Section: Opinion

Administrative priorities jeopardize the ‘Kenyon experience’

The Kenyon administration’s insensitivity toward student concerns about the decline in nightlife on campus is unsurprising considering the many other issues they have to worry about.

But after banning off-campus housing, shutting down the Cove and enforcing K-Card restrictions, college adminstrators have divided us into our social corners and deadened the social experience that once made Kenyon magical.

The wider Gambier area was both an undiscovered adventure and a home before the administration began enforcing its ban on off-campus housing, which was instituted in December of 2015. These spaces allowed students to branch out with new people in a completely fresh setting, transcending social rules and divisions.

Previously, the Cove would host rounds of explosive conversations and celebratory bonding. Making a pit stop at the Cove was a guarantee of meeting someone new and witnessing the built-up pressure inside of each Kenyon student erupt into laughter, affection and liberated dialogue.

Students who once used Kenyon’s nightlife to meet unfamiliar faces are now constrained to socialize within the clubs, organizations and friend groups with which they are familiar and comfortable. Escaping our network of friends and exploring other social networks has become a much more difficult task.

The administration’s attempt to make Peirce Pub a substitute for this kind of interaction is grossly insufficient, seeing as it is the building that most reinforces and maintains these social divisions. These divisions are manifested by the tendency to only eat a meal with your preferred group of choice: team, club or friend group.

I am nostalgic, but also worried for every student who feels socially stranded by the monopolization of school-sanctioned social venues. The isolating effects that students will feel due to the prescribed and sterile array of social environments is a testament to the administration’s willful dismissal of an essential aspect of Kenyon life.

I attended Kenyon to learn how to create social change by constructively engaging with the complexities of moral dilemmas. The example the administration has set with their recent policies, however, sadly confirms my pessimism towards governmental structures and their ability to create healthy social change through policy. Instead of finding a social alternative for students who are tired of formulaic all-campus parties, the administration has deadened the spontaneity and diversity its nightlife once offered. 

This alternative might prove impossible to find with an administration that invites dialogue from the broader campus only after enacting significant social policies, like K-Card access restrictions.

The administration attempted to legitimize this policy by using a “work-group” consisting of 13 faculty and staff members, and only three students from the Class of 2017. Any legitimacy this work-group attempted to have by including students falls flat when one realizes these students graduated and therefore created a set of rules that they would never have to follow. These students were instead led to believe that the sanitized and advertisable narrative of control, which the school intends for parents and media alike, is the true solution to the danger of being a Kenyon student. 

The sexual assault scandal at Kenyon that received national attention two years ago was closely followed by an unidentified individual’s intrusion into Mather Residence Hall and subsequent sexual assault of a student. The media was not the only force that had Kenyon’s administration under a moral microscope at this time. Parents and students alike rightfully expressed their concern for the safety of students on campus.

These traumatic events are undoubtedly major influences on the administration’s recent policy enactments, but are women on campus any safer?

Diminishing party culture by expelling the locations that fueled its existence implies that the party culture itself was the cause of the dangers students faced on campus.

As students, we know how false this understanding is. It is the individual perpetrators within party culture, not the culture itself, that are the cause of sexual assault.

If sexual assault rates decrease in the upcoming years at Kenyon, these policies will prove their worth. If not, the widely held suspicion that the administration’s policies are an attempt to protect the institution from the blame of another sexual assault scandal will only grow stronger.

These rules are in order, but they are not yet legitimate. In the upcoming months, it is essential that the student body continue to be aware of the realities these policies impose and the changes they were intended to create.

Daniel De Andrade ’19 is a political science major from Norwalk, Conn. You can contact him at deandraded@kenyon.edu.

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