I appreciate the discussion of issues in the Collegian’s April 14 editorial, “The College must consider the ramifications of housing changes.” It captures many things that people connected to Kenyon feel at this moment. The editorial board’s view appears to be that Kenyon is experiencing a “gentrification” of sorts. The historical, cultural and social environment that exists in this place is being disrupted by physical and economic changes to the landscape.
However, I would caution against such negative views of the administration’s recent decisions, specifically those about the construction of new housing. We all know that Kenyon needs to create a larger housing stock, and whether the College is expanding class sizes or unintentionally overenrolling, it should build more housing.
I would like to address the article’s main complaint of what is lost in this decision, because I think it is irrelevant to the issue of building more housing stock. The article ends the piece stating that the College is taking a clear stance in choosing “to expand the College for monetary gain instead of valuing the campus culture that we all know and love.” The directors of the school have been making this decision “to expand the College for monetary gain” in other ways than just adding new housing. Class sizes have expanded in the last two years without the development of new housing. The time when they could continue this institutional growth without building new housing has simply run out, and without current housing options to squeeze people into, they have resorted to modular housing.
The development of new housing just happens to be the first sign of changes to the landscape that are visible to Kenyon alumni. Other signs have been apparent to current Kenyon students for a long time. During the pandemic, rooms designed as doubles have been offered as triples, and some single rooms have, at times, been offered as doubles, creating tight squeezes in space and utilities for students over the past year.
Kenyon’s student housing decisions should aim to prioritize the living spaces of current students — rather than those in the future. Kenyon’s decision to put students in modular housing is a short-term solution that will affect an entire year of students’ lives, and living there will undoubtedly be a worse housing situation than most. It is not clear why Kenyon is failing to make use of the McIlvaine Apartments as part of its housing pool for this coming year. Besides this, planning for larger classes by first having the space for future students may be the best practice.
A couple final points: Kenyon has always had construction on its campus in the time I have been here. There is no avoiding that the campus is growing, and that it needs to. And the “historical skyline” that is frequently advertised is not what necessarily draws Kenyon students in.
Elliot Moore ’23