It is another picturesque morning on North Campus, and I wake up to the sound of the construction currently taking place roughly 15 feet from my bedroom. By edict of the Master Plan, the new, Gund-approved Black Box is currently under construction in extremely close proximity to my apartment. By my appraisal, it does not seem like it will be completed by its original September estimate. Fortunately it’s not a huge inconvenience for me (I’m easily able to roll over and fall back asleep), but it is a constant reminder of the way the multiple construction projects on campus impact student life.
Right now, there are two main construction zones on campus, the aforementioned Black Box site and the extensive renovations to the downtown section of Middle Path, which includes the construction site of the new Village Market. The Middle Path renovations, originally slated for completion by the end of summer break, are by far more disruptive for the general student body. If you have tried to walk somewhere on campus in the last two weeks, you probably understand the inconvenience, especially if you use a bicycle or a wheelchair or are a first year who may not be entirely sure how to get where you need to go.
Obviously construction needs to take place at some point, and the Master Plan is a done deal, but the administration needs to consider how project deadlines could impact student life. Middle Path construction at the beginning of the school year is especially difficult for new arrivals, and the absence of the Black Box (with no temporary replacement) is troublesome for student drama groups that now have significantly fewer options for rehearsal and performance space. I understand that the delays, such as waiting on a demolition permit for the old Black Box and storm drain renovations for Middle Path, were largely out of the College’s hands. But given the initial completion date estimates, it seems like the possibility of delays was not sufficiently accounted for, and students are now paying the price.
Many even larger-scale projects loom on the horizon: Construction on the former site of the Cove will occur soon, and Farr Hall and Olin and Chalmers Library are projected to be torn down in the next year, with replacement buildings to be erected on their respective sites.
I am concerned with these projects, especially the library. The well-being of the student body is not being highly prioritized. As of now, there is little other than speculation about how library staff will function in the absence of a main building. And given the uncertainty the plans for Middle Path, the Market and the Black Box, I fear that logistics will fall through and the student body will be hung out to dry. The Master Plan should be making Kenyon better for the community, not for the photographs in an admissions brochure. This drastic reshaping, if it must be done, needs to be done with community welfare kept firmly in mind.
Tobias Baumann ’19 is a religious studies major from Mount Vernon, Ohio. Contact him at email@example.com.