Despite numerous issues with on-campus housing, Kenyon has somehow managed to outdo itself with the Meadow Lane housing (the “Mods”). At face value, the Mods are far from the main campus, have fire alarms easily triggered by showers and have rooms only five square feet larger than the federal minimum for new jail cells. In addition to deciding to build the Mods rather than stop over-enrolling students, Kenyon has actively worked to conceal this unalluring aspect of campus. Since deciding to move the Mods from their initial planned location near Watson, Kenyon has repeatedly made choices to further obscure the Mods by not publishing any photos of them, not including them on the campus map and not publicly disclosing information on the status of their construction. Yet, despite all of this, the most alarming aspect of the Mods is the fact that they are missing a building.
During the housing process last year, students planning to live in the Mods were promised an auxiliary building which would act as a community space fully equipped with a kitchen and lounge area. A kitchen space is particularly necessary because students living in the Mods are not permitted to have refrigerators or microwaves. Without a kitchen space, the nearest place a student can go to make, say, microwavable ramen is the Lowry Center. The importance of a community space cannot be underestimated, particularly because the dorms in the Mods offer only a fraction of the desk space a normal room has, and next to no room to have a friend over. A community space is all the more essential in the evenings when you factor in the minimal street lamps between the Mods and the library, which make the trek between the two a treacherous journey through darkness.
Like many of Kenyon’s housing issues, the immediate problem doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the possible repercussions. In addition to being a community space, the planned auxiliary building is intended to serve as a storm and tornado shelter. A severe weather shelter is paramount because the Mods are temporary housing units, which, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), are some of the most dangerous places to be in a tornado. In an article by FEMA titled “Special Conditions/Locations (Do Not Stay in a Temporary Building/Shelter),” it was noted that “69.2% of all tornado fatalities from 1985 to 2005 occurred in either mobile or [manufactured] permanent homes.” So not only is there no kitchen, community space or study space, but there is also no shelter place for the Mods.
Before you get anxious, don’t worry; although the official location is still listed on Kenyon College Emergency Rally Points as the auxiliary building, with that still in the process of being built, the College recommends students go to one of two locations. The first location is simply in the hallway of the Mods. This recommendation comes despite the fact that the Ohio Government’s Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) states “a school safety plan must include getting students out of portable classrooms and into a safe area in the main building as quickly as possible.” The alternative location is the Lowry Center locker rooms. Although these lockers are technically safe, to get to them from the Mods a student would need to go through four of the most important places to avoid during a tornado, according to OCSWA: temporary/mobile homes, outdoors, areas near windows and gymnasiums. At Kenyon, a student would have to move from a manufactured temporary home, to a field next to a parking lot, to the outside of a building made primarily of glass, to the inside of a gym, and then finally to the safety of a locker room.
Ultimately, the likelihood of a tornado striking Kenyon is low, and the chances of one striking before the auxiliary building is finished are even lower. Kenyon did not choose for the auxiliary building to be delayed. It was likely delayed by normal construction and/or shipping issues. Yet, despite these very real qualifiers, the feeling that Kenyon is not being transparent and not prioritizing student interests remains. If Kenyon is committed to over enrolling students, it must also be committed to keeping those students safe.
Hannah Sussman ’25 is the opinions editor at the Collegian. She is a sociology major from Glencoe, Ill. She can be reached at email@example.com.