Section: Opinion

Kenyon, don’t change a thing

As I reflect on my time at Kenyon, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I suppose there is no way to prove that I landed at the perfect college for me, but my hunch is strong. I feel that I grew at Kenyon—intellectually and emotionally—in ways that I might not have at any other school.

Kenyon was like a perfect symphony for me. I spent days pondering the big questions posed in class and nights discussing them with my fraternity brothers. I engaged in active political debates and found creative outlets through my a cappella groups. I built beautiful friendships and strengthened them through countless meals at Peirce and evenings in our dorm rooms. There were difficult times, but they helped me grow. Thanks to my experience at Kenyon, I feel that I understand the world, and myself, in a much more meaningful way.

My greatest hope as a soon-to-be Kenyon alumnus is that future students will be given the opportunity to have a similarly special experience. I am not suggesting that nothing at Kenyon should change; as is the case for all institutions, Kenyon should take steps to continually improve. But, I believe that Kenyon ought to prioritize preserving what makes the school such a special place.

One example that comes to mind is the growing push to include more culturally diverse perspectives in our course curricula (e.g., in Quest for Justice). The concern about diversity in education is both valid and necessary, and frequently a more diverse curriculum is a stronger one. However, I am concerned that faculty will be pressured to modify their courses in the name of diversity for its own sake. For some particular courses, such as Quest, a predominantly Western curriculum might have academic value. Professors should take care to preserve the core teachings of classic Kenyon courses, even while considering changes.

As for student life, the college administration is active in its pursuit to eliminate the “all-campus party,” a former staple of Kenyon’s social scene. The desire to minimize liability is understandable, but perhaps there is a way to preserve a unique—and, for underclassmen in particular, important—feature of Kenyon. In a school as remote and isolated as Gambier, these safe and inclusive parties have been one of the few late-night opportunities for students to enjoy themselves.

In the long term, I hope that Kenyon resists any financial pressure to expand the size of the student body. Kenyon’s small size is an integral part of its appeal. The College should take steps now to ensure its future viability as a classic small liberal arts school.

I am perfectly aware of the fact that things change over time. What makes Kenyon special today is different from what made Kenyon special 30 years ago, and from what will make it special 30 years in the future. Change is inevitable. However, thoughtful change must be a deliberate choice. I hope that the Kenyon administration and board remain mindful of conserving Kenyon’s core identity. When contemplating a change, I want them to ask, “Will this impact what makes Kenyon so unique and special?” If the answer is yes, I hope they can find an alternative. The magic of Kenyon is rooted in its small size, eccentric campus life and exceptional academics. The right decisions can ensure this magic lives on for a long time.

Ben Reingold ’20 is an economics and political science major from Highland Park, Ill. You can contact him at reingold1@kenyon.edu.

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