As temperatures drop and winter looms, it is time to make the yearly plea on behalf of all Kenyon students: Pave Middle Path.
The conversation seems to occur every year, yet there is never any substantial change. During warmer months, the gravel path already presents struggles, especially to those with limited mobility. However, Ohio is now entering a season of consistent inclement weather in which these struggles are deeply exacerbated. Precipitation alone muddies the path, and paired with below-freezing temperatures, it’s not a question of if, but when, the path will become an ice rink. A single walk down the main artery of campus in these conditions will reveal how susceptible students are to slipping, sliding and finding themselves horizontal. In January 2019, a student was concussed after falling on Middle Path while attempting to make it to her morning class on an icy morning, and almost every student has experienced some minor injury from a Middle Path fall during their four years here.
These conditions are dangerous for all students, but for students with impaired mobility, these conditions also severely limit access to campus. Kenyon claims to value equitable access to eduction, of which the accessibility of Kenyon’s physical environment must be a key part, but this is meaningless when Middle Path, one of the most recognizable features of campus, and one everyone on campus must interact with every day (unless they take excessive detours to avoid it), is fundamentally inaccessible. A gravel Middle Path is contrary to Kenyon’s stated values.
Unless this is your first winter on the Hill, this is not news. The notion of paving Middle Path is common in winter-time discussions. This discussion even unites the current generation with the students of half a century ago. A Collegian piece from 2019 highlighted several focusing events that kickstarted the conversation. An especially snowy and cold winter in 1970 and the College President Philip H. Jordan’s failed attempt to prove he could navigate the path by wheelchair in the 1980s were just some of the most notable instances.
While it seems like there was more of a debate amongst the students all those years ago, the sentiment on campus now seems to be quite unified in favor of paving Middle Path. Even so, students’ pleas still seem to fall on deaf ears.
The College administration has claimed to be striking a balance between utility and “tradition” in their decision to leave the gravel as is. However, tradition is a poor excuse, especially when such a tradition actively impedes Kenyon’s alleged pursuit towards equity and safety for all in the Gambier community. The argument for keeping Middle Path a gravelly, slip-and-slide mess is wholly superficial and inherently conservative; the status quo of the Path is one that prioritizes aesthetics over functionality and tradition over progress. As such, it is imperative that the Board of Trustees and the administration finally do what should have been done years ago: Pave Middle Path.
Salvatore, Amelia and Reid
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Amelia Carnell ’23 and Salvatore Macchione ’23 and executive director Reid Stautberg ’23. You can contact them at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, respectively.