It’s not controversial to say that the Mods are a disappointment. The Meadow Lane housing facilities have been fraught with problems since they opened for the fall, forcing students to deal with broken locks, oversensitive fire alarms, leaking roofs and flooded rooms, among other issues. But the Mods are a symptom of a larger problem: Kenyon is expanding faster than it can handle. And although the current ad hoc approach to housing problems is alarming, what’s worse is that this approach is nothing new.
In 1962, the College completed construction on a new section of student housing on North campus. These buildings were temporary — built with a 20-year-maximum expiration date — and intended to eventually be replaced by permanent housing in order to support a growing student body. Over the years, these dorms would experience fires, mold, rodent infestations and renovations that left them with plumbing problems and thin walls. Some burned down and were not rebuilt. Today, we know these buildings as the New Apartments, or New Apts. They remain, 60 years later, as substandard and dangerous housing, despite their original designation as temporary.
Kenyon is not unaware of the importance of housing on campus. When building the North Campus Apartments (NCAs) in 2011, Hank Toutain, the Dean of Students at the time, spoke to how quality housing like the NCAs would benefit the College: “As Kenyon continues to gain respect for its academic programs and opportunities, its housing should continue to improve at the same rate,” Toutain said. “Kenyon should not lose students because its housing options are not as nice as various other institutions.” How, in such a short span of time, has Kenyon lost sight of this mission? The College seems to be pushing its long-term expansion plan as quickly as possible by accepting new students at unprecedented rates, but it has overlooked the students here on campus today. Kenyon’s website advertises the Mods as “convenient” suite-style housing — but one look at the suites in Caples Hall, or any residence hall with comparable housing, will disillusion anybody of this notion. The Mods are simply not up to the standard of other dorms on campus, and that is ignoring the safety issues.
New construction is unlikely to replace the Mods any time soon. The renovation of Bexley Hall in 2023 and the construction of the first new South campus dorm in 2024 will add a combined 127 beds by 2024, less than Meadow Lane’s current capacity. And while the second new dorm (86 beds) will be completed by 2025, the demolition of Bushnell and Manning that same year will remove 104 beds for a net addition of only 109 new beds over the next three years. The Campus Master Plan projects that the final new dorm on South campus will be completed in spring of 2027. The Mods will likely be needed to fill the gap until then. After years of consistent over-enrollment, the College should have reassessed its ability to house more students, but has so far failed to do so.
With the construction of Meadow Lane, the College is repeating old mistakes. The Mods may be temporary in the scale of the Campus Master Plan, but they will not be temporary for the many students who will arrive at and graduate Kenyon before they are torn down — if they are torn down at all. Zoning permits can always be extended. Some students could spend three of their four years at Kenyon in housing affectionately deemed a “trailer park” by its residents, far from the main campus and lacking not just basic amenities but also legally required safety standards. Housing conditions should never be an obstacle to a student’s life, and temporary housing should be a last resort when enrollment failsafes give way, not part and parcel of an onerous admissions policy — the College should have made provisions to house more students before enrolling those additional students at all. Even if temporary housing must be erected, it should not be this poorly overseen. The College should not let tunnel vision for its long-term objectives harm its current students. The Mods disappoint in every regard.
Cyrus Griffin ’25 is an English major from New York, N.Y. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.