Badass Babes of Kenyon: Eva Warren

Author’s note: This article is part three of four in a series on women at Kenyon who the author personally finds to be downright inspiring. This series is by no means comprehensive since of course, all babes of Kenyon are badass.

 

Name: Evangeline “Eva” Warren

Class: 2019

Major: Sociology (Pre-Med)

Hometown: New York

Groups involved with on campus: ΑΣΤ and Harcourt Parish

Role model: Eva’s mom, because she balances being a professional woman and a mother really well.

Why Eva is badass: She stands up for what she believes in and makes sure her voice and the voices of her peers are heard, if not always listened to. I only met Eva relatively recently, but I have been impacted by her activism on campus, and more likely than not, you have too. In 2017, Eva ran for a seat on the Gambier Village Council, hoping to bring the student perspective to the town’s decision-making body. In January of this year, she released a survey to gauge the students’ satisfaction with options in Peirce Dining Hall, then sat down with Peirce administrators to draw attention to these concerns. Most recently, she (among many brave others) has articulated apprehensions over the Peer Counselor (PC) “liability” issue, using her experience as a volunteer for an online crisis support chat room as evidence that the PC program is extremely beneficial and necessary for much of the student body to function. In addition to the crisis line, Eva volunteers at the hospital and works as both a Community Advisor and a Helpline Consultant, meaning that much of her time is spent providing service to both the Kenyon and Knox County communities. Put simply, rather than sitting around complaining as many of us tend to do, Eva turns dissatisfaction into action and continues to do so regardless of results.

Sarah: People might know your name around campus because of your recent activism concerning the lack of healthy food options in Peirce and the uncertain future of the Peer Counselors. What has the general reception of your voice by the student body?

Eva: Students have been pretty in-favor of it. Both the Peer Counselors and Peirce are institutions that most of us interact with on a very regular basis, or we have friends who interact with them on a very regular basis, so talking about these issues is not an abstract concept to people. I was really touched and empowered with the Peirce stuff when students reached out personally and said, “You’re saying things that no one’s heard me say before. It’s really great to know that there are other people who see the things that I see, and that I’m not going crazy.”

With the PC stuff as well, there have been a lot of conversations on Facebook, talking about the issues with a lot of solidarity, which is really important to see. I think that a lot of us have noticed problems and have registered those problems internally, but Kenyon students are not always the best about following through on their concerns and building coalitions. In both these cases, we actually saw solidarity happen. When I sent out that Peirce survey, within twenty-four hours I got over two hundred and fifty responses that were overwhelmingly on the same page that I was. And that’s just not something you expect to see when you don’t really hear people talking about it.

 

S: And what about the reception from the administration?

E: Hm … Less positive? I think I was actually really disappointed by that because I always hope that when I enter into these conversations with [in air quotes] “adults”—grown-ups, non-student-types—that we enter the discussion as equals, and that’s not the case. I’ve been very lucky my first few years at Kenyon to participate in Canterbury, which is a space where faculty and students are equals and have an equal space at the table and are able to contribute without there having to be that hierarchical definition, and I was naïve in expecting that in my conversations with other administrators. I was naïve to think that past collaboration on projects and programs would mean that we would be able to talk as people who really do have an interest in seeing Kenyon be a better place.

 

I’ve been very frustrated by a lot of the lack of transparency, and I’ve been incredibly disheartened by the fact that these conversations and the act of listening seems to be performative on the part of the College, where they’re coming in and saying, “Yes, of course, we’ll come and listen,” and then they listen, and they ignore it, and they’re like, “Well, we’re gonna do what we said we were gonna do anyway, but now you can't complain because we listened to you.” So that’s been a really frustrating thing, and I’ve seen—I mean, we’ve all seen a pattern of that over and over and over again. I’ll be interested to see what comes of all this, and I don’t want to pass judgment before that happens, but given the pattern of behavior, I’m concerned that these conversations will inevitably yield nothing—that they were a practice, an academic exercise.

