Any Kenyon staff member can submit a question to Staff Council and Staff Council will make a reasonable effort to post answers to submitted questions. Questions received during the current academic year will be posted in chronological order. Questions from the last five years are posted by topic. Questions and answers from previous years are available upon request.
If you would like an update on the status of a previously asked question, please get in touch and include your name to receive a response.
Q: The high tuition increase for 2018-2019 raises questions about the College's expenses. Starting with the beautification of Middle Path in the Village, the renovation and reconstruction of downtown Gambier, the new English buildings, and ending with the West Quad area (including demolition and "temporary" buildings) what is the total, all-in cost of all of the construction? And what is the annual debt service payment on what the College will finance to pay for the construction?
Vice President for Finance Todd Burson responded: "Tuition increases are based on the needs of the operating budget and the growth in operating expenses are what drive the vast majority of tuition increases each year. The expense items that have been growing at the fastest pace over the last few years are: financial aid, building and equipment repair, salary increases for staff and faculty, benefits such as health care costs, new programs such as summer internship programs, utilities such as water and sewer, resources for the Title IX office, and campaign expenses. Two-thirds of the operating budget is either spent on financial aid or payroll related items. I will note, after taking into account all of the new buildings and the elimination of the Olin and Chalmers library, we are expecting a net addition of $294,000 in annual operating costs, which is about .2 percent of the current operating budget. Running a small liberal arts school that provides a strong academic program is not an inexpensive endeavor.
"For the College to remain competitive and continue to attract a strong, talented, diverse student body, it must continually invest in its campus facilities too. Over the last 20 years, the College has invested nearly $180M in various projects such as the Science Quad, Storer Hall, Eaton Center, Brown Family Environmental Center, Kenyon Athletic Center, Child care facility, renovation of Peirce Hall, Wright Center, Hillel House, North Campus Apartments, Horvtiz Hall, and many other smaller building projects.
"When the College updated the Campus Master Plan in 2014, a number of potential capital projects were identified. Since 2014, the College's senior administration and the Board of Trustees have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing and prioritizing the identified capital projects in the master plan. As one can imagine, figuring out how to pay for the projects was and continues to be the the biggest challenge. After various discussions with members of the Kenyon community over the last several years, an anonymous donor stepped forward and offered a $75 million gift, the largest gift in the history of Kenyon College, to help pay for the West Quad and Village projects. The West Quad project consists of a new state-of-the-art library, a new academic building for the social sciences, a new admissions building, and a new underground parking garage (adding a considerable amount of new green space). Because this project was a high priority in the master plan, the College felt that the timing was right to move forward on the project.
"As generous as the gift was, it was not enough to fund the entire project. The Board of Trustees and College's senior administration spent a considerable amount of time reviewing various funding models for the West Quad project. After reviewing all options, the Board decided to issue additional debt. A number of factors went into the decision but one of the main reasons was to take advantage of the historically low interest rates. The College was able to issue $68.7M par bonds resulting in total bond proceeds of $75M to achieve a fixed, all-in true interest cost of 3.8 percent. Since the Board of Trustees, Senior Staff, and the College's investments advisors believe that the College can earn more than 3.8 percent annually on its investment portfolio, the decision was made not to finance the project with internal funds. A side note, as the College worked through the debt issuing process last fall, a federal tax cut bill was introduced to the House of Representatives and to the Senate. One component of that proposed bill was to eliminate the option for not-for-profit organizations such as Kenyon to issue tax-exempt debt after December 31, 2017. With that possibility, it was even more important for the College to move forward and issue debt before the end of calendar year 2017.
"Tax bill update: the tax-exempt debt financing option was not eliminated in the final bill that was signed by President Trump.
"93 percent of the annual debt service is paid for by an unrestricted capital reserve fund that is not part of the operating budget. The other 7 percent of the annual debt service is paid by the operating budget, but that is purposefully done to help protect the value of the capital reserve fund for future needs. Debt service on the new bonds will total approximately $4.2M annually for the next 30 years, and again, with 93 percent of the funding coming from outside of the operating budget.
