Two student-led campaigns emerged over the past few weeks that criticize College administrators. They both claim that the College isn’t giving students enough representation and cite policies like K-Card access to dorms as an example of the administration’s malpractice. The “thumbs-down Kenyon” posters claim that Kenyon should be a “democratically self-governed community.” This demand seems fair at first. But we should ask: Who is represented in our community? And whose views and opinions would take precedence if we were democratically self-governed?
The creators of these two campaigns may not have taken much time to think about these questions. If they had, they might realize that the College has implemented some of these policies to protect certain students on campus. In this student-led democracy, would those students be represented?
Both the Alternative Senior Fund and “thumbs-down Kenyon” campaigns are largely run and supported by members of Greek life. Greek organizations have had a privileged history at Kenyon, especially fraternities, who enjoy their own private spaces and mostly control campus party culture.
Many of the policy changes that these campaigns are criticizing directly affect members of Greek life. We agree that some student input should be sought out for these kind of policy changes. The administration could have improved their communication with students, but this shortcoming does not warrant a complete overhaul of the system, especially when their decisions benefit members of the community who are underrepresented, but simply inconvenience others.
The idea of a democracy on college campuses can be problematic, because where would non-Greek international students and students of color fit in this democracy? Would they have an equal voice, or would their voices be drowned out by members of the community who have always had an elevated spot in the student body — such as members of Greek organizations? Equally problematic is the lack of clarity in these campaigns’ intentions. The leader of the “thumbs-down Kenyon” campaign admitted the posters were vague. And many of those interviewed for this week’s Collegian article do not seem to know how this democracy would look, or how we would achieve it.
Both of these campaigns are misguided attempts to give power back to students who have always enjoyed it. Instead of giving into frustration, we must think about who these policies are affecting, rather than convincing ourselves that a poster in a window is a proper solution.