 

S: What keeps you motivated when it seems that your voice and the voices of your peers are not being listened to? E: I have been very lucky in that my family has been very supportive. My dad was here over the summer, and you know, the first two years of school when I was complaining about Peirce food, my parents were like, “Oh, well she just misses home cooking.” Then he was here this summer and he was like, “Oh, you’re not kidding.” So I’ve been incredibly lucky to have that family support and that I can go and talk to my parents. As I was going through the Peirce conversations, and as I’m going through the PC conversations now, my parents are there with me. They’re not in the room with me, but they’re sitting down and coming up with plans of attack and theories on what the motivations might be on the part of the College and things like that. They’ve also said that if I need to pull them in, they are happy to be there, and if I ever feel threatened or anything like that, I can end the conversation and say I want my parents to be there. I’m incredibly thankful for that, and I’m incredibly honored and privileged to have that support because not everyone does.

 

I also volunteer for a crisis hotline outside of Kenyon, and I have made some incredible friends through that, and they’re all, you know, crisis responders, so they’re really good at listening when you’re like, “Ahh! Something’s going on.” I’m really lucky to have their emotional support as well.

 

S: As to whether or not change will actually come of this: it seems like it might, because—well, I’m only a first-year, but I’ve never seen as much solidarity as the PC issue is seeming to bring about. Do you think any sort of change will actually come?

E: I’m a cynic, so no. I think the College has made their decision about what they’re gonna do to protect their own insurance policy, and they’re gonna search high and low to justify it, and they’re going to frame it in a way that seems to acknowledge that they’ve met with students and heard our concerns, but I don’t think anything will change.

 

I do think the administration has not realized how little goodwill is left amongst the students, because over my three years here, over and over and over again we have to fight these battles and fight similar battles, and I think a lot of us are just at a point where we don’t care anymore. They have burnt their bridges. Speaking candidly, my conversations with administrators around the Peirce thing left me incredibly disillusioned about the rhetoric that administrators are here to support the students. No, the administrators are here to protect the College, and in that case, we are not seen as “the College.” At this point, I’m like, I have one year left, my grades are good, I’m really at-peace academically—so yeah, let’s go. I’m ready to fight.

 

S: You have less than a year and a half left here. Some things you’ve been an advocate for, like healthier food in Peirce, might not change that quickly. Why do you fight for things that you might not reap the direct benefits of?

E: My family has a joke that I enjoy having a project. We thought the Peirce project was done and so we kind of put that to bed, and now, I have another project. My dad jokes about what projects I’ll have for senior year.

 

This is the sort of thing where I think the College underestimates our tenacity. I have heard, from the lips of administrators, “You are only here for four years, so it doesn’t really matter.” I think that viewing a student’s connection with an institution as a finite thing is an incredibly short-sighted thing to do. Especially considering they’ll be asking us for money someday. I’m a junior, and they’re asking the seniors for money right now. I don’t want to get into this idea of “Who’s here longer?” but at the end of the day, my connection with this institution is going to be deeper and stronger than an administrator who’s in a position where there is no place for advancement, so they will inevitably have to leave to get a promotion. And I know that. I fear that what’s going on with the student affairs side has not been communicated to the alumni engagement side. They haven’t figured out, “Oh, maybe we’re alienating four hundred, five hundred, six hundred people who are potential donors. People we know have a history of activism, people we know are highly engaged, and people we know are most likely to go on and do something with their lives. And we’re distancing ourselves from them.”

 

S: Gee, I can’t wait for the next three years. Could you see yourself speaking out on such a public scale when you were a first-year?

E: Wow, flashback to first-year Eva … It’s blocked from my memory. No, actually my first year was really good. I don’t think I thought it would get to this point, but I will say this is not the first time I’ve done this, so maybe we should’ve seen what was coming. I went through—not similar battles at my high school, but I did go through conversations with my high school about how students were being unfairly treated. I also took a gap year and went and was a real adult for a while, and that lowered my tolerance for BS significantly because I spent a year, not within the bubble of higher education. I’m probably a little more vocal now than I used to be, but my parents will tell you that I’ve been a strong cup of tea since day one, so this definitely doesn’t come as a surprise to them. The other piece is that my grandparents were activists, my parents take stands for what they believe in, and I grew up in an environment where you were expected to defend the things you believe in and defend them articulately and eloquently. There was never really a notion of, “Well, I’m just gonna sit this one out.”

S: You mentioned you work with a crisis hotline. Is that any crisis, or suicide specifically?

E: We talk to anyone that comes in. It’s an online, chatroom-based hotline. A lot of the people who come in are referred to us by Googling “suicide hotline,” but we don’t turn away people who are not immediately at-risk for suicide. Some people are in the midst of a panic attack and need someone to talk to, or are having trouble processing a major traumatic event. We work with people through all types of things.