"The total cost of the middle path restoration, various student housing all around the Village, new marketplace, new bookstore and offices above, three new commercial buildings, two new English buildings, new library, new admissions building, new academic building, new parking garage, will be approximately $165M. The total cost will be financed with gifts and debt. A side note, the Middle Path Restoration project addressed problems with universal accessibility and maintenance related issues. And after the completion of the West Quad project and Ascension Hall renovation, 90 percent of the classrooms will be accessible, up from 71 percent currently.
"One final note, with the building of a new library, we are avoiding approximately $18M of maintenance costs badly needed in the Olin and Chalmers libraries. And just last month, Ron Griggs took me for a tour around the top floor of the Chalmers library so that I could see the rows of bookshelves that were under plastic tarps due to a water leak in the ceiling."
Q: What does the policy about employees taking classes have to say about how the class interferes with your work?
Staff Handbook says under Tuition Benefits: "Eligible employees may enroll in courses at Kenyon College, with the instructor's permission and on a space available basis, for credit or for audit, without charge for tuition. No more than one course may be taken during working hours. Written prior approval by the supervisor and the responsible Senior Staff member is required. In such cases the supervisor must certify to the Senior Staff member that the employee may be spared during the working day and must specify the hours when the employee will make up the time lost while attending class and traveling to and from class. Neither class hours nor make-up hours should result in the elimination of a lunch break; at least one-half hour must be available each day for lunch.
Employees may enroll in a second class only if the class meeting time is outside of normal working hours for that employee. Again, approval of the instructor is required."
Q: I am wondering why we are not having our usual employee luncheon at Christmas?
I am very disappointed, my family and many professors who normally don't take time to attend the luncheons celebrate with us for the Thanksgiving and Christmas luncheons. Very sad when we start doing away with traditions that have been taking place for years!
Staff Council responded: In an effort to enable more events throughout the year within a limited budget, but with increasing employee numbers, we instituted a new tradition by merging the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals into a larger Holiday Celebration luncheon. We expanded the menu for a sweeping holiday feast, and also brought in the Kenyon College Chasers for some festive entertainment. December is filled with department and division gatherings, as well as the Holiday Reception hosted by the President's Office. Our intent is to extend Staff Council's resources throughout the year, bringing events into the Spring or early Summer months.
We appreciate your feedback. Your questions and commentary will help our event planning for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Q: There was an email recently sent by Steve Arnett that stated the new cleaning schedule for offices. Now that there are confirmed cases of influenza and mono on campus, wouldn't it make more sense to clean the offices more often and not less? Students and faculty are frequently in and out of these offices. It would seem like a good idea to do what the College can to help prevent the spread of sickness and germs.
Steve Arnett responded: Our revised custodial services approach allows us to put more emphasis on the heavily traveled public use spaces on campus. We now have additional time to address the areas on campus that have the most contact with the largest number of students, faculty, staff, and visitors on a daily basis.
By cleaning single occupant offices on a weekly basis, we feel that we are better able to serve a greater portion of the campus community in helping to minimize the spread of sickness and germs.
Q: An email was sent out regarding closure of road behind library and that "traffic to the library parking lot will be rerouted." Please enlighten the campus of the flow of the reroute? Besides staff parking, how do we address visitor parking? [9/27/2017]
Staff Council responded: This map (PDF) shows how a new temporary access road will enable traffic to flow from New College Road into the library parking lot.
Q: Is there any reason the beginning date of a staff council member's term isn't listed under their picture? [8/30/2017]
Staff Council responded: Previous lists of Staff Council members included term expiration dates for the benefit of employees interested in standing for a position within their division. In the interests of transparency, term beginning dates for current members are now listed alongside expiration dates at kenyon.edu/staff-council-members.
Q: My sons like to work out together and have used the KAC over the years. They are part of my immediate family and regardless of their age, I believe they should still be able to use the facilities. Now that my son is over 24 and moved out of my home, he is no longer able to use the KAC. He is still my son, regardless of where he lives or his age. I want to know why immediate family members are not being allowed to use the facilities once they have reached a certain age? [1/28/16]
Answered by Justin Newell: An individual who has moved out of their parents’ home (unless in college) can no longer be listed as a dependent. For those individuals with disabilities that are still listed as a dependent and over the age of 24, we still allow membership. Therefore, our membership guidelines for faculty and staff members are that an individual, their spouse or partner, and their dependents are eligible for use of the KAC.
