Section: Opinion

Too many parents on campus disrupts our learning environment

Ah, the weekend. For two days every week, we get a chance to decompress, have fun or catch up on work. This chance to de-stress is integral to the lifestyle rhythm of most college students, especially now that many of us are in the thick of midterms. However, the institution of Family Weekend often disrupts this, not just for those of us who have to construct and maintain the best possible presentation of their lives at Kenyon for their family, but for the rest of the students who must deal with the strain of hundreds of visitors to campus.

You may be wondering why a student whose father teaches at Kenyon is writing this piece. “Isn’t every day like Family Weekend for you?” you may jokingly ask. Very funny, but my parents and I have set up boundaries that we respect; their presence here has rarely seemed intrusive to me. I don’t mean to call out any person or their family specifically, but some of you have not set up these boundaries.

Family Weekend in many ways feels like putting on a show, and when other people’s parents are at your Peirce table and in your living space, the effect is constant. I have to play the idealized version of myself for a bunch of strangers, and as someone who struggles socially, it’s incredibly difficult and draining to do this for an entire weekend.

I am not saying that parents shouldn’t be allowed to visit Kenyon. I’m just saying that it’s not a good idea for all of them to visit on the same weekend, especially one in the middle of midterms. For one, it stresses resources, like space at Peirce. There are already more students on this campus than Peirce was designed to accommodate, and closing multiple dining spaces at once for parent events means that people often have nowhere to go. Over the weekend, I found myself avoiding Peirce to try to stay away from the chaos.

Another tradition of Family Weekend is parents sitting in on classes with their children. Though I understand that parents are entitled to see where their tuition dollars are going, their presence changes the dynamic of the class and I’m not sure if they’re even getting a fair representation.

As one of my professors said in class on Friday, “everyone’s afraid to speak in front of the parents.” Though he said this partially in jest, he has a fair point. The presence of parents in the classroom often intimidates students, and class often feels oddly stifled as a result. I would prefer if parents would get to know their child’s professors in a less invasive context.

I recognize that it’s important that parents be able to experience Kenyon for themselves, but many of the institutions of Family Weekend are taken for granted by the student body. Considering how it impacts student life might lead us to find ways that family visits can be a better experience for both students and parents.

Tobias Baumann ’19 is a religious studies major from Mount Vernon, Ohio. Contact him at baumannt@kenyon.edu.

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