Section: Opinion

Kenyon’s residential farm program is integral to campus life

The Kenyon farmers were recently informed that the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost have decided to disband the residential program at the Farm, effective next fall. As the only student-run, residential college farm in the country, this is an immense loss. 

The Kenyon administration has no clear plan for what program will replace the model of four to six students who normally live at the Farm. Students have lived and worked there since the inception of the program in 2012, and the farmhouse has been central to our work and culture since then. The decision to disband the program shows that Kenyon’s administration has no conception of the contribution we bring to campus. Moreover, we believe that this decision must be understood in the context of a bevy of recent attacks on student work. 

Most of us started working here because we were drawn to the community and we wanted to eventually live at the Farm. In fact, the farmhouse is directly marketed to students by the admissions office as one of the main selling points on the College’s website, and was the reason many student farmers chose to come to Kenyon. With that community uprooted, much of the appeal of the Farm will vanish, to the great detriment of the program. The Kenyon community will suffer as a result. We believe that the Farm, with the residence as its cultural heart, brings a unique, creative, immersive and experiential learning venue to campus. We fail to see how removing our responsibility over the day-to-day maintenance of the Farm improves our learning and working conditions. 

We develop a sense of professional responsibility each day, from the impromptu changing of a broken heat lamp to engaging with our community over drop-by egg sales. Projects that need to happen, happen organically — discussed over the breakfast table or while warming up inside after a long, cold work day. Some of our proudest recent achievements — a functional compost structure, a pond filter built from scratch, and our relationship with the Center for Hope — were all ideas sparked within the community space. And it is a community space. Our house is the center of our community. 

We were told that the decision to disband the residential program was made with direct consultation with President Decatur and Provost Bowman’s offices. We believe that they were also under the guidance of the College’s legal counsel, Jones Day, recently hired to bust the unionizing efforts of K-SWOC. It is our opinion that the College sees the residential program as problematic because it is tied to our labor. We believe that they recommended striking the residential program to eliminate room and board as a point of negotiation when we bargain for a union contract. We are worried that this could have consequences on the labor rights of other student workers, whose housing costs and living conditions are connected to their work on campus, such as Community Advisors. It is disappointing, but not especially surprising, that the College is allowing lawyers in offices far from Gambier to strike the heart of our community. 

The decision to end the residential program exemplifies Kenyon’s lack of respect for our contribution to campus and our rights to workplace autonomy. We will be picketing on Middle Path on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 1-4 p.m., and we encourage anyone who values the Farm to join us. We also encourage you to sign our petition to the school to keep the residential program, which will be disseminated via all-student email. 

The Farm brings a vibrant culture to campus that is unmatched elsewhere. We won’t let Kenyon take it away without a fight.

 

Unanimously,

Joanna van Dyk ’22

Jack Cheston ’22

Molly Orr ’24

Lynn Butzlaff ’22

Djibril Branche ’23

Rose Cobb ’22

Chloe Shane ’22

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