In the interest of protecting those individuals making use of the Kenyon Athletic Center, the College’s property and casualty insurance policy requires that the College have a set of guidelines to determine membership for the athletic center. Insurance policies do not determine what those guidelines, however policies must be in place and be enforced. Our guidelines for faculty and staff family were based on the taxable age of dependency. According to the U.S. government, an individual is no longer considered a dependent at the age of 24. The policy is available on the Kenyon athletics website. [2/15/16]
Q: Do employees have to make up hours missed for attending classes taken at Kenyon? [4/20/15]
The answer can be found in the Staff Handbook. In short, yes. Supervisors must specify to the responsible senior staff member when the employee will make up the time lost attending class.
Q: I am interested in attending the Comprehensive Retirement Workshop. I am wondering, since this is a college sponsored workshop, if we attend will we be excused from working in our offices for the afternoon, or are we expected to take vacation during the time we are out of the office? [4/19/15]
Answered by Michelle Foster, Human Resources: The hours are not expected to be made up, everyone is invited and excused from work, and no one needs to take vacation time. [4/21/15]
Q: Are there any plans to try to increase bereavement time for employees? Somehow, after knowing my sister-in-law (who has been a sister, rather) for 30 years, a day to mourn with the family her passing ... seems well, VERY inconsiderate… [9/9/13]
Staff Council responded: Thank you for your question. We are sorry for your loss. You are correct. According to the employee handbook: If an employee's child, spouse, parents, stepparents, sibling, mother or father-in-law should die, the employee can take up to five (5) working days off without loss of pay. An employee may be absent one day without loss of pay when her or his grandparent or brother or sister-in-law dies. In response to your question, we have requested that Human Resources revisit the policy and compare it to similar institutions to see if other options are available. [9/25/13]
Q: Why wasn't the house at 406 E. Wiggin St (formerly the Strome House) put up for sale to the College community? [6/20/14]
Answered by Mark Kohlman, chief business officer: The last time the college offered a property for sale there was no interest from the Kenyon community. When all of the details were worked out for the sale of 406 E. Wiggin, there was a credible buyer who had approached the College. This buyer was willing to pay the asking price so the deal was completed. [7/27/14]
Q. Is there a way to get groups and departments to put events on the Kenyon calendar so we get the event in the employee-info digest? [3/2/16]
Answered by Ron Griggs, LBIS: This question points directly at a long standing issue for Kenyon: how do we share information with each other without imposing strict controls to limit the flow on the one hand, or without overwhelming the community with a flood of uncoordinated notifications on the other? As we all know, Kenyon is much closer to the "overwhelming the community with a flood" end of the spectrum.
Perhaps the best way to unpack this complicated issue is consider it from the point of view of community members in several roles. First, as a consumer of information, each one of us would like to spend less time reading email. We get overwhelmed by the many messages advertising this or that event, some of which we don't care about, and with what seems to be endless followups and reminders. How can I tell what's important in all those messages? What if I miss something important? Getting a weekly email with a list of events is more efficient--right?
And yes, everything just could be placed on the calendar and no emails need to be sent at all. But if we are honest with ourselves, we all know that busy people don't always get around to checking a website that frequently. An email advertisement might be the only way we find out about an event. Email (like texting) is called a "push technology" because it actively pushes information to people rather than depending upon them to pull information from a passive source, like a website.
In our roles as event planners and coordinators, we have different motives. I want people to come to my event--how do I get it noticed? For some, the way to do that is to "shout louder," i.e. to send more advertisements with bigger headlines and bigger pictures. Also, what if I didn't plan ahead as well as I should have, or there are last minute changes to the time or the location of my event? Of course I want the freedom to send out messages and have them delivered instantly, not waiting for next week's Highlights on the Hill list. I don't even like waiting a hour or two for "employee-info" messages to be vetted and released by the moderator, so I'll just send it out to "allemp" as well--instant gratification!
As a community, we must balance our needs as information consumers with our needs as event planners and advertisers.
