Through all of the changes students have seen in the past few years, a fundamental problem still remains and is set to worsen next semester: parking. The College is fumbling the quintessential Kenyon experience with clashing ideologies between being a “walking campus” and expanding into Mount Vernon. Kenyon plans to transition South 1, Norton and Lewis parking options to faculty and staff lots next semester, while expanding South 2 for students and thus further inconveniencing North Campus residents. The initiative of integrating the Kenyon student body into the Mount Vernon community is thwarted by the purposeful lack of convenient student parking in an effort to remain “a walking campus.”
The Wright Center opened in Mount Vernon last spring. Since the College chose to have the Wright Center in Mount Vernon, there have not been any changes to parking policy to make the six-mile journey to class more convenient for students with vehicles. The school has made changes to the campus shuttle, Knox Area Transt (KAT); a necessary adjustment, but this option offers a slower commute with multiple stops, and less freedom of when to arrive and leave, while giving students who have work or internships outside of Gambier little option of where to stop. It also does not operate on Sundays. Simply put, this option is not optimal for students with vehicles.
The Wright Center gives Kenyon roots in Mount Vernon. The three-story building devotes its first floor to the Science Play-Space Initiative, a children’s science program, and houses space for the Office for Community Partnerships on the second floor, while providing film students a professional studio and editing labs on the second and third floors. For this senior film major, it’s been an incredible resource, but one that’s far out of theyway from traditional Kenyon academia.
Seniors register for parking first but getting their first choice is far from guaranteed due to the limited number of spaces. This number is set to drastically decrease next semester. This change will further exile the majority of North residents from convenient parking. This would mean a student living in a New Apartment would have to walk roughly 1.25 miles to get to their car in the proposed new spaces. North Campus students would have to make a two-mile round trip or longer if they wanted to go home before going to the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC).
Any film student or student with an off-campus job or internship living North will have to make up to a 2.5-mile round trip, often multiple times a week, to reach their car if they want to get to town at a different time, or place, than the hourly shuttle. The proposed additional parking illustrates the school’s disconnect with the needs of its current students. With construction causing the permanent and temporary closures of the Cove and the Gambier Deli, Mount Vernon is increasingly desirable but disincentivized by inconvenience. On weekends, faculty parking becomes available to students but the spaces are also limited.
Kenyon is not a walking campus, but a campus divided between walking and biking. Lately students are opting to walk alongside Middle Path rather than dirt biking and mud sliding on it, but still, the point remains. Living North means having at least a half mile journey to class, Peirce and the KAC. With expanded North parking, this fundamental aspect of daily commuting would not switch to students driving because the parking guidelines would not change. We would remain a walking/biking campus, but students with commitments outside of Gambier wouldn’t have to make constant treks to South 2 and back. If the fear is of losing our “walking campus,” why does any student have convenient parking, like those in the Acland Apartments, Morgan Apartments or the select few seniors who were able to win the parking lottery?
There are ways around this: If the school theoretically paved a parking lot over the abandoned tennis courts near the New Apts or over the basketball courts between Watson and Norton Residence Halls as quickly as they did for the Gund Commons parking lot this fall, it would solve this issue. Keeping spaces for North Campus student parking would show that the school prioritizes convenience and safety for the students who pay to be here as much as they do for the faculty and staff they pay to work here.
Convenient parking shouldn’t be so limited that seniors have to fight over it with a lottery system, but available to all North residents. The systems in place that prevent students from driving to class and Peirce would remain and so will Kenyon’s “walking campus.” Convenient parking would make academic work that requires driving into town more accessible while not changing the current parking rules in place. If it is available to some already, why is there hesitation of expansion? As the new Gund Commons lot has proven, the solution is quick and easy.
Jas Spearman ’18 is a film major from Round Pond, Maine. You can contact him at email@example.com.