Housing has been a hot-button issue on this campus throughout my four years here. Even prior to the challenges of the pandemic and with a smaller student population than we currently have, students were still quite stressed at the end of the year with the prospect of housing selection. It feels unfair as a student — paying any amount of tuition — to not have agency over where you will live the following year, and it can be a process fraught with fear. However, it is important that we do not see the building of new housing as a deficit to this campus.
In their April 14 article, the Collegian editorial staff wrote about the ramifications of housing changes, arguing that “these massive residence halls will completely ruin the College’s historic skyline” in reference to the South Quad construction project. While I agree that the historic nature of this college is something we must cherish, this argument is exclusionary and shortsighted. Once the construction project is finished, it will provide the campus with much-needed accommodations on its southern end, allowing more students to enjoy the benefits of apartment living during their time at Kenyon. As this college evolves and adapts as an institution, brand-new ADA-compliant housing will be integral in providing future classes with the living spaces that they need and deserve.
Furthermore, we must look at how accessible and equitable the housing process is as a whole. The editorial fails to bring the entire campus community into mind when considering these housing changes. While there will indeed be construction on South campus, this is a necessary step to making sure that students feel comfortable in their living situations. For many students, living in an apartment isn’t an option, as the cost of a room in those residences is significantly higher than the cost of living in a dorm. Dorms, like the beautiful and historic Old Kenyon, have shared bathroom spaces and non-ADA-compliant entrances, and, quite frankly, are outdated. For students that need amenities like private bathrooms and accessible entrances, North Campus Apartments are one of the only options. Unfortunately, with room for only about 220 residents, this housing option favors upperclassmen, as well as those who are capable of paying the premium required.
To move forward, this campus must prioritize accommodating its students over aesthetic woes. It is imperative that these units are built and that the housing payment scale is equalized across dorm and apartment housing options, giving everyone a more equitable opportunity to live in these spaces. Unfortunately, we see a similar issue with paving Middle Path, the gravel stretch that runs along the entirety of campus, that makes it incredibly difficult for many students to move from class to class. Many alumni don’t want the path paved, citing the same argument as this editorial: It changes the historic landscape of the College. If we want to provide a safe and nurturing environment to learn and grow within, it is paramount that these renovations are adopted.
I’m proud to graduate from an institution that is looking toward the future and actively working to bring all kinds of students here, not just those who can live with outdated housing. While there are many things that I would change about the way that Kenyon is run, this is a step in the right direction.
Skyler Lesser-Roy ’22