To the editor:
“Don’t worry, Kenyon’s not like those other schools.”
Many times since graduating, I’ve used those words to reassure folks suspicious of my alma mater. Much of my professional life has been in places where the farm report is more important than Foucault, or where the factory and the family don’t leave much time to protest every microaggression. And so, in response to my encouraging a high schooler to consider Kenyon, folks point to stories of liberal arts students shouting down any view they find distasteful and demonizing anyone deemed insufficiently apoplectic by the latest outrage du jour.
“Don’t worry,” I assure them, “Kenyon’s not like that. Kenyon’s where I remember a social-conservative politician giving a lecture, students packing Rosse Hall to challenge him during the Q&A — but still giving him a standing ovation and inviting him to continue the debate over drinks. Kenyon’s where I could serve as editor-in-chief of the student-run paper and print edgy opinions with the knowledge that most feedback would be harsh but respectful. Kenyon’s where I could share my own views that were often in the political minority and still be judged by the quality of my argument. Sure, there are the ‘Kamp Kenyon’ moments of comfort zones and coddled students. But by and large, Kenyon dares to believe in the classic liberal tradition of reason, debate and differing viewpoints. So don’t worry, Kenyon’s not like those other schools.”
Reading about the “scandal” of an accomplished playwright daring to write a disconcerting play, and proposed “responses” such as an Orwellian “sensitivity checker,” I wonder whether I must abandon this defense. After all, if Wendy MacLeod — an accomplished writer and faculty member (and someone about as far from an alt-right agitator as I can imagine) — cannot escape the slings and arrows of outrageous outrage, then why should I encourage a mere student to apply, knowing that she would risk the wrath of Kenyon’s young scholars for uttering the shibboleth of a controversial view or adhering to the heresy of an insensitive belief?
Robbie Ketcham ’04