With Student Council elections approaching, we’ve started to think about ways in which students can contribute to real, substantive change on this campus. And to be honest, the outlets through which students can do so are limited — and waning. As another election year comes around the corner, we call on both the Council and the administration to figure out the best strategies for student-driven change.
This means that the current outlets for student input need to allow for direct legislation and immediate change, rather than considerations simply being forwarded to higher members of the administration for review. We are not trying to undermine the work that the students on the Council and Campus Senate are doing — rather, we are calling on a reformation of the current system.
For instance, last spring, Campus Senate compiled a list of recommendations for the state of student employment at Kenyon. One of these recommendations included a review of the tier system of student-pay. Last March, President Sean Decatur announced in a news bulletin that, per the Senate’s recommendations, an update on the pay tier system would come “later in the semester.” That update never came, indicating that the Senate has little influence past their initial deliberation process.
And when students have pushed for more say in democratic decision-making, they have been shut down. Student workers have continually asked for a union election, only to be met with unrelenting resistance and silence.
We are hopeful that the Student Council and Campus Senate can regain the influence they once had. In the past, the Senate has had tremendous input in important decision-making. For example, when planning began for renovations of Peirce Hall in the 1990s, a group of female students reached out to the Senate about the placement of round tables in New Side. The goal was to promote inclusivity by increasing the number of students at each table and their accessibility to one another. The Senate acted on this request, and these tables are still used in Peirce today. In the 2000s, the Senate was involved in other important legislation, such as the rewriting of Title IX policies and the introduction of the Good Samaritan policy, which is an important safety measure in instances of alcohol overconsumption today.
With all this in mind, we argue that students at Kenyon be given greater agency and influence over effecting change in the College’s legislative policies. Potential outlets do not only exist in student government — that is only one instance of waning student influence. These outlets can also exist in student organizations. Even from our own perspective, over the course of the last few years we have seen a dramatic reduction in transparency from the administration. For instance, we used to have weekly meetings with the administration to discuss student concerns. Now, select administrative members have refused to schedule these meetings almost entirely, hindering our ability to serve as an important line of communication between students and administrators.
Especially due to the College’s ongoing cultural changes, allowing for more outputs for student-led decision making would critically emphasize Kenyon’s commitment to its bottom-up, liberal arts model for higher education. The time is now: We can look at the upcoming Student Council election as a way to call attention to the systems we currently have in place and recognize that a significant upheaval is needed. This College is run by us, and it’s time for administrators to realize that.
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.