If you are a student worker, you received a news bulletin from Kenyon on Friday morning with the subject line “Action required by April 7 to object to the release of your personal information.” While it might sound like one, this was not a scam looking to get your credit card information; it was an official communication from the College. It came because, as the email explains, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is considering a petition from Kenyon’s student workers — represented by the Kenyon Student Worker Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) — to form a union. This email from the College was a required legal notification under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), but there was a lot of important contextual information Kenyon’s vice president and general council, Richard Lovering, did not include. This email was a misleading and inflammatory representation of the current situation, suggesting the College is not engaging in good faith, and students should be aware of the missing context in order to reach an informed conclusion.
First and foremost, the current legal proceedings are a result of Kenyon’s decision not to respect K-SWOC’s initial request that the College and the union negotiate a stipulated election agreement to hold an election. If the College had been willing to work toward an agreement with the union, no hearing would be necessary, nor would a subpoena.
Second, while the subpoena is wide ranging, it’s important to take a step back and consider what is actually being asked. Despite the tone of the original email, Kenyon states in the FAQ on its website that with regard to information obtained by the NLRB through the subpoena, it “intends to take all steps available to protect personally identifiable student information from public disclosure.” In Kenyon’s FAQ, it also brings up information which would be “released” in the event of an election. Students should be aware that almost all of the information (names, home address, and contact information) that would be provided to K-SWOC in the event an election is ordered is already available to students in the Kenyon extended directory.
It’s important to consider how this information was communicated and what the implications of this are. We wrote a few weeks ago that Kenyon has a habit of “burying the lede,” and this is just another example of that. What you might not know, unless you opened the attached files at the bottom of the email and read the fine print, is that after more than a year, the NLRB has set a date for a hearing to consider K-SWOC’s election petition — a huge success for the union after extended delay.
A final consideration: Unless you carefully read to the end of the email, you may have missed this, but Kenyon has taken the liberty of sending this information to our home addresses. The email states that this is “for [our] convenience,” but that is hard to imagine given that few of us are at home, nor will be for weeks. This seems like a clear attempt to influence students through their parents who receive this mail, a disingenuous and manipulative tactic that does not inspire confidence that the College will continue through the hearing and election process in good faith.
The College’s behavior is disappointing, yet unsurprising. We hope that students now have a better understanding of the context in which the subpoena has been served, so that they may act more consciously in their decision to release their information or not.
Amelia, Salvatore 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.