 

S: How did you get involved in that?

E: So, I’m a fan of Supernatural. This is going somewhere, I promise. It’s a great television show—just got renewed for its fourteenth season—and one of the actors, Misha Collins, does a lot of philanthropy work. One of the other actors, Jared Padalecki, has publicly struggled with depression, and his co-stars Jensen [Ackles] and Misha have talked about supporting him through that. So this hotline exists, and Misha, Jared, and Jensen all significantly support the organization through fundraising using their platform.

 

This is all to say that Misha’s nonprofit, Random Acts, sponsors Supernatural fans to be trained for this program because the program costs about to $250 to train every volunteer. I applied through them, and I got sponsored, and then I did the training. I finished the training about a year ago, and I’ve been volunteering ever since. Then, in February, I got promoted to supervisor. I do about four hours a week—in fact, I have a shift today—and it’s been really really great. But yeah, I stumbled into it because of Supernatural.

 

The Supernatural actors have also put together the Supernatural Family Crisis Support Network, which is a repository of resources specifically for people in crisis. It’s a really great mission and a really great thing to be doing, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved. It took some time to get used to, but I really love it. It is incredibly rewarding. It’s also online, so I can be in my pajamas when I do it, which helps. You hear amazing, heartbreaking stories; you hear amazing, inspiring stories from other volunteers. A lot of the volunteers are people who themselves have struggled and are speaking from experience and have gone into this because someone reached out and helped them. Every so often, someone reaches out back to us and says, “You changed my life.” You don’t get to hear that every day.

 

S: And you also volunteer at the hospital?

E: I do. Last semester, I was at Knox County Hospital, and this summer I’ll be there as well. And I love it. I want to be an ER doctor, and I love the energy there, and the people are amazing. I actually have to tell them that I’m coming back—I go to visit the ER, not as a patient, but just to say hi to people. They always ask if I’m coming back this summer, and now I can tell them that I am.

 

S: I imagine it’s not all fun activities all the time, right? There’s hard stuff too?

E: Oh yeah, there’s hard stuff in any sphere. One of the things that I had to come to terms with is that to protect my own emotions, I have to dissociate a bit, so I have to compartmentalize and put the emotions of the fact that like, “This is someone I know,” or “This is a kid,” or “This is incredibly gory” … I have to separate that from the fact that I am here to help someone.

In the ER, I’m not actually working hands-on with patients. I’m helping clean up, clean rooms, grab people food, things like that. But I did get trained as an EMT in New York, and I had to learn to separate myself from what’s going on. Just like the crisis hotline: you have to separate yourself from what’s going on. I get people telling me stories that I really relate to, that I want to be like, “I understand exactly where you’re coming from.” But at the end of the day, I need to put that aside and give them the best help that I am capable of giving.

 

S: Do those skills transfer to your job as a CA?

E: I would actually say it went in the reverse. It took me a year to get processed through the Random Acts application, so I didn’t actually start training for that until after I became a CA. I definitely feel like a lot of the skills they teach us in the CA role really empower us to go out and make the world a better place. And I don’t think we really talk about that a lot. It’s one of the reasons I love recommending people to be CAs. You have your fair amount of bureaucracy, but you learn incredible skills, and you are able to make a tangible difference. Those are skills that are gonna come in handy for the rest of your life.

S: Looking forward, what are you most excited about for your senior year?

E: Surviving. I’m going to have a jam-packed senior year. I have a jam-packed year every year, so that’s not really any different. I’m going to be starting the grad school application process, and that’s really scary.

 

S: Do you know where you want to go?

E: I want to do a Ph.D. in sociology before med school. I’m gonna be Doctor doctor. I’m interested in two specific fields of sociology that are not as common—medical sociology and demography—and so I’ve basically taken all the grad schools in the world that have sociology and eliminated them unless they have both programs, which is working surprisingly well. I have about fifteen to twenty schools now that I’m looking at, and I’m gonna go from there. I haven’t really tried to rank them or anything. I need to look more closely at the professors and the type of research they’re doing because at the end of the day, you choose a professor, you don’t choose a school. So we’ll see where it goes from there.

 

Image Credits: Eva Warren