One root cause of our communication problems may be that our overall event planning is uncoordinated. First, every department, club, and organization schedules events seemingly without considering other events, so we have events happening at the same time (which causes those event sponsors to "shout louder" in email to ensure they get a share of the crowd). Some weeks are chock full of events; others are relatively sparse. Second, maybe we just have too many events. Fewer, larger events would bring more of the community together more often. Third, we may not plan as far ahead as we should, so lots of events seem to require lots of last minute advertising. But it is challenging to give up the autonomy of being able to schedule with seeking external approval, or to be required to plan months ahead and to adjust based on other events already scheduled.
I know that my response doesn't really answer the question, but I hope that it helps to explain how we've gotten where we are. [3/3/16]
Q: How do I get more people to read the emails that I send out?
Answered by the Staff Council communications subcommittee:
• Make the subject line short — under 50 characters
• The first few words are the most important
• Take out any “spammy” words — announcement, free, urgent, reminder
• Ask a question
• Include a deadline
• Try a teaser
• Give a command
• Add a list
• Make an announcement
• Be unique — know your audience. Send it to the right list.
• Think about what action you would like to the reader to take. Make it clear.
• Value your readers’ time. Keep your email short.
• Write your message in short sentences clear sentences
• Think about who should send the email. Will recipients know you? [2/19/16]
Q: How has Kenyon responded to the federal court injunction on the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime salary increase?
Answered by Jennifer Cabral, Human Resources: Kenyon is moving forward as planned. I believe each division head gave this news to those in their respective areas who were affected by the FLSA. [12/8/16]
Q: Have you heard anything regarding salary increases or health insurance changes? In the past, the staff pay increase (normal 2 percent) has been discussed at the spring Board of Trustees meeting and announced shortly thereafter. Have you heard anything from the President's Office regarding salary increase and if the health insurance is going up?
Please refer to the following links in response to your questions:
Board of Trustees Report: February 10, 2016
Fringe Benefits Schedule: 2016/17
Q. What was the budgeted enrollment for 2016-17 that the Board of Trustees approved at its Feb. 2016 meeting?
Answered by Todd Burson, vice president for finance: The total opening budgeted enrollment for 2016-17 is 1,634. We will have more students than 1,634 as we always want to miss a little high rather than a little low. [3/7/16]
Q: Since the announcement about next year's tuition increase, due in part to the endowment's underperformance, there has been a lot of talk in the community, especially in light of the claims made in the last campaign. When that campaign was announced (2005-06), the College's endowment was $164.6 million. when that campaign ended (2010-11), the endowment was $179.9 million. That campaign was reported to have raised $240 million, a portion of which was endowment gifts "... increasing endowment holdings by 50 percent." June 30, 2015, the endowment was $218.6 million. How much cash did the last campaign really add to the endowment? And netting out those gifts, how much has the endowment grown from the $164.6 million?
Answered by Todd Burson, vice president for finance: As is the case with most financial related questions, there is not a simple way to answer this question. When Colleges report the fundraising result of a campaign, that total reflects all current gifts and gifts pledged into the future , including gifts that might come to the College through bequests or other planned gifts. For example, someone might actually give $1 million to the College's endowment, so this is reflected in the campaign total and in the College's endowment activity for the year. Another person might pledge $1 million for the endowment to be given over the period of 5 years in $200,000 installments. The campaign will include the $1 million in the total but the endowment will still show no activity until that first $200,000 pledge payment is received. A third gift of $1 million might be pledged to come to the College after the donor passes away which could be 10 or even 20 years in the future.
We know approximately $80 million was pledged to the endowment through the last campaign and we have received approx. $53 million of that, to date.
Starting with the 2008-09 audited financial statements, the College began to show all endowment activity in the footnotes. With this information, anyone can go and see what has contributed to the endowment growth over the last several years.
