To the Editors,
In response to the opinion piece (“Too many parents on campus disrupts our learning environment” in the Oct. 20 issue of the Collegian) by Tobias Baumann — a fine young man as I can vouch — part of me just wants to say “Life sucks. Get a helmet,” but this would be plagiarizing Denis Leary, and such a condescending sentiment is not deserved by a Kenyon student. However, the sentiment that Family Weekend brings a bit of discomfort to students is very much part of the exercise. Parents are likely to be your co-workers, bosses, interviewers, neighbors, your children’s grandparents, etc., and the opportunity to demonstrate that we can co-exist in close quarters is important. And Kenyon parents deserve this. I have the utmost respect of the boundaries you mention with your parents, but even within your boundaries there are opportunities for comfort not many students have. For some, the Family Weekend/Purple Clothing Festival is among the fewer and fewer moments we have to lay eyes on each other.
Exceptions exist to every rule, but if the class I attended and participated in by reading a character’s dialogue from a script (I read the old bald guy character’s lines) was the exception to the rule, then bravo to the students in this class! Student participation was excellent, critical and supportive evaluations of my daughter’s work were freely shared and the professor essentially held class at the normal pace, with expectations that completely ignored the fact that parents were present. It wasn’t a “show” for the parents at all. It gave me comfort to observe that Kenyon students appear to be among the few of this generation who can focus on an intellectual subject for an hour or more without leaving to search for a Pokémon. Again, something Kenyon parents deserve to see.
As odd as it may sound, the most enjoyable moments of Family Weekend came when my daughter, some parents, a number of her friends (a few sans parents) and a Kenyon faculty member went out to dinner. Maybe there was some “constructing and maintaining of the best possible presentations” on both sides — I for one had clean socks on, which for me is showboating — but the evening was pleasant, assuring and stimulating. To witness a dialogue regarding the influence that satire had on 18th century literature between Kenyon students and the professor was remarkable for me as a parent. I even jumped in on the discussion (full disclosure: I asked the Professor to pass the dumplings, as I am a bit rusty on satire in 18th century literature) (more full disclosure: I’m rusty on all centuries). It was a wonderful evening!
Peirce is crowded and some invasion undoubtedly takes place, but the bottom line, Tobias, is that life sucks, get a helmet! But more sincerely, thanks for being a part of my wonderful Family Weekend!
Tod Johnson P ’19