On March 21, the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) announced sweeping changes to Kenyon’s Community Advisor (CA) program for the upcoming academic year. These changes include a reapplication process and replacing CAs in apartment-style housing with two graduate students from Kent State University. We are worried about what these developments mean for our campus.
The first change has been somewhat overshadowed by the second, but we believe both are important to discuss. Before this announcement, CAs were simply required to fill out a form indicating whether they would like to maintain their position the following year. Now, CAs must formally reapply for their jobs by delivering a 5–10 minute-long presentation in front of two ResLife staff members.
The ResLife staff claims that the presentation is simply an “interactive version” of the application form and is not intended to add pressure; CAs beg to differ. It is hard to see the rationale behind this change in policy, as the process itself will likely end up being more burdensome than fulfilling. In many ways, it is a thinly veiled form of gatekeeping intended to benefit those who have the resources to put time and effort into reapplying to a job they have already secured.
The second change — which has gained widespread attention, especially from alumni — involves CAs in apartment-style housing being replaced by two graduate students from Kent State. While this will restore the number of CA jobs to pre-pandemic levels, it is a missed opportunity to create more jobs for student workers (CAs are notably the highest-paying jobs on campus). If the College had wanted to increase the presence of CAs in first-year dorms, it could have easily hired additional students. Instead, it decided to outsource arguably the most important job on campus without consulting students.
The College claims this hiring will “provide the type of administrative support that students in apartments typically require.” However, we’d argue that upperclass students in apartments need a CA who lives near them, can offer peer support and creates a community bond just as much as they need “administrative support.”
While we feel for these Kent State students, who are being put in an awkward and unwinnable situation, it feels unlikely that they will be able to seamlessly integrate into the Kenyon community and serve the apartments better than the CAs who were there before them. For a school that claims to value community above all else, it is ironic that Kenyon was so quick to replace community members with outsiders.
The student-work system at Kenyon is broken, and it has been for some time. The presence of the Kenyon Student Working Organizing Committee (K-SWOC), intended to support student workers — such as CAs — through a union, is proof of that. Yet the administration has repeatedly squashed their efforts to unionize, so that when a situation such as this occurs, where student workers are thrown under the bus, they have only each other to turn to.
The CAs are a pillar of the Kenyon community. They foster a welcoming and warm environment in our living spaces, and tend to the safety of all students across campus. We hope the College will do the right thing, and reconsider these harmful changes.
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.