Section: Editorial

Staff Editorial: Kenyon needs to prioritize in-person classes—but safely

As we move further and further from the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus, states, businesses and institutions of higher learning are all asking the same question: How could we safely reopen before a vaccine is developed? At the Collegian, we believe that Kenyon needs to reopen safely, while prioritizing starting next semester on-campus rather than online — even if it means the semester must start later than usual.

Kenyon prides itself in being one of the few schools across the nation that has 100-percent on-campus housing for all four years. They embrace community in its fullest sense, with Middle Path, the Village of Gambier and Peirce Dining Hall as the backdrop. Many of their upperclassman housing options, such as the North Campus Apartments and the New Apartments, encourage communal living. These are tough times for any community which embraces prolonged human contact, Kenyon included.

Despite these issues, we need to start the next academic year in person. While many professors have been outstanding in their transition to distance learning, others have not. While some students have had seamless transitions to working at home, a vast majority have not. Luckily, the administration agrees with us. President Decatur has said multiple times that the College’s priority would be to start later in the calendar year and creatively change the academic calendar around possible delays. We at the Collegian applaud this approach. Having classes start in August is much less important than making sure that classes offered next semester, whenever it is, are the same quality that Kenyon students are used to.

In order for this to work, though, the administration and the students need to work together to make this viable and safe. In a recent interview with the Collegian, Decatur mentioned that students were probably going to have to adapt to some form of a new normal until there is a vaccine for this virus. This will mean wearing a mask to class if asked, and potentially sacrificing NCA parties and all-campuses in the name of safety.

Putting regulations and guidelines in place is one thing; enforcing them is a different issue. Whatever those guidelines for safely reopening are, the Collegian implores returning students (and the incoming class of 2024) to follow these guidelines and use social enforcement methods to make sure that your classmates follow suit. In one of the first staff editorials of Volume 147, we encouraged students not to use their phones on Middle Path. Now, in our final staff editorial, we are advocating for students to convince their classmates to wear their masks on Middle Path.

Hopefully, these restrictions won’t last throughout the whole academic year. In an ideal world, we’ll have a magic drug or vaccine that will end this nightmare as soon as possible. But until then, Gambier has too many at-risk residents—namely some of our beloved professors—to scoff at social distancing guidelines in the name of having a good Friday or Saturday night. As students, we will have the primary responsibility of preventing the spread of this virus. Help protect the vulnerable in our beloved community by taking this pandemic seriously.

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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