Section: Editorial

Staff Editorial: Email attacks, not union efforts, polarize campus

Over the last week, Kenyon faculty, staff and students threw their argumentative hats into the infamous email-chain ring, debating in two public threads the merits and drawbacks of the Kenyon Student Workers Organizing Committee’s (K-SWOC) goal of forming a union of student workers. Participants in the online spat, specifically faculty and staff — those who ought to be role models on campus — exhibited the worst of this community.

After extensive debate in an all-student thread (including a 13-page, single-spaced essay), a professor shared private emails from a redacted faculty member to a student, revealing that the nastiness in the public threads was only the beginning. In the private emails, the professor disparaged the student, calling them a “snot” and accusing them of “smashing the institution you and I both depend on to survive.” The debate over whether private emails should be shared is ultimately beside the point, when what the content of the messages clearly demonstrates is that opposition to the union is being used by those in positions of power to threaten and harass.

This is not the first time K-SWOC has been the subject of mass-email discourse, but it is particularly notable because of the personal attacks and bad-faith arguments, such as a professor saying in a private email to a student, “you’re not the only one who works hard for her money and it’s obnoxious obscene and condescending of you to imagine otherwise.” Further, calling a student a “snot” (even in a private email), or suggesting publicly that they “didn’t do the assigned reading,” is not only unprofessional, but betrays a lack of the trust and care that we say exists in the Kenyon community. An email early in the chain claims that K-SWOC is creating a polarized environment that limits discussion on campus, but it wasn’t K-SWOC that jumped on a student simply trying to share their experience. 

As exhibited in the all-student and all-employee email chains from the past week, some participants in the debate over K-SWOC have failed to uphold the standards of constructive discourse that we hold high at Kenyon. Both the public email chains and the leaked private emails included blunt insults and belittling assumptions from employees of the College. These are unacceptable in any context, and they fail to meet the ideals Kenyon claims to hold itself to. 

We urge those who engaged in the exchange, namely those who were unduly aggressive, to consider their audience and their mission. Full-time employees of the College must realize their duty to support students and foster a cohesive campus community. End the unprofessional banter from behind a screen; opt for an in-person meeting instead. Be open-minded about the issues facing student workers as well as their proposed solutions. If the discourse still fails, resources such as the Ombuds Office are available to help. Claiming that a union would threaten open communication on campus while attacking students in email chains is not only deeply hypocritical, but also disrespectful, unprofessional and unproductive. 


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, and, respectively.


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