Since its earliest days, Kenyon has been a residential college. When you enroll, it’s a true home for four years. That’s part of our tradition, and it is part of our challenge.
We are a community in part because we live, learn and work together on the Hill. That means our residence halls in their rich variety — traditional single and double rooms, program housing, division housing and apartments — are essential to the Kenyon experience. Regardless of the era in which they were built, our student homes must be well-maintained, conveniently located and appropriate for our campus, including the rooms in Farr Hall that look very much the way they did when the building opened 50 years ago.
After completion of the construction projects envisioned to begin this summer, residences in the village center, including three new townhouses on Brooklyn Street and second-story clusters above new retail spaces, will host up to 52 students. These new and additional rooms in the village will replace the rooms for 34 students currently in Farr Hall and are essential to the health of our residential campus. With extra capacity, we gradually will replace the New Apartments (long since a misnomer).
Campus topography also is an expression of institutional values. Program houses are student-generated communities that make a statement about who we are and serve our campus with programming. A central location for them is ideal.
I find it somewhat troubling that the last Kenyon sign seen by travelers heading north from the village on SR 308 marks the Snowden Multicultural Center. The programming there should not feel peripheral to the campus. In the new village plan, several program houses — Snowden, Hillel and Unity House among them — will move to more central locations. This will make the programming at Snowden and Unity more accessible to all members of the community and will place the houses closer to the Crozier Center for Women, opening the way for close collaboration. Hillel students will be near the Rothenberg Hillel House (and have access to a full kosher kitchen). Student volunteer firefighters will remain near the College Township Fire Department. Another new house will bring talks, readings and social events to the heart of the village. And the Prayer and Meditation Center can move from the basement of the Village Inn to a more appropriate, welcoming and accessible space.
I am especially excited that these new buildings will feature a green design and contribute to our recent commitment to achieving carbon neutrality. The three new townhouse residences planned for Brooklyn Street will be built to the U.S. Green Building Council LEED gold standard, with a courtyard that includes a welcome expanse of green space.
These student housing projects do more than improve choices and quality of rooms available. A major priority of the Kenyon 2020 Strategic Plan focuses on building and sustaining community, and the proposed projects in the village will help create a connected, lively village square where living and learning are intertwined as the Kenyon and village communities come together. That’s a welcome future to imagine.