Last year, students came to me with concerns about Kenyon’s athletics monikers, the Lords and Ladies. We had recently updated Kenyon’s mission statement, which had not yet evolved to capture the values that have united generations of Kenyon students, faculty, staff and alumni. These students asked us to consider whether the Lords and Ladies might be outdated as well.
I charged Campus Senate with further examining the issue. In addition to conducting a student survey, they spoke with alumni leaders and volunteers, as well as staff representatives from athletics, advancement and communications, and the Board of Trustees. After reviewing all of this feedback, I agree that the time has come to consider a moniker that is more reflective of Kenyon today.
Our new mission and values place strong emphasis on ideas that have been central to Kenyon for as long as many of you remember, including “embracing differences,” with “kindness, respect and integrity.” Some students have expressed concerns that the Lords and Ladies perpetuate gender binaries and are therefore contrary to our commitment to “fostering a community in which every person has a sense of full belonging and the tools to reach their full potential.”
The student co-chair of Campus Senate, Delaney Gallagher ’23, a lacrosse player, is leading the push for change, along with her fellow co-chairs Thomas S. Turgeon Professor of Drama and Film Jon Tazewell ’84 and staff member Alyssa Gómez Lawrence ’10. “Anyone who passes through the Lowry Center doors, let alone the College gates, should feel confident and comfortable with the monikers we use to represent ourselves,” Delaney said. “It is our job as community members to help give the best Kenyon experience to every student we can. Anything less would be antithetical to our values.”
In its work on this issue, Campus Senate also researched the origins of the Lords and Ladies monikers, which can be best described as accidental. Kenyon athletics teams were known as the “Mauve” until the early 20th century, as reflected in our fight song. There were uses of the “Purple” or the “Purple and White” a century ago. The first use of Lords can be found in a 1936 Collegian article covering a football game. Given its student origins, perhaps it is keeping with a certain kind of tradition that the request for change is coming from students today.
In 1973, students again tried their hand at naming, employing “Lordettes” in a Collegian article about the women’s lacrosse team. “Ladies” was adopted almost by default, but some would say it has never adequately reflected those tenacious competitors.
Today we have the opportunity to be more intentional in what we call ourselves, and to better reflect the diversity of our students. Lords Kenyon and Gambier will always be part of our origin story, and recognized across the village and campus. Indeed, Kenyon has always been the most important part of our name.
We look forward to sharing the results at the end of the semester. Thank you for being a part of this Kenyon community.