Dear members of the Kenyon College community,
Last fall, the Campus Senate undertook a comprehensive review of student work to identify ways in which Kenyon’s work-study and campus work programs could be strengthened. In December the Senate submitted to me its findings and recommendations (PDF), which were informed by extensive research, a review of Kenyon and peer data, and the input of a broad range of students, faculty and staff. While the Campus Senate conducted its review, staff in various departments, including the Offices of Admissions and Financial Aid and the Career Development Office, examined how Kenyon financially supports students’ education, including through work-study and other work opportunities.
I am writing today to update you on some of the decisions the College has made to strengthen its programs.
One important finding of the Campus Senate was that some students have difficulty securing work opportunities, especially first-year students, and that this presents a unique challenge for students awarded work-study as part of their financial aid package. To make work-study expectations more achievable, Kenyon will reduce the work-study expectation in need-based financial aid packages beginning in the fall 2021, replacing it with additional grants. The Admissions and Financial Aid Offices will provide more details about this adjustment in the coming months, ahead of the 2021-2022 academic year.
In addition, students will receive an orientation to the many opportunities for work on and around the Kenyon campus to assist them in identifying options and accessing resources. This approach, in contrast to one that assigns work-study positions, affords students the opportunity to pursue experiences of greatest interest to them and relevance to their studies.
Relatedly, this spring, the College will develop a process and timeline to conduct periodic audits of the pay tier system for student work, especially as it relates to work-study expectations. Many four-year liberal arts colleges have tier systems similar to Kenyon’s; however, we recognize the value of periodic reviews to ensure that the College’s financial aid goals are being met and that positions and pay tiers are appropriately aligned.
Improving the Application Process. The Career Development Office is refining its administrative processes to clarify and bring consistency to position postings, application windows and the prioritization of work-study applicants. These new processes are intended to make the posting and application process more transparent and more consistent for all applicants, while preserving the flexibility for each department to decide the types of positions to make available based on their unique needs. These processes also are intended to increase student awareness of available positions and ensure that positions are spread more equitably among interested students. The CDO plans to have these processes in place by April 2021, when many offices and departments begin to post positions for the fall.
Guiding Students through the Application Process. The CDO also is creating a set of resources and video tutorials to help students identify opportunities, prepare application materials and apply to campus positions. The goal is to ensure that all students who are interested in work experiences understand the posting and application process — so that they have equal access to opportunities and have the support they need to pursue them. These resources, expected this summer, will include guidance on matching work opportunities to educational interests, preparing strong resumes, submitting effective applications and providing effective interviews.
Guidance to Supervisors. In addition to providing resources to help students navigate the application process, the CDO is designing guidelines for the committed staff and faculty who work with student workers. While the number and types of work opportunities will continue to vary greatly from department to department at Kenyon, depending on departmental needs, the CDO is preparing some general guidance to support staff and faculty in their roles as supervisors, mentors and administrators of the campus work program. To be issued ahead of the 2021-2022 academic year, guidance will include setting and communicating expectations in their departments; being accessible and instructive mentors; enhancing the learning experience for student workers; and understanding administrative resources available to assist student workers.
Flex Time and Excused Absences. The College also is clarifying the processes for student workers to secure time off from their work responsibilities when they need it. One of the strengths of Kenyon’s campus work program is the flexibility it affords students and supervisors to tailor responsibilities and schedules to the rhythms of the semester, the needs of a department or office, and the individual needs of a student. We believe that this flexibility is important to retain — to accommodate academic demands, athletics schedules, illness and other excused absences. We also believe that both students and supervisors will benefit from clarifying the process for requesting an excused absence, what constitutes a reasonable request, and the options for making up work. I will update the campus community on the progress of this effort later this semester.
Support Structures for Students. We hear regularly from parents and students that they value the opportunity that Kenyon provides for students to gain work experiences as part of their Kenyon education. For many students, it may be their first opportunity to work, and, for most, it is the first opportunity to work directly with a faculty or staff member as part of the undergraduate educational experience. Our faculty and staff are committed to working individually with student workers to address any concerns they have. By enhancing our guidance to faculty and staff as noted above, our goals are to ensure that students take advantage of this open and individualized access as part of their learning experience, and that supervisors are fully equipped to listen and respond to student concerns promptly and effectively.
In addition, the Ombuds Office, Office for Civil Rights, Cox Health & Counseling Center, and Chaplain’s Office continue to provide a range of services — both formal and informal, consultative and fully confidential — to assist students in navigating personal challenges, addressing concerns and resolving conflict.
The College will expand its efforts to build awareness about these programs and services, including producing an enhanced student resource guide ahead of the 2021-2022 academic year.
At Kenyon, campus work experiences provide students with needed financial support for their education and meaningful opportunities to develop skills that complement their studies and further their life goals. I would like to thank the Campus Senate for conducting such a thorough and thoughtful review and for providing its important findings to the College, as well as the many members of the Kenyon community who contributed to the process. I would also like to thank the staff in the Career Development Office and the Offices of Admission and Financial Aid for responding with urgency and imagination to the opportunity to improve the experience of Kenyon students.