Over a week ago, I walked into the Counseling Center for my bi-weekly appointment. I had a bit of trouble: I had not understood the new system and needed to reschedule. Luckily, I was able to set up a new appointment shortly after and didn’t think much of it. After talking to some friends later that day, I heard the same arguments I’ve heard my entire time here: This was another example of the administration making changes that would hurt the student body and the Kenyon community at large. (For the specifics, I’ll refer to the article “At Counseling Center, no more recurring slots,” which the Collegian ran about the changes last week).
Having productive conversations about administrative changes can certainly be difficult. If we are too cautious nothing will ever be addressed, and if we are not cautious enough, our voices will never be heard. To amend this issue, I suggest a two-tiered test when judging claims made by the administration. The first prong of the test is to ask, does the given reason for the administrative change does not contradict itself? If it does not, the second prong is to check if said reason fails to address other issues the change may bring about.
Two changes that failed this test are the crackdown on off-campus housing and the change to the Sendoff date last year. The former change was contradictory. Living off-campus, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Bonham’s ’92 email to the student body, was “antithetical to a residential college philosophy”, as it ignored “the learning and growth that takes place in a shared environment.” This made no sense, as the off-campus housing options at Kenyon are generally closer to the center of campus than the New Apartments, and those buildings are certainly an important part of student culture.
The change to the Sendoff date fails the second prong. In this case, the given reason for the date change was to guarantee an alternate space in case it rained. While I’m sure this wasn’t a lie, it of course ignored the obvious issues of holding Sendoff the weekend before finals. The student body identified and addressed the second point effectively, and we were able to change the date. Perhaps if we had addressed policies regarding off-campus housing in a similar manner, we could have held a more productive conversation.
Using this test to address the Counseling Center scheduling changes, we find troubling but not yet concrete effects. Applying the first prong, the reason does not contradict itself, as the change has seemed to clear up space in the Center. Applying the second prong, however, we find potential issues. There could be adverse effects depending on whether students who need recurring slots will be able to have continuing appointments and what kind of unknown further effects the changes have, such as the impact of the new on-call contractor. Especially troubling was the idea that the Center wanted to get people out as soon as possible, when it’s hard enough already for American college students to get appropriate mental health services.
I certainly know how easy it is to bad-mouth administrative changes. Choose almost any Kenyon student, and you’ll be preaching to the choir. If we want to try to have an effect, and if we truly care about our community, then we need to be specific and thoughtful about the problems we raise. Thinking through changes in this context might help improve on-campus conversations.
Derek Foret ’17 is a Mathematics major from Washington, D.C. Contact him at email@example.com.