We stand in solidarity with the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee’s (K-SWOC) strike against the College’s unfair labor practices. The administration’s refusal to recognize the student union and sit down with them at the bargaining table demonstrates a blatant disregard for the rights of student workers. It also represents a betrayal of Kenyon’s core values of democracy and community.
Kenyon’s student employment system is deeply flawed. For years, student workers have expressed their discontent, pointing to deeply ingrained issues — including unilateral decision-making from managers, few work-study opportunities, no sick leave and a general lack of job stability — that extend beyond undercompensation.
The pandemic has shed light on Kenyon’s history of worker exploitation and unfair labor practices. From the Horn Gallery sound technicians being laid off in the fall without warning to Community Advisors getting loaded with extra work during the pandemic, it is clear that Kenyon does not respect the labor of student workers.
But the fact that almost a year of student organizing efforts — with no significant change — has led to a strike should send a clear message to the administration and the Board of Trustees that student workers deserve for their demands to be heard and their union to be recognized. A one-day strike may not have severe negative consequences for workplaces on campus, but it should be significant enough to alert managers and administrators that Kenyon student workers will not stop until they are heard.
The strike itself is a beautiful example of the progress that the Kenyon community can achieve when it works together for change. But the work will not be over until the Kenyon administration agrees to negotiate with K-SWOC on the issues that matter to student workers. By doing so, the administration would improve relations with its students, and prove that it is committed to making positive change in the name of justice.
From the start, K-SWOC has said that the only way for the needs of student workers to be met is through a union. The administration must engage with K-SWOC at the bargaining table and give student workers a chance to safely express their frustrations, needs and hopes for the future of student employment. The spirit of the Kenyon community is one of cooperation, community and honest discussion. However, until Kenyon agrees to recognize K-SWOC, our College’s cooperative and caring spirit will fail to include the student workers who keep our community running.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Jackson Wald ‘22 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.