Section: Editorial

Embracing the purpose of Common Hour

The College has adopted a new Common Hour policy that aims to reduce the number of private meetings that happen during the hour-long window on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The students, faculty and staff of the College should embrace this reaffirmation of Common Hour’s true purpose.

We often remember the Common Hours devoted to ombuds-facilitated dialogues and panel discussions on controversial plays. Even so, the majority of them  that have not been spent eating lunch have been devoted to small meetings, on-campus job-related programming and other activities that group students together by what they study, where they work, what team they are on and other such dividing lines. The time is often used in trivial ways, and, despite the many conflicting events happening every week at that time, faculty and organizational figureheads still see it as a time to host compulsory meetings or out-of-class sessions.

This, however, is not the purpose of Common Hour. Common Hour, though it has existed in various forms over the years, has been around in its current form for nearly 40 years. When Campus Senate submitted its proposal to the Student Affairs Committee for endorsement on Feb. 25, 1981, the stated purpose of the Hour was “to further a sense of community at the College by providing a time for all members of the College to gather,” according to that week’s edition of the Kenyon Collegian. Clearly, over the years, the function of Common Hour has drifted away from its mission.

The new policy that Provost Joseph Klesner announced is a step in the right direction, acknowledging the way that Common Hour has proved useful to groups on campus in recent years while nudging it back to its original purpose. In particular, we at the Collegian hope that Klesner’s suggestion that the Tuesday hour be used for a regular town halls with President Decatur (or other ceremonies) becomes reality.

The only times that there have been concerted efforts to bring the whole campus together at Kenyon are in times of crisis, after divisive events like the controversy surrounding The Good Samaritan and the “Send Silence Packing” exhibit. What if we gathered for more than just reactions and panel discussions? We propose that if Common Hour was truly used to bring the community together — students, faculty and staff — perhaps, through asking each other questions, hearing answers and relating to one another, we would come to create a culture of greater understanding.

Imagine it: students, faculty and staff, all in the same room. Not as a reaction to a campus crisis, not for the announcement of some new donation, building project or capital campaign, but simply because we all live and work here.

In addition to regular campus gatherings, this time should also be used to emphasize the importance of rest, an activity that often gets overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

We at the Collegian believe that organizations should be banned from scheduling events during at least one of the two Common Hours. As the school continues their emphasis on ‘high-impact practices,’ students and staff alike are becoming overwhelmed. It is vital to the mental health and well-being of the students to have at least one hour a week secured for campus-wide downtime.

We are too often siloed by being students, faculty, staff, on-campus employees, athletes, club members and all the rest. We have 24 hours a day, five days a week for this. Let’s allow two hours of reprieve from these distinctions.

It’s time to make Common Hour common again.

The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Becca Foley ’20 and Adam Schwager ’20, and executive director Tommy Johnson ’20. You can contact them at foley1@kenyon.edu, schwager1@kenyon.edu and johnson1@kenyon.edu, respectively.

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