This past week, the College filed a motion to dismiss K-SWOC’s petition for a union certification election. In this motion, the assertion that “student positions are not core to the College’s business operations” is insulting, and undermines the value that student workers provide to the College both culturally and fiscally.
In an interview with the Collegian, President Decatur said that this statement was because K-SWOC’s petition for the bargaining unit includes every hourly worker and that many of these positions are clearly intended to be part of the student’s overall educational program, even if the work is paid.
Decatur’s argument rests on the premise that the school’s educational mission and its business operations are entirely independent entities. We do not believe this to be the case. If student employment is necessary for Kenyon to fulfill its educational mission, student workers are also necessary to the school’s business operations.
As a private college, Kenyon’s revenue is reliant on its appeal to prospective students and alumni as a successful educational institution. The College markets itself to these communities through significant outreach initiatives and by promoting its unique qualities. Is Phonathon, a job entirely devoted to calling alumni and earning money for the College, not considered core to the College’s business operations? How is fundraising considered a purely educational opportunity for students?
Kenyon sells itself by advertising a liberal arts education. According to the College’s website, this process is enhanced by the school’s inclusion of students from a spectrum of backgrounds. Without student employment, work-study students would not be able to enroll at Kenyon. This would cause a collapse in the College’s claimed commitment to access, inclusion and socioeconomic diversity, significantly decreasing Kenyon’s marketability.
Without its student workers being at the forefront of the College’s operations, the school would look a lot different in nearly every sphere of campus life. Student workers are employed in nearly 50 departments and are central to Kenyon’s marketability. The Office of Admissions, for example, employs over 100 students. Admissions officers rely on students to share their Kenyon experiences via campus tours, through interviews with students and as panelists in information sessions, all of which directly contribute to a prospective student’s vision of Kenyon. Without these workers, prospective students would be left without a complete understanding of life as a student in Gambier. These workers are vital to building a robust class of future Kenyon students, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for the school.
Community Advisors (CAs), too, are crucial to campus operations through conducting duty rounds, doing safety checks and acting quickly in emergency situations. Even more than that, CAs contribute to the campus’s social life through scheduled programming, which is particularly important in facilitating the integration of first-year students into Kenyon’s culture. As we have seen this year, employing graduate assistants from Kent State University to replace apartment CAs has negatively affected the overall sense of community in residences and throughout campus.
Apprentice Teachers (ATs) also play a fundamental role for the College. Kenyon’s mission statement claims that the College’s intention is to provide a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the world and all who inhabit it. A crucial component of this globally-minded Kenyon education is that each student is required to demonstrate proficiency in a second language. This requirement would be impossible for many to fulfill without ATs, who provide key additional lessons and guidance each week on course material. ATs give valuable teaching time outside of the professors’ normal teaching hours.
The list goes on and on. These are but a few examples of the sheer amount of work that students pour into their campus jobs to sustain the educational mission of the College. While Decatur may be accurate in suggesting that many of these jobs are largely intended to be educational, the success of Kenyon’s educational program is directly responsible for the success of the school’s business operations. Student workers are necessary to Kenyon’s ability to function as a private educational institution. Recognizing their value is long overdue.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Jordy Fee-Platt ’22 and Linnea Mumma ’22, managing editor Amanda Pyne ’22 and executive director Joe Wint ’22. You can contact them at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.