At the top of most institutional hierarchies, including Kenyon’s, sits a group of powerful people that do not work for the institution: the Board of Trustees. Our only insight into its decision-making process is a vague description on Kenyon’s website, which provides no explanation for how its decisions are made. With the exception of President Decatur, who was hired by the Board and holds a seat on it, we’d be hard-pressed to find a Board member a student could name (unless their parents are on it).
Because of this lack of visibility and transparency, we ask that Kenyon’s Board of Trustees make their meetings open to all students, staff and faculty.
Making Board of Trustees meetings public would create a more meaningful dialogue between students, faculty, staff and administrators by providing us the opportunity to understand the rationale behind the Board’s decisions. We could consider the line of thinking and language behind policies that impact us, and our futures would no longer hang solely in the balance of a private Board of Trustees meeting. Given the opportunity to access these conversations, it will be easier for us to trace policy decisions back to the specific people whose membership on the Board is evidence of their investment in this institution.
Instead of keeping these meetings behind closed doors, the Kenyon community should be able to sit in on these meetings. After the meeting, the Kenyon community should have one full hour to ask questions and express fear, anger and excitement about decisions made at the meeting.
No one in the Kenyon community should be excluded from accessing this conversation. We need an explanation for why this institution has not invested in more mental health professionals, which has resulted in a lack of mental health services and resources for students on campus. We need an explanation for why the College chooses to accept financial donations towards the construction of buildings like the new library without consulting community members first.
COVID-19 has only exacerbated this lack of transparency. Currently, many students on campus feel like the decision to bring first years and sophomores back in the fall was made out of economic interest. This assumption grew stronger when the decision to bring back more students in the spring was revealed, in spite of infection levels rising to an all time high. We cannot be sure these decisions were made solely out of economic interest, but without transparency from the Board behind this decision and others like it, our insight into the truth is blurred.
We understand that Kenyon requires an inflow of money to function and preserve itself. So be it. But if this is the rationale behind their decision-making, the Board should state it honestly, and cease its liberal posturing. It should let us see what happens in these conversations.
The Board should grant all members of the community access to these meetings. We deserve to know how and why the Board makes policy decisions in these meetings because they impact our experience as students. Ultimately, by making these meetings public, we could hold powerful individuals accountable for the impact their investment in this institution has on its constituents, and we hope other institutions follow suit.