Section: Opinion

Column: Kenyon must cultivate more inclusive social spaces

As a sophomore, I’ve had time to reflect on the first-year social frustrations of both myself and others. A common thread was how the first semester was overshadowed by a persistent sense of isolation. I found that Kenyon parties exemplify that issue. It didn’t help that when I first arrived on campus, I had never been to a party in my life and was unaccustomed to the deafening noises and packed environments that characterize them. While that has somewhat changed for me over the last few semesters, my experience is one that I’ve heard time and time again. It remains difficult to find social spaces at Kenyon that provide a sense of belonging and acceptance outside of the already limited party scene. The resulting sense of anxiety and unease I’ve heard echoed across student experiences signals a dire need for Kenyon to cultivate social spaces that welcome students of all interests, backgrounds and social preferences.

Parties can be overwhelming, especially for first-years unaccustomed to such settings. Aside from forceful shoves and spilled drinks, people don’t pay attention to anyone outside of the people they’re with. It’s an overstimulating nightmare that often sends me right back to my dorm. What compounds the issue, though, is the dismissive attitude toward those who voice concerns about the party scene. The common responses like “suck it up,” or “throw something better” are frustratingly unproductive and overlook the barren suite of alternative options for students who may not want a loud, busy environment.

Though students — often accurately — rail against the administration for being out of touch with the needs of an increasingly diverse student body, that issue is present on the student level as well. Fortunately, there are some examples of organizations that put effort into creating welcoming and inclusive spaces on weekends. Tabletop Club, for example, hosts biweekly Game Nights that bring together students from all backgrounds and identities and are open to the entire community. While this one event focused on board and card games may not appeal to everyone, its success proves its worth as a model on which to shape events of a similar caliber. Another example comes from early in the semester when The Crow’s Nest organized a “24-Hour Shakespeare Festival.” This creative event drew a warm crowd into Oden Auditorium to enjoy student-written adaptations and parodies of well-known Shakespearean plays. Moreover, many of the actors and writers met for the first time, potentially forming new connections and friendships that they might not have made otherwise. 

While of different niches, both Tabletop’s Game Nights and The Crow’s Nest’s Shakespeare Festival both provide opportunities for students to meet people in an accepting and inclusive environment. There are plenty of social spaces on campus that could serve the same purpose. For example, though not on a weekend, the “One Man’s Trash” generative writing event planned for Thursday is advertised as low commitment, which may encourage students anxious about significant time commitments to come out and socialize. Weaver Wednesdays, too, show the success of lower-energy events while also encouraging different student organizations to get involved. 

This is not an issue that the administration can fix. Rather, this is the job of the student body. We cannot spend all our energy and time berating the administration for the lackluster social atmosphere when much of the fault lies at our feet. The social climate that we create for ourselves will directly affect the experiences of students in semesters to come. With the tools we have at our disposal, though, and a concerted effort on the part of student groups across campus, there is hope for a brighter future for Kenyon’s student life.

Austin Vaughan ’26 is a Psychology and English major with a concentration in Creative Writing from Cincinnati. They can be reached at vaughan1@kenyon.edu.

0 Comments

Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at collegian@kenyon.edu.