Section: Opinion

Kenyon students must embrace uncomfortable conversations

In my brief time here at Kenyon, I’ve witnessed a subtle, yet significant, transformation within our student body. What began as mere complacency among students has evolved into pervasive apathy, creating an environment where voicing convictions has become increasingly infrequent. Rarely have the feathers of Kenyon students been ruffled in recent times, with few issues sparking the kind of spirited debate that challenges minds and forges character. An exception, perhaps, to this prevailing silence only occurred when a faculty member initiated an animated all-student email conversation about the Middle East, in which students actively engaged. Yet such instances are fleeting, leaving one to wonder: Where has the public exchange of ideas, once the heartbeat of our academic community, retreated to?

Part of this dynamic can be traced back to the very essence of Kenyon itself. Nestled in our serene rural setting, life on campus is inherently governed by routines. A mere month into the semester, our daily lives start mirroring a “Groundhog Day”-like repetition, from the familiar faces we encounter strolling down Middle Path to the grilled cheese sandwiches we find ourselves eagerly anticipating each Monday at Peirce Dining Hall. Amid these predictable rhythms, falling into complacency becomes almost second nature. Uncommon events, such as power outages and windstorms, which might stir frustration or fear in other contexts, are oddly embraced here as they provide a momentary pause from the otherwise unvarying cadence of college life. 

Yet, outside these moments of unexpected disruption, there’s a noticeable tendency among us to opt for the path of least resistance — be it taking shortcuts to class, visiting the Lowry Center during quieter hours or steering clear of direct confrontation. While opting for shortcuts to class may be a harmless choice in the pursuit of efficiency, applying the same principle to our beliefs — seeking the path of least resistance by silencing our convictions or conforming to prevailing opinions — undermines our ability to engage in meaningful dialogue and weakens our commitment to our values. This pattern raises the question: Where has the zeal to advocate for personal beliefs gone? When did the valor to voice opinions that diverge from those of our peers or professors begin to wane? Where is the conviction in our convictions?

Certainly, the advent of social media activism, often dubbed “slacktivism,” and apps like Yik Yak have introduced a new dimension to how opinions are shared and debated. These platforms offer a semblance of engagement, yet often foster a passive form of participation where the act of liking, sharing or anonymously commenting becomes a substitute for genuine discourse. This digital echo chamber, while expansive in reach, can paradoxically narrow our exposure to diverse viewpoints, leading to a form of apathy that is masked by the illusion of active involvement. 

Moreover, there’s an inherent fatigue that comes with the constant barrage of information and the pressure to have a stance on every issue presented in our feeds. It’s understandable that in the face of this relentless demand for our attention and opinion, a sense of exhaustion can set in. The task required to sift through the noise, form a coherent viewpoint and then stand ready to defend it against all comers can be daunting. Yet, it is precisely this process of engagement — of wrestling with ideas, challenging our assumptions and articulating our thoughts — that lies at the heart of the collegiate experience.

It’s true that the urgency to express our convictions often arises only when they are directly challenged, yet we are privileged at Kenyon to be in an environment where such threats are rare.  Recent protests in Poland and Georgia have highlighted how privileged we are to speak our minds freely. I urge my fellow students: Don’t wait until you’re attacked to say something. Write (especially for the opinions section of this newspaper), send an allstu or chain yourself to a tree. We have so many opportunities to make our voices heard and make a difference, especially during our time at Kenyon. Don’t take it for granted.

Dylan Sibbitt ’26 is a political science major from San Francisco. He can be reached at sibbitt1@kenyon.edu.

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