Why Kenyon Needs to Change

When I was a first-year, my first priority, after making friends, was immersing myself in Kenyon’s culture. There’s a lot to learn—all the names and nicknames of the buildings (Ascension, Smather, the Squad); keeping track of which side of campus is North and which side is South (maybe that’s just me…); all the slang and acronyms (the KAC, AVI, the BFEC, the Krud, Philo, the Bullseye—the list goes on); and what have essentially become Kenyon holidays, special days or events that mark the time of year at Kenyon (First Year Sing, Peircegiving, Shock Your Mom, Poem in Your Pocket Day, just to name a few). These are all things that make Kenyon, well, Kenyon.

When something threatens to change what we as students have come to accept as an essential part of the Kenyon experience, we understandably get defensive. Within the last year there have been a number of proposed changes to Kenyon’s culture—the destruction of Sunset Cottage, modifications to K-Card access in living spaces, necessary revisions to the Title IX policy, and the construction of a new library. Changes to the campus landscape are perhaps the biggest concern for current students.

As a current senior, I have seen two major alterations to Kenyon’s campus that I think has changed the school for the better. The first change is the Health and Counseling Center. When I was a first-year, the Health Center was located behind Caples a place I felt I had no business being as a first-year. The old Health Center was a building I was happy enough and lucky enough to be able to avoid going into all year. The new Health Center is in a much more convenient space for most students, and the newness of the building make it more inviting and less intimidating to enter if you have only a minor health issue.

The second significant change to campus I’ve seen come to fruition is what Kenyon has called the “restoration” of Middle Path. As a first-year, I remember alumni getting testy about any changes made to Middle Path, with arguments ranging from “paving would ruin Kenyon’s character” to “we want the current students to suffer in the winter like we did!” As a student who had slipped more than once on the ice rink that became the Gates of Hell from January through March, I did not agree with these comments. Evidently, the people making the decisions didn’t think these arguments were up to snuff, either, because now we have a safer, more accessible, and beautiful new Middle Path. Granted, this was a project that spanned approximately two summers and caused some inconvenience to students, faculty, and community members alike. But the payoff is so much greater than a couple of month’s discomfort, especially when it makes the campus easier to navigate for a greater number of people.

I know that people are upset about changes that are looming in the near distant future, but it’s important that Kenyon grows and improves the already wonderful things it has to offer. Growing is a messy process—Kenyon will have to stumble a few times before it finds a strong, steady footing to take steps in the right direction. What’s important to remember as current students and future graduates of Kenyon is to be critical of changes, but also forgiving. Kenyon isn’t a static entity—it’s been changing since its foundation in 1824. The Kenyon you attend will not be the same Kenyon five years from now—it probably won’t even be the same Kenyon when you graduate.


Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2