Kenyon has long cherished the give and take of ideas, and the Collegian plays an important role in that exchange. This is true in the Collegian’s recent reporting and commentary about a request by some students to form a union at Kenyon. I write to provide context on the process the College is undertaking related to that request.
The state of campus work at Kenyon is a matter that affects all members of the community — students, faculty and staff. As I have written before, the pandemic brought into focus the many ways Kenyon supports students, including through work-study and other work opportunities. While we worked to address the immediate needs of our community in the spring and summer, it was clear that we needed to take a deeper look at campus work.
On Aug. 5, I asked the Campus Senate to gather information on the state of campus work at Kenyon and to present findings by the end of the fall 2020 semester. With staff, faculty and student representatives, the Senate has a long history of reviewing matters of community concern. It is on track to finish its work this fall, and I look forward to its report.
On Aug. 31, the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) requested Kenyon to recognize a student union of workers. The College has a responsibility to the larger Kenyon community to consider that request carefully and thoughtfully, given its potential long-term and enduring impact. Since early September, I have been working with a special committee of the Board of Trustees that was appointed to examine the ways the College provides financial support to students, including work-study, and to explore K-SWOC’s request.
The committee is undertaking a thorough review, including gathering information about the experiences of peer institutions, analyzing financial aid data, attending Campus Senate forums and gathering extensive feedback from Kenyon students, faculty and staff. It has met twice with K-SWOC students to hear their perspectives. The committee’s deliberations have been serious and searching — it has met 23 times as it works diligently to understand the issues. The committee will make recommendations to the full Board of Trustees by the end of the semester.
The Collegian recently announced it would host a forum “for each side to speak openly about where they stand on the matter of union recognition.” It announced that members of the special committee and the College administration would participate, without awaiting either’s response to the invitation. The committee members declined the invitation; they explained that, since the Board’s review and deliberative process is still underway, it was premature and inappropriate for the administration and ad hoc committee to express a view or take a stand on union recognition in the proposed forum. I agree with that decision; it is consistent with our commitment to a process that ensures a full and objective review of this issue.
I respect the K-SWOC students for their advocacy. Similarly, I thank the Collegian for the work it is doing to keep the Kenyon community connected and informed.