Kenyon is set to receive nearly $1 million in stimulus from the United States federal government as part of the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, half of which will go to funding emergency financial aid grants for students. While this is far less money than most of our peer institutions are receiving, the Collegian believes that the College should use a portion of this money to alleviate the financial burdens imposed by the College’s necessary decisions to cancel the rest of the 2020 spring semester and, as of this past week, all summer programming.
Each summer, over 100 students remain on campus to work a variety of jobs, from doing research in a wide range of disciplines to staffing events, camps and Gambier businesses. With the decision to cancel summer programs, many students who expected a steady stream of income this summer are all of a sudden left out to dry. Summer Scholars have to apply months in advance and, upon getting accepted, pull applications from similar undergraduate research experiences at other colleges and universities. They are paid $4,000 for 10 weeks of work on campus, a very competitive income for summer employment.
So far, the College has been very supportive of students and staff in reducing the economic burden in this age of uncertainty. The College has acted on the premise that if students were expecting to work the rest of the semester, they should not see that income evaporate. While summer programs have yet to begin, the fact that students have already planned the next three-plus months around this expected income means that they should be compensated in some fashion. The same goes for students who were planning to work on campus for the Summer Programs Office, the Office of Admissions, the Brown Family Environmental Center, the Kenyon Farm or any other paid, College-affiliated summer job.
Of course, providing financial relief can come in a number of ways. As the College proved with its grant and reimbursement program for housing and dining, it is capable of accommodating a variety of financial circumstances. For some students, it might be possible to conduct summer research remotely, or to do remote work for the Office of Admissions or the library’s help desk. Where this is the case, the College should give students that option.
In instances where it is impossible to work from home, the College should develop a plan to provide financial assistance and other forms of support to students who now find themselves out of a job.
Kenyon isn’t the only place cancelling summer jobs, though, and assistance from the College can come in more ways than just financial help. The College can further support students this summer by providing guidance on navigating an unusual seasonal employment market.
The Career Development Office (CDO) should collect information on students who have had their summer plans torn asunder and help provide them with information on remote opportunities. For seniors, many of whom are witnessing their post-graduation plans dissolve before their eyes as employers enforce hiring freezes, the CDO should provide guidance on how to navigate what is perhaps the worst job market since the Great Depression.
While the College has gone to great lengths to provide for the student body in these uncertain times, we at the Collegian encourage them to think about what further assistance they can provide as an uncertain spring evolves into what looks to be an equally uncertain summer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.