Section: Opinion

Modular housing is the wrong solution to overenrollment

In a Nov. 3 news bulletin, the College announced plans to implement temporary modular housing while Bexley Hall is renovated into a residential space. Temporary housing is an inadequate stopgap solution to the College’s problem of overenrollment, and at the very least, the decision must be reconciled through reduced housing costs.

The plan for modular housing is in direct response to overenrollment, which the administration so prematurely allowed. The College should have prioritized making the physical preparations to house more students prior to increasing the size of the student body at all. Bexley’s renovation, for example, could have been initiated upon the realization that the first-year class would be among the largest in Kenyon history. A central part of the “Foundations for the Third Century” plan, which the administration announced in a news bulletin on Sept. 22, is that Kenyon plans on growing the student body population to 2,000 over a period of 10 years. If the College predicted needing 10 full years to prepare for the student body to be the size it currently is, then the administration should not have, in one year, put itself in a position to need this temporary housing in the first place.

The chance to live in an iconic dormitory, like the picturesque Old Kenyon Residence Hall, is an attractive feature for many prospective students. With these halls playing a pivotal role in providing the quintessential Kenyon experience to the student body, it is difficult, if not impossible, for students living in the modular housing to receive the same experience. 

During an interview with the Collegian, President Sean Decatur had little to offer in the way of concrete details, saying only that each student will have a single room and that the space will hopefully be “nicely laid out.” Without further details, we cannot know if these students will be geographically isolated from others on campus, or even what the quality of their rooms will be. It is possible, then, that in addition to not living in these classic Kenyon buildings, their whole housing experience will be entirely different. This is unacceptable. Most of the student body pays tens of thousands of dollars for a chance to meet a lifelong companion in the halls of Mather, or to live with their friends in a NCA.

If the College must resort to housing students in modular buildings because of its own poor planning, at the very least it must reduce this exorbitant cost of room and board. Regularly throughout the pandemic, the College has altered housing and meal plans to account for changes to students’ traditional ways of living. Students currently living at the Pines received a meal plan reduction of $500 per semester. Community Advisors fought for and ultimately received a $1,000 room rate reduction due to the pandemic. Every student received a 10% reduction in tuition for the 2020-21 school year that, though not directly relating to the housing experience, recognized the fact that the campus experience would be inherently different. It is not fair to expect students to pay the same amount of money to receive an innately different accommodation.

Kenyon cannot claim that these large institutional decisions like “Foundations for the Third Century” are for the benefit of students if their implementation threatens the quintessential student experience in the meantime. If the College is forced to use temporary housing as a stopgap solution, then at the very least, students should not be forced to pay the same amount to live there. Kenyon cannot prioritize its own profits over the student experience, which we have all been so lucky to know and love.

 

Salvatore Macchione ’23 is an opinions editor for the Collegian and an American studies major from Chicago, Ill. He can be reached at macchione1@kenyon.edu.

Mary Hester ’22 is an opinions editor for the Collegian and a political science major from Bloomingdale, Ill. She can be reached at hester2@kenyon.edu. 

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