This week, the Collegian is asking the administration to let our students go abroad.
In this issue, we report that, due to the influx in students who wished to go abroad in the spring of 2021, between 30 and 40 members of the class of 2022 have been placed on a waitlist and invited to consider changing their application to the fall. The imbalance has forced Kenyon’s hand, because, at a school of our size, a disparity of 70 students between the fall and the spring could, according to the College’s line, cause several capacity issues, burdening residential spaces.
The first problem with this debacle is one of transparency. On the Center for Global Engagement’s website, they frame going abroad not as a matter of figuring out if you can go abroad but rather one of identifying “the best off-campus study program for your academic, cultural, and personal goals.” If the goal of the study abroad program is to facilitate the best experience possible for students, they should not so radically and suddenly alter the college plans of 30 members of the rising junior class.
At the point where you are forced to randomly assign students to a waitlist, it is too late to troubleshoot why the numbers for spring study abroad are higher. There are many reasons, and the College should be more fully prepared for spring to be the more favored semester.
Among other things, many fall programs start in July, giving students mere weeks at home before they resume their studies. Additionally, students who have studied abroad express that the transition back to Kenyon is more difficult for those who leave campus in the fall and return in the spring. There is unquestionably something harder about hopping back into Kenyon’s tight-knit and clique-ish social life in the middle of the academic year rather than at the beginning. If fewer juniors want to be on campus in the spring, that’s another question altogether for the College to seek to answer. Responding to this fact should not come in the form of punishing students after applications have already been submitted.
It is doubly unfair to students to put them in a position where they have to rush to change their plans right in the middle of spring break. For example, some study abroad programs have March 1 deadlines and many others have deadlines that occur in the midst of the break.
While Vice President for Finance Todd Burson defends the school’s decision, stating a potential of stress put on the school with much more students here, what if the 30 on the waitlist decided to cancel their abroad plans altogether? Wouldn’t there still be the same amount of students on campus in the fall? Will the school be forced to refuse admission to students or tell students to take a semester off because not enough want to go abroad in the fall? While these are certainly concerns the school has to deal with, certainly they are no more grave than those associated with over-enrollment, which the College has weathered in the past.
Moving forward, the College should be clearer about the potential for students to get short shifted by the abroad process. Right now, the College considers the high number of students who go abroad to be a key selling point for prospective students. If it wants to continue promoting study abroad as an experience that will allow everyone to find the best program for them, the College must be ready to account for perfectly logical disparities in student preferences for which semester they choose.
The entire sophomore class has been treated like a statistic to push at admissions panels. The College should fix this problem and treat them like students.
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 email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.