Twice a year, once in October and once in April, the Board of Trustees comes to Gambier to discuss the current operations and future of our College. Every time the trustees arrive there is grumbling — grumbling about closed dining rooms, grumbling about their lack of attention to the student body and grumbling about how they receive better food and accommodations than students.
We are all here at this successful, highly ranked, beautiful college in large part because of the hard work members of the Board of Trustees commit to Kenyon. There is no salary for attending their three yearly meetings, giving up time away from their jobs and families to work toward the improvement of the College. Some of these trustees are not even graduates of Kenyon, but devote their time regardless, committing themselves to a school they care deeply about. Larry James, a Columbus-based lawyer, is a Wittenberg University alumnus, yet he has served as a trustee the last six years.
Trustees also number among Kenyon’s top donors. David Horvitz ’74 H’98 contributed $10 million for the construction of Horvitz Hall, and Alan Rothenberg ’67 H’10 P’96 funded the new Hillel House. Looking at a map of Kenyon, you will see many names of current and former trustees who have donated their own money to improve this campus.
These trustees have committed themselves to projects at Kenyon that they are passionate about, and they have a vision for how they want to see the College evolve. While arguably they have made the changes they wanted to see, they have to a large extent earned that right by being willing to devote time and money. Kenyon students also have that power, but to reach this position of importance requires a strong devotion to the College, not merely casual complaints.
Someday, Kenyon will be fully accessible, its student body will be incredibly diverse and it will have a truly need-blind admissions process. By then, all students reading this will have graduated. While those changes may not occur at the pace you would like, you can help make these changes possible. Make donations for financial aid, continue to lobby for accessibility and donate money explicitly for these changes to occur. Students need to understand the realities of Kenyon’s situation. At present we simply do not have the money to make all the changes students want.
In discussions with my fellow students I have heard the Board of Trustees lambasted for a perceived inattention to student problems and concerns, as well as for making arbitrary decisions at the whims of donors. Yet some of these students resist when I ask for a $1 donation for financial aid to the Kenyon Fund. Fellow Kenyon students, do not let your devotion to change at Kenyon cease with the presentation of your diploma.
You should also have faith that our board will work toward your goals. Our board is comprised of leaders in education, business, religion and science. These are skilled professionals who have founded and led companies and continue to do important work across the country and the world.
What I ask is that, if you truly care about these causes, then when you graduate and enter the working world you stay active. Change comes slowly, but it will come. Stay involved Kenyon, and one day your lunchtime complaints may be the subject of discussion among the trustees of this college. And, rest assured, it is very likely that your decisions will, in turn, become the lunchtime complaints of the students then attending Kenyon.
Nathaniel Shahan ’17 is a political science major from Tully, N.Y. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.