the Kenyon identity. We need even more community activism from even more students, and not just in response to alcohol-related issues. The College has attempted to placate us with vague promises such as more dialogue with Student Council and an independent audit of Title IX procedures. We must persevere in holding the administration accountable for these promises. Otherwise, the disconnect between the Kenyon we see as prospective students and the Kenyon we get when we have agreed to pay for it will grow wider and wider. If we wish to preserve the parts of this community that we care about, both the power and responsibility to do so ultimately lie with us.

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