One can go to footnote #3, and see the following details of the endowment:
Realized and Unrealized Gains/Losses
Cash Contributions (Cash gifts to the endowment)
Appropriation of endowment assets for expenditure (endowment payout to the operating budget and other non-operating budget accounts)
Heidi McCrory, VP for College Relations, and some members of her staff, helped gather some of this information. Thank you for the question and please let the person that submitted the question know that he/she is welcome to contact me with any follow up questions. [1/9/17]
Q: Where have all the trash cans from Middle Path gone? Perhaps there would not be so much trash on our campus on weekend mornings if there were trash containers available. The mess on campus early Sat. and Sun. mornings is often appalling. In our push to work on the hill for the inauguration, perhaps we could start with replacing all the trash cans.[10/11/13]
Answered by Mark Kohlman, chief business officer: Maintenance has removed two trash cans that were in very bad condition along Middle Path. We are in the process of selecting a replacement can for all of the red wood trash cans that will be installed sometime this fall. The goal is to replace the existing cans with cans that can accommodate trash and recycling. [10/11/13]
Q: Why are food trucks being allowed on Middle Path? They're ugly, loud, and completely out of character for main campus. [10/15/14]
Answered by Mark Kohlman, chief business officer: The food trucks have been part of the art exhibit currently staged at the Gund Gallery, "Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art." [10/16/14]
Q: A coworker had an illness but they didn't receive anything from the Staff Council outreach subcommittee.
Answered by the outreach subcommittee: The subcommittee relies on other employees to let Staff Council members know when a colleague is having a hardship. Because the personal nature of many hardships, staff council members do not always know when someone would benefit from a care basket. Care baskets are also sent upon the employee's return to work. Members of the subcommittee include: Shanna Hart, Barbara Kakiris, and Jackie Teater. We will look into additional ways Staff Council could be informed by community members when a care basket might be appropriate.
Q: Does the college frown on using your cell phone in your office, or building, during the hours of 8:30-12 and 1-4:30? If a college policy doesn't already exist, I think that it should. I think that it looks bad on the college when you see someone on their cell phone while they are supposed to be working. It also looks bad if a student or faculty member walks in to talk to someone and they are on their cell phone.
Answered by Jennifer Cabral, Human Resources: Kenyon relies on its supervisors to determine the appropriate behavior in this regard for employees during working hours. Certain basic things described in the use of College phones policy listed in the Handbook (non-emergency personal calls should be made during lunch periods, etc.) could be considered when making this determination. [1/27/16]
Q: I've been thinking that it might be a good idea if there was a slight re-structuring of the way that meetings among Administrative Assistants (AAs) and the Administration are held. Right now the agenda for those gatherings seems to come from the Administration and there are relatively few meetings throughout the year. This arrangement dis-empowers AAs and may not allow enough time to ensure that all voices are heard on important issues. Perhaps a meeting could be held at the start of the school year to solicit agenda items from AAs to be discussed among administrators, chairs (as needed), and AAs throughout the year. Administrators could then add their own agenda items, providing clear reasons for why they think those issues are important. Subsequent meetings might then deal with no more than two items per session, encouraging all to speak their minds. The final meeting might be a summary of what has been accomplished in the course of these discussions followed by an outline of steps that need to be taken to improve working conditions for the AAs and a timeline for achieving those aims. It's my strong impression that AAs feel marginalized at Kenyon and this might be one way of addressing that situation.
Ivonne García, Darlene Tedrow and Brad Hartlaub responded:
We are writing to let everyone know that the agenda for the AA meetings is set collaboratively by the AAs, the liaison for the AAs, and the Administration. Last year the chairs (in a chairs workshop) and the AAs (in a regular meeting) completed a clicker activity about a variety of tasks and responsibilities. Some of the items on the agenda are a result of that activity. Last year Jennifer Cabral came to a meeting to discuss "comp time and hours." Later in the year, we heard from several AAs and chairs that there was still confusion about these topics, so we asked Mary and Cathy to attend a meeting so that the AAs could ask them questions directly.
The employee performance process is a bit more complicated. According to several sources, some of them identified in an email message to AAs, annual reviews and meetings are supposed to be taking place. Those meeting have not been held in recent years, so we would like to restart these individual discussions to discuss departmental needs, resources, and plans for moving forward. Our understanding from previous Associate Provosts is that the AAs did not want to have frequent meeting because of their daily workload. Thus we have worked with small groups of interested individuals to provide training sessions in Excel and InDesign.
Suggestions for agenda items and additional professional development opportunities are most welcome.