I am writing to you all as your peer, friend, teammate and, most importantly, as your representative. In late January, the Campus Senate was tasked with evaluating the current Kenyon College monikers, the Lords and Ladies. After discussions with President Decatur, it is clear what steps we as a body must take before any formal campus discussion can occur. These steps focus largely on finding and understanding the history of the current monikers and evaluating what students want out of a mascot or moniker. While we empathize with the many opinions regarding inclusion and traditions, finding the balance between these two considerations is truly the farthest point the senate is at right now. I find it imperative to address some of the concerns about whether changing the monikers is necessary or not.
It is important to note that the Lords and the Ladies are monikers, not mascots. A mascot is a thing or a person that brings the institution or team good luck, and has an assigned set of values to which that team or institution holds. A moniker is a name a group identifies as, and by definition, this is what Kenyon has with the Lords and the Ladies. This means that while it is not always necessary for students of an institution to identify with the mascot they use, we at Kenyon have monikers that require those who use them to identify with them. The symbol of Lords and Ladies is central to the Kenyon institution and, whether intentionally or not, contributes to an antiquated, gendered culture.
With that in mind, Campus Senate is at the stage of trying to finally figure out what the College needs and wants out of a potential mascot. To do that, while it may seem irrelevant and bureaucratic to some, we must continue to consider what a mascot is, what the values we hold are, and what role a mascot plays in our identity as Kenyon students. As we have continued this process, it has become clear that many students desire a connection to the past traditions that we take pride in as an institution. However, there is also a sense of urgency to move forward and reconcile with the issues of inclusion that arise from these monikers. We should be having these discussions to set the College on the right path forward while never forgetting what makes Kenyon, Kenyon.
Everyone on this campus has the right to feel connected to the respected traditions of the College. If a sense of pride comes with hearing the term Lord or Lady, that emotion and identity should not be invalidated. However, we believe that pride should not be exclusive to those who feel comfortable — and, by their own privilege, identify with — the current monikers.
With a gendered moniker, there is a culture that insists that in order to connect with the College, one must identify as a “Lord” or “Lady.” These binary names exclude people in a way that is not representative of the tradition of community at Kenyon. Regardless of your involvement with the school, all students have a right to call themselves a Kenyon student with pride, without compromising their other identities.
The tradition of community is the most important we have and dedicates us to doing the right thing when it comes to upholding progress no matter the topic. Regardless of the many other traditions we have to be proud of, an extremely gendered culture is simply not one of them. At the end of these discussions, it is my hope that we can come together to find a middle ground between valuing our history and our tradition of community.
Delaney Gallagher, Student Co-Chair of Campus Senate
On Behalf of the Student Senators