Increasing diversity on this campus must consist of more than just renovating a few buildings.
Physical accessibility is important. We are not disputing that, of course — but what is the point of making buildings more open to students with disabilities if we are not actively recruiting those students to attend Kenyon? According to President Sean Decatur, as of right now there is no concrete plan in place to address the lack of students with disabilities on this campus. There should be.
There are organizations on campus that help to support students from all types of backgrounds, but there are very few specifically designated for furthering their interests at Kenyon. Student Accessibility and Support Services (SASS) provides an important and much-needed service by coordinating academic accommodations and some physical accommodations for the students who need them, but it isn’t enough.
With the influx of 75 million dollars into the College’s plan for campus construction, the physical aspect of accessibility — through the addition of elevators and expanded hallways — may be addressed, but the emotional hurdles that students with disabilities may need to overcome to experience college life will still remain.
Although the administration has a responsibility to proactively recruit students with disabilities through the Office of Admissions, the solution to the problem of diversity is not only in the hands of the College. The solution is our collective responsibility.
The student body can work to change the culture at Kenyon to be more emotionally accessible. Social activities, like all-campus parties, should be held in physically accessible spaces on campus instead of being tucked away in the woods or in the basement of Old Kenyon Residence Hall, where several staircases stand between students with disabilities and their peers.
According to Kenyon’s website, the mission of the College’s 2020 plan is to “continue to attract a diverse group of academically talented students.” This is a noble pursuit and the College should do everything in its power to fulfill this mission. But the College can’t make this campus “90 percent accessible” on its own. Those of us who are able-bodied allies must advocate and help to provide both a physical and emotional space on this campus for students with disabilities.