Section: Opinion

Kenyon does not need to adhere to Ohio’s paltry minimum wage

Ohio’s minimum wage is unreasonably low. Despite having no requirement to do so, Kenyon adopts this minimum wage as its base wage for student workers. For years, progressive legislation attempting to raise the state’s minimum wage to a livable rate has stalled in Congress due to the pushback of conservative Ohio lawmakers. That those bills rarely pass into law is unsurprising due to the heavy hand of Republicans in Ohio politics. What is less understandable is why Kenyon, a school that is so progressive on most fronts, has decided to follow their lead. The school’s administration has the ability to raise the student base pay to a much more reasonable figure, and they should not let decisions on this issue be dictated by the conservative politics of the state in which the College happens to be located. 

The student wage at Kenyon is raised every January to match inflation. While maintaining the minimum wage’s buying power is a very positive policy, it does nothing to better what is a senselessly low level of pay. For 2022, the minimum was raised to $9.30. A 40-hour workweek at this hourly rate barely clears the poverty line. The lowest of Kenyon’s pay strata, Tier I, tracks with this minimum wage. Pay Tiers II and III rise above the minimum wage in steps of $1.30/hr and $2.64/hr, respectively. This means that all Kenyon student pay levels are decided relative to Ohio’s paltry minimum wage. For years, Ohio Democrats have recognized the inadequacy of this hourly wage and have proposed a hike to $15 per hour. In these efforts they have been repeatedly shut down by state conservatives. However, Kenyon, being a private institution, is in no way bound to the state’s minimum wage. If the administration decided to make the student minimum wage reasonable, they could enact a $15 wage tomorrow. 

The Kenyon mission statement is a written document that outlines the goals of the Kenyon administration. One of these goals is to grant students “equitable access to opportunity.” For many student workers, a higher wage could grant them the freedom to work fewer hours and focus instead on being students. Helping Kenyon student workers reach their full academic potentials via a higher wage seems to be a natural implementation of Kenyon’s stated intention.

As the wage currently stands, however, this statement is only a sort of virtue signaling — as the high-minded sentiments laid out in the mission statement fall short of legitimate action. To raise the base pay to $15 would not only be the reasonable thing to do, but also would hold the administration accountable for its promises. As it stands, the minimum wage is a hamper on student potential, and a glaring, but readily solvable, issue. It is time for the Kenyon administration to move past its fiscally conservative student wage policy and make good on their stated goal of equipping each student with, in their own words, “tools to reach their full potential.”

Alex Mormorunni ’25 is a political science major from San Francisco, Calif. He can be reached at mormorunni1@kenyon.edu.

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