Section: Editorial

Kenyon students should be a fixture on Village Council

In this issue, we covered a monumental occasion in the history of the College and its relationship with the Village of Gambier. Despite being founded by Philander Chase at the same time as the founding of Kenyon, Gambier has never had a current student elected to the Village Council until Ben Nutter ’21 took office on Jan. 13. This is a task that we are certain Councilmember Nutter will not take lightly, as he is the first success story in a long line of Kenyon students seeking membership on the Village Council.

However, while Nutter may be qualified, it took many fortunate coincidences for a student to finally break through the barriers of serving on Village Council. Because Kessler’s mayorship triggered a special election, Nutter did not have to collect the required 50 signatures to appear on the ballot, a surprisingly difficult task that prevented Eva Warren’s ’19 name from appearing on the 2017 ballot despite her intention to serve on the Council. Nutter not only ran unopposed, but he will also serve an abbreviated term, as he assumes the remainder of the  current Mayor Leeman Kessler’s ’04 four-year term that began in 2017. Due to this coincidence, Councilmember Nutter, a current junior, will only have six months left on his term after his graduation.

However, most elections do not have that feature. In a normal election, any potential student is running for a four-year term. To serve even a majority of that term while living in Gambier as a student, one must be a sophomore standing at the time of the election, requiring them to start the petitioning process to get on the ballot as a second-semester first year. This has the potential to eliminate many qualified and willing students who do not feel it appropriate to serve that brief of their assigned term.

That is why the Collegian believes that new Mayor Kessler, Councilmember Nutter and the rest of the Council should consider creating a new non-voting position on the Village Council to be held by a Kenyon student, serving a two-year term, to institutionalize the voices of the student body onto the Village Council.

According to the most recent U.S. Census estimates, the Village has a population of approximately 2,500 people. In that same data, they estimate that around 1,750 of those residents are between the ages of 18-24. Kenyon students represent a sizeable chunk of the Gambier population. Our voice deserves to be incorporated into Village politics.

While there are certainly a fair number of issues that relate primarily to the permanent, tax-paying residents of Gambier, there are also countless amount of issues that relate more directly to the majority of Kenyon students. For example, one of Nutter’s priorities is taking a deeper look at the Village’s relationship with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, in response to reports of potentially racially motivated harassment against Kenyon students. There are issues affecting the day-to-day lives of Kenyon students that are often debated on without any official input from the students themselves. For these reasons, the Collegian believes that Village Council should ensure that Nutter’s legacy of representing students on Village Council does not end with his graduation in 17 months.

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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