Dear Editors of the Collegian:
In preparation for its upcoming re-accreditation, Kenyon is currently revising its mission statement. I believe it imperative that the College’s new mission statement affirms our continuing commitment to a truly global and inclusive understanding of the humanities and social sciences. Not only has Kenyon long been home to a thriving International Studies major, but in recent decades we have also established groundbreaking Asian Studies and Islamic Civilization and Cultures concentrations, as well as a unique Asian and Middle East Studies joint major. Kenyon currently offers three Asian languages: Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. Furthermore, we offer numerous courses across multiple departments that focus on Asia, Africa and Latin America. The number of courses teaching about the world outside of Western Europe and North America on our campus is remarkable. More remarkable still is the fact that all of these courses have healthy enrollments, far more than any of our sister schools in the Great Lakes Colleges Association and the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.
It is significant that these courses do not divide the world into “us” and “them.” We have not treated the literatures and cultures of Western Europeans as the main course, while presenting the thoughts and ideas of Asians and Africans as a side dish to provide a bit of diversity. Instead, many of us at Kenyon have worked diligently to build a curriculum that treats Plato and Ibn Arabi, Herodotus and Sima Qian, Jalaluddin Rumi and William Shakespeare, the Buddha and Jesus, Sinan and Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Bradbury and Liu Cixin, Zora Neal Hurston and Eileen Chang as part of a single shared global human heritage: It is all “us;” there is no “other.”
Sadly, many of my colleagues seem unaware of this ongoing struggle to develop and maintain a curriculum that reflects a truly global approach to the social sciences and humanities. In fact, many students have reported to me that, as prospective students, while they were told a lot about Quest for Justice, English and opportunities for studying STEM at Kenyon, they were told little to nothing about the global scope of the humanities at the College. Given the uniqueness and strength of our curriculum, I think it’s time for our mission statement to reflect that.
Vernon James Schubel
Professor of Religious Studies and
Asian and Middle East Studies