The debate surrounding Kenyon’s mascots — the Lords and Ladies — has quietly gained traction over the last few years. In recent weeks, however, the conversation has become a point of contention across campus after President Sean Decatur introduced the topic in a recent Campus Senate meeting. The Collegian spoke with athletes on a variety of Kenyon teams to better understand their perspective on this issue.
On their website, the Kenyon Athletics Department explains that the moniker of the Lords and Ladies has roots in the foundation of the College and of Gambier as a village. Philander Chase — Kenyon’s founder and first president — honored the essential funding provided by two English noblemen, Lord Kenyon and Lord Gambier, by naming the College after one, the town after the other and the mascot after both. The Lords were joined by the Ladies when women were invited to the Hill in 1969.
The main concerns about the mascots reflect the inherent classism and exclusivity regarding the rigid gender binary that the names evoke. While a change remains speculative, Campus Senate, the Kenyon Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (KSAAC) and Kenyon’s administration have moved to explore if the Lords and Ladies truly reflect the College’s core values and commitments.
Women’s lacrosse player Delaney Gallagher ’23 and women’s basketball player Clare Kelley ’21 feel strongly that inclusivity should be emphasized more than tradition at Kenyon.
“We should have a mascot that commits to the progress we are making to being more inclusive as a College, and the current mascot is simply a roadblock to that despite the connection many have to it,” Gallagher said. “As a female athlete, the love and pride and connection I have to this school and my program’s history does not come from a name, but from the connections I have with people, experiences and memories.”
Kelley pointed to her own cisgender privilege of identifying directly with the Ladies title, recognizing that many students at Kenyon do not share this benefit. Kelley said that she “cannot imagine what that feels like.”
Although the timing of the investigation comes at a time when many collegiate and national sports teams have changed their mascots to be more culturally sensitive, many members of the community were surprised by Decatur bringing up the issue during the Senate meeting.
Men’s basketball player Kase Cronin ’23 wonders if the debate and conversation is coming at the wrong time. “I think [the timing] is somewhat silly to be completely honest,” he says. “We have a workers’ union trying to get recognition and many other problems at our school that deserve far more attention.”
Meanwhile, Gallagher sees the investigation as a necessary step, noting that those who compete as Kenyon athletes have always been forced to take a stance on the moniker.
Gallagher hopes that the administration and Campus Senate are prudent and open in their discussion on the topic. Several campus organizations, such as the Unity House, KSAAC and Campus Senate, are working to “facilitate discussions and get student opinions about the mascot heard,” Gallagher, who is student co-chair of the Senate, explained.
However, she is worried that a healthy discussion on the topic will be difficult to bring about. “People may feel deterred to express [their] opinion due to the lack of anonymity in the process. I would just encourage students to voice their opinions and reach out to their class senators if they would rather share it in a more closed setting,” Gallagher said.
Kelley enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the potential mascot change in her last KSAAC meeting. “I think it was great that we were able to have such an open conversation, and that individuals felt comfortable enough to speak on their opinions. Regardless of anyone’s specific stance on this topic, all we could ask for was an open, honest conversation, and that is what occurred.”
Despite attempts at healthy conversation and debate, Cronin adds that athletes he has spoken to are generally responding negatively to this discussion, as they feel that those advocating for change are not athletes and for the most part do not actively support the athletic community.
As the community moves towards a resolution, a variety of alternative names have been proposed in discussions. Cronin and Kelley both favor other traditional options such as the “Royals.” Kelley says, “If [the mascot] were to change, I think it’s really important that the mascot truly embodies Kenyon and allows past, current and future members of the Kenyon community to feel connected to it, while simultaneously promoting inclusivity.”
Gallagher has a different mascot suggestion. She offers the “Owls” as an option: “It is a reference to the Kokosing River that has been a central and historical part of this campus and the Native American tribe [that] Philander Chase took the land from to found the College.” Additionally, she proposes the “Monarchs,” as in the “Monarch Butterflies.” “The butterfly is native to the area,” she says. “It would bring a more inclusive version [of a majestic mascot] while still connecting back to a more regal type of name many students feel connected to.”
The answer to Kenyon’s mascot debate will likely not be found overnight. However, as Kelley says, “At the end of the day, we all want what is best for the Kenyon community, which is why these conversations are so important.”