For almost two months, I have been in communication with the Office of Residential Life (ResLife) trying to figure out where I’m supposed to live. Caples Residence Hall is now the fourth residence I have been assigned to during my first year at Kenyon after transferring from Binghamton University. I switched schools because of the disrespect I received from Binghamton’s Residential Life and administration after reporting my abuser. Binghamton abandoned me during a time of need — a position I have found myself in once again a year later.
Most recently, I chose to be a member of Sisterhood because I am a non-binary Latinx person with an emotional support animal (ESA) attending a predominantly white institution. At Sisterhood, I have found a community in which femme-identifying people of color can unite. Like many, my identity is multifaceted, intersectional and vulnerable. While searching for other safe spaces, I recognized Unity House was not an option. Sisterhood includes queer people, but there are additional spaces provided by the College for LGBTQ+ students such as Unity House. Unfortunately, this year Unity feels exclusive because the house is overwhelmingly white, presenting an issue with the housing selection, effectively excluding queer and trans people of color. Overall, Sisterhood has given me access to a welcoming environment.
My ESA is one of the few therapeutic methods that have successfully supported my disability, but when I moved into Sisterhood housing after spring break I wasn’t allowed remain with my ESA (a cat) due to someone in the house being allergic. Josh Kusch, the associate director of Residential Life, created a list of options to resolve the conflict. The first option suggested was that I make my own arrangements to move my ESA elsewhere for the remainder of the semester in order to be able to keep living in the Sisterhood North Campus Apartment (NCA). The choice to present this as an option at all made it clear the College perceived my ESA as a pet. To them, separating us would be no issue. Throughout my housing experience at Kenyon, the College has demonstrated that people with ESAs are not well understood.
At the beginning of my first semester at Kenyon, I was initially placed in Meadow Lane Housing (“the Mods”) despite my ESA and physical disability. Every morning, I would wait upwards of 30 minutes for the Office of Campus Safety’s medical transportation service to drive me up the hill. Kenyon also placed other students with ESAs in the Mods, including someone with a large dog. The rooms in the Mods can barely fit a suitcase; they are way too small for people with ESAs. My friend found someone with an empty double in a Taft Cottage, and we moved there to save myself from trekking up the hill with my physical injury and to provide my ESA with much-deserved space.
In February, after a mediated conversation between myself and my housemates to discuss a conflict primarily revolving around the safety of my ESA and myself, Kenyon offered to pay for Pak Mail to move me for the third time. Desperate to surround myself with a community I could rely on and feel safe in, I chose to move into Sisterhood and accepted this offer.
Over spring break, my things were moved into the Sisterhood NCA, but ResLife failed to check in with the other residents first. Upon returning from break, a housemate with cat allergies immediately filed a complaint to ResLife. Rather than acknowledging that this was a preventable mistake, ResLife blamed the prior Sisterhood housing manager (an untrained volunteer) and me, explaining I would have to move. Upon deciding to stand up for myself, I refused to move. After the Division of Student Affairs made a unilateral decision, I was then evicted from the Sisterhood NCA.
My housemates expressed their immediate concerns with the decision to evict me, yet instead of listening to Sisterhood’s judgement, the white administrators overruled them. In this decision, the College went against its standards as an institution. Kenyon’s diversity and inclusion statement reads: “Each and every one of us must feel welcome, respected, and included.” I do not feel welcomed, respected or included as a queer person of color living with an ESA on campus; in fact, I feel particularly vulnerable.
I’ve ultimately concluded that ResLife’s job is to act like college landlords. They tend to worsen conflict, they are typically unprofessional and many are incompetent. Solutions to conflicts suggested by the College have rebounded to mediation, a method that not only seems to protect the College’s liability but that also relieves ResLife staff from doing the work of conflict resolution.
This issue is yet another example of the utter disrespect that gender non-conforming and femme-presenting people of color experience at this institution. Intersectional points of my identity make it difficult for me to find supportive spaces in this treacherous environment. The College does not properly accommodate the needs of marginalized students, and at Kenyon I have only met white folks with ESAs, so we cannot fully relate to one another.
By continuously exercising their power to instantaneously remove students from residential halls, Kenyon landlords signal that marginalized students do not have a right to a guaranteed comfortable space. It feels as though the administration’s primary concern is regulating and maintaining the College’s reputation. Any opposition to the institution, such as my refusal to move, is suppressed and belittled; advocating for yourself is perceived as rudely defiant. Regardless of identity, all students deserve to feel safe on Kenyon’s campus.
Carolina Araujo ’26 is from New York City. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Wow, "typically unprofessional and many are incompetent." are considerably harsh words to use against reslife staff. Do you think it might be excessive to insult reslife in such a personal matter, especially considering that they are dealing with a housing shortage which is in no part their own fault?
Reply to A Junior
A JuniorI don't know about that, A Junior, res life got my dorm wrong and sent me the full list of residents of a house I did not apply to when they were asking about a program house situation. That sounds like incompetency to me. (since there are only three program houses) Also, if you apply to substance-free housing, everyone else who applied for substance-free will be able to see your name, email, and dorm selection. That's a big privacy breach.
I agree that not everything that happens to dorms and dorm selection is reslife's fault, clearly, the housing shortage contributed to that, but I think in my case and the author's case, reslife could have done so much better.
Reply to sophomore
Kenyon housing is a joke, as is their support of disabled students. I'm sorry for how Kenyon has treated you. Thank you for your vulnerability and for sharing your experience.
Reply to Anonymous
Are we serious?
Reply to Concerned Student
It seems to me that you are very wrapped up in your own identity and your own needs and lack consideration for others. For example, why should someone with an allergy move out of their living space to accommodate you if they were there first? Maybe you’re demanding to be respected, included and welcomed without extending any respect to those around you. Did it ever occur to you that you might be somewhat responsible for your situation? Obviously not. It’s everyone else’s fault.
Reply to Theodora
Thank you for sharing. It is really surprising that you have had trouble with administrators at both Binghamton & Kenyon🤔
Reply to Mary
Lisa Sanders ‘81, parent ‘17, father ‘49
Some people feel as though they have no control over their lives, so they turn to blaming others for their troubles and challenges.
This can lead to a negative spiral of self-defeating patterns where we look externally instead of internally.
We need to accept responsibility for our own actions and decisions, and forget about holding others responsible for our mistakes or bad choices.
“Never forget that the most powerful force on earth is love; never blame anyone in your life; good people give you happiness and bad people give you an experience! Thank them both!”
Housing has always been bad at Kenyon. Ignore it. You are in a magical place. Embrace it and be grateful.
Reply to Lisa Sanders ‘81, parent ‘17, father ‘49