Student Council leadership crafted these questions for College administrators after receiving a number of others regarding the role of students in College governance and Summer Sendoff. These responses were prepared by members of the Senior Staff:
Q: Why did you not collect student input during your decision-making process in the creation of the Sendoff and Cove policies? Additionally, why did you not reach out to groups who had previously scheduled events on May 6? What can you say to those students who cannot attend Sendoff due to this change, or whose events will be ignored by the student body as a result of this change?
A: The closing of the Gambier Grill was a business decision based on our understanding of how the Grill was being operated and the future use of that property as a location for much-needed student housing and as spelled out in the College Master Plan.
Although we did not consider the changes to Sendoff to be radical in nature, we have heard otherwise from students. Given those concerns, we wish to provide the background for the decision-making process (which Meredith Bonham ’92 also shared at Sunday’s Student Council meeting). The change of date was based purely on the lack of a rainout alternative, given numerous other events taking place on April 29. Once the new date (Saturday, May 6) was determined, members of the Student Affairs staff decided to implement a new system whereby students of legal drinking age could purchase wristbands allowing for a maximum of five drinks (a number set in consultation with Cox Health and Counseling Center staff) in an effort to minimize excessive and underage drinking — a goal we should all share — while still providing an ample number of drinks for adult consumption.
Groups who had otherwise scheduled events on May 6 should have been notified. This was an oversight that will be corrected. It is regrettable that some students may miss part of Sendoff activities because of other commitments, or that other events suffer because students choose to attend Sendoff. If the Sendoff date of May 6 is changed, as is being discussed, other events may be affected. We are balancing all of these considerations.
Q: What tangible efforts can you commit to in order to ensure that student’s voices will be heard in the Kenyon administration during — not after — the process? In other words, in what ways will the administration become more transparent in its decision-making process, and how will the administration show a sincere commitment to allow students to be a part of that process?
A: Administrators will make every effort to include student voices in advance of decisions that affect them, when appropriate. President Decatur and Meredith Bonham have met with the executive group of Student Council to discuss possible structural changes. A workshop for Sunday, Feb. 14, from 1-3 p.m., is being planned, and we encourage members of the community to attend and participate in a conversation on how to enhance communication between members of the administration and student leaders.
Q: Knowing that last year’s Sendoff resulted in zero hospitalizations, while the strictly non-alcoholic event, Philander’s Phling, resulted in 2 hospitalizations, how can the administration maintain its defense that this policy prioritizes student safety?
A: Prevention of hospitalizations for alcohol poisoning and other outcomes of alcohol abuse is always a priority. Hospitalization of students suffering the effects of alcohol abuse, however, is not the only criterion used to determine reckless and unhealthy behavior. Also, the changes to Summer Sendoff were not to make it a “dry” event but to encourage responsible drinking for students who are of legal drinking age.
Q: How do you plan to address the problem of dangerous binge drinking encouraged by this policy without pushing drinking further underground?
A: College policies and practices, including providing counseling for alcohol abuse, are designed to discourage the reckless and dangerous abuse of alcohol. We encourage students who choose to drink to make responsible choices. We are always open to suggestions for curbing abuse, but we also must be mindful of our legal obligations.
Q: Which does the administration value more: their own liability, or student safety?
A: At Kenyon, nothing is more valued than the health and well-being of our students. Adherence to local, state and federal laws and government regulations and guidance concerning student behavior also speak to our concerns about student safety.
Q: The Kenyon College Mission Statement states that “Kenyon's academic purpose will permeate all that the College does.” Do you think having Sendoff the weekend before finals is in line with this sentiment? Especially when so many students say that it will adversely affect their grades whether they choose to attend or not.
A: Further changes to this year’s Sendoff are being discussed. Regardless of the date of Sendoff in any given year, Kenyon students are expected to comport themselves as adults and, as such, are responsible for the behavior that affects their academic performance.
Q: How is it fair to expect students to pay for alcohol after having paid $1,000 in student activities fees? Additionally, how can you justify this extra cost when some students will not be able to afford the purchase of a wristband?
A: Food and entertainment at Sendoff is free of charge. Student activities fees are not intended to subsidize alcoholic drinks. Under previous Sendoff rules, students purchased and brought their own alcohol to the event.
Q: How will you involve students in the plans for replacing the Cove with an alternative late night bar and restaurant?
A: Meredith Bonham and Mark Kohlman met last week with a group of Student Council representatives to discuss the immediate need to operate the Peirce Pub as a late night bar and restaurant once construction in the Village commences. More long-term, students will be encouraged to submit ideas and suggestions for a new bar and restaurant as part of the College Master Plan. Details on how to best share these ideas and suggestions will be shared in the immediate future.