Last Monday, a majority of CAs began an indefinite unfair labor practices (ULP) strike against the College, quickly followed by Teaching Assistants (TAs), Library and Information Service (LBIS) student workers and Writing Center Consultants in the days following. In an initial response to this work stoppage, the Office of Communications released a statement last Wednesday saying that the College operations would proceed as normal. However, normal isn’t possible with so many student workers on strike. Rather than acting as if all is the same, the College must recognize that fundamental change needs to happen sooner rather than later — before the community starts to feel lasting consequences.
Repercussions are already being felt across campus. One of Kenyon’s primary selling points is its intensive language program in the department of Modern Languages and Literatures, which aims to consistently immerse students in active and cultural approaches to their given language. TA sessions are crucial to this program, as they provide the opportunity for students to strengthen their linguistic skills and succeed in challenging, intensive courses. Since the start of the strike, many TA sessions have been cancelled, leaving language students without this significant academic resource. As the semester comes to a close, the work of these TAs are as important as ever; language exams and papers are notoriously difficult.
Additionally, Writing Center Consultants and Liaisons are also crucial resources for students in the weeks leading up to finals. Liaisons in particular, who work with a professor and their students in a specific course, are often inundated with emails from students leading up to finals week about scheduling meetings to help them prepare, draft and revise their final papers. Kenyon prides itself on its reputation as a “writer’s college,” and these student workers are a necessary facet to building and sustaining this reputation — without them, there is no foundational support system to help transform students into writers and thinkers.
After LBIS announced their strike on Friday, many library staff members had to scramble to cover the Helpline shifts, fixing miscellaneous technological issues that they had no previous knowledge about. This is not a sustainable solution to the work stoppage; this is not proceeding as normal.”
CAs, too, are vital to the College’s functioning. Should a resident have an emergency, they may have no one to turn to, and may have to wait for a Campus Safety officer to arrive. This could potentially cause a dangerous legal situation, and the College would be at fault. Is this the normal Kenyon so desires?
These are but a few examples of the contributions these students bring to the community, and the ways in which their absence is felt on campus. The fact that the College is ignoring not only the student workers, but also other students who suffer the repercussions, speaks measures about what they prioritize.
Without the guidance of CAs, TAs and Writing Center Consultants, the stress on students to learn challenging coursework and navigate the conclusion of this semester is dramatically increasing. In addition to academic success, the changes have the potential to put students’ mental health in jeopardy, especially as they are already grappling with the struggles of post-pandemic life. Forcing students to face final exams and papers without their typical academic resources and support systems is a risky prospect. Kenyon’s administration needs to stop ignoring the essential roles of its student workers — it is affecting the entire student body’s ability to succeed.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Jordy Fee-Platt ’22 and Linnea Mumma ’22, managing editor Amanda Pyne ’22 and executive director Joe Wint ’22. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.