Kenyon: Do You Even Bench?

For those of you who haven’t noticed, the red-paint-peeling, ladybug-infested Middle Path benches have been replaced with very clean, very sterile benches that I have heard many people referring to as “the IKEA benches.” If you’re like me, however, you are in denial that these benches are anything other than incomplete versions of much prettier, much more finished benches.

Don’t get me wrong––this campus is filled with old, decaying, and dilapidated furniture and buildings that need to be renovated. In your dorm alone I can guarantee there are defunct phone booths, broken water taps, and malfunctioning or nonexistent heating systems. Needless to say, I’m thrilled that the College is putting money into renovating some aspects of campus, even though replacing the benches is not nearly as useful to the student body as, say, installing an elevator in Ascension.

If the administration were to divulge a small amount of money to replace the benches, however, I can’t imagine a worse choice. Before I begin my roast, I would like to say that I am sure Kenyon has a number of agreements and budget issues to which I am not privy––but that’s not going to stop me from ranting.

 

They look unfinished, primarily. The first time I saw the new benches, I thought to myself, “Hey, look! They’re building new benches!” and not, “Hey, look! New benches!” They look like furniture that woodshop or installation art students might be slowly constructing along Middle Path, as if they’ve already laid down the foundational pieces and now they are going to add embellishments, like armrests or paint.

They don’t fit the aesthetic. Really, viewed alone these benches aren’t that bad. Because of their modern, minimalist feel they might suit a building like Horvitz pretty well, but outside, especially amidst all this fall foliage, they contrast sharply with the much softer, more pastoral look of Kenyon. I’m not sure they are really meant to last outside, either: already, they’re stained with the berries and sap that fall from the trees above them, as well as whatever is spilled on them accidentally. They also become pretty soggy every time it rains, which is a form of wear-and-tear that a layer of paint, or anything else on top of that exposed wood, could prevent.

Perhaps least important (but still significant) is that the benches aren’t that comfortable. When I sit on one, I feel less as though I’m settling into a comfortable chair (re: butt cushioning) and more like I’ve been asked to sit on a medical examination table. If these were installed with ideas of encouraging the communal aspect of Middle Path, I’m not totally sure that’s working out. I haven’t seen nearly as many students gathered on the benches talking to each other, or even reading alone, as I did with the old benches. When I do sit on them I feel odd, like I’m the first-year who’s been taking the display plate in the fusion line because I don’t really know how things work yet.

 

In reality, the new benches aren’t a huge deal. They are something new and different. If anything, they stand as testament to some of the other, much more beneficial renovations that have recently been made to Middle Path. Their appearance was jarring at first, and they continue to be a strange presence on Middle Path, compared to the much homier, familiar, and butt-suited benches of old.

 

Image Credit: Amy Schatz