Dear Kenyon community:
During the summer of 2020 President Decatur announced that Kenyon would augment our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion with an express emphasis on anti-racism. To engage in this work as an institution, it is important that we also engage in it as individuals, so that we all are empowered to enact institutional change. Consequently, Kenyon’s program provides multiple opportunities for education that serve as the prerequisite for institutional change. What follows are some of the opportunities for self-examination, discourse and development that members of the Kenyon community have engaged in so far this academic year.
Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, and it does not include all of the important work that members of our community, student groups in particular, have undertaken to make Kenyon a more anti-racist institution.
Education and Training
Kenyon’s efforts to provide meaningful education and professional development for all members of the community builds on similar work begun in 2019-2020. In that academic year Kenyon engaged in intensive diversity, equity, and inclusion training for faculty, staff, and students. These sessions were conducted by an experienced and nationally recognized expert in the field, Dr. Tanya Williams of Authentic Coaching & Consulting. We are working again with Dr. Williams in 2020-2021. This year’s training will build on last year’s and focus more specifically on anti-racism. Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions Diane Anci, and myself formed a working group to organize an extensive schedule of workshops for students, faculty, and staff. Beginning last November and continuing through March, Dr. Williams will conduct 25 three-hour virtual sessions, aimed at building the knowledge and the capacities of the Kenyon community. Faculty from across the College, members of the administrative divisions, and student groups will be invited to participate in this critical initiative.
As part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence Program, 24 faculty and staff participated in the first Kenyon Equity Institute in August 2020. This week-long institute was repeated in January 2021 with a second, similarly sized cohort. Another institute is scheduled for August 2021. Facilitated by the IDEAL Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Kenyon Equity Institutes focus on inclusion, diversity, equity, and anti-racism education.
Throughout the fall semester the Center for Innovative Pedagogy offered professional development opportunities focusing on making in-person and virtual classrooms more inclusive, including:
Three lunchtime discussions on trauma-aware pedagogy, each focused on one particular article relevant to teaching practices that can help students do their best learning while also coping with systemic and specific sources of trauma. 16 faculty and staff members attended at least one discussion.
An online conference held January 21-22 titled "Teaching and Learning Beyond 2020." Many of the 12 sessions described the ways faculty worked to create more inclusive environments during the shift to online teaching. More than 90 people registered for the conference, and sessions were attended live by between 20 and 40 people from across the GLCA and GLAA institutions. Presentations were recorded and are available at https://youtube.com/KenyonCIP.
In September, faculty advisers participated in sessions on effective anti-racist practice during Advising Day.
Finally, staff members from the Advancement and Communications Divisions participated in anti-racism professional development workshops with similarly positioned staff at four other small liberal arts colleges. In addition, Kenyon’s Advancement Division inaugurated a fellowship program for members of underrepresented populations wishing to explore careers in the field of institutional advancement.
Board of Trustees Activities
Last summer, the Board of Trustees committed to making anti-racism a central piece of their work this year, and to support and engage in the broader self-examination that the College is undertaking. To support this effort, each standing committee of the Board has incorporated anti-racism as part of their annual goals to guide their priorities, discussions and actions. One such goal for the Inclusion and Equity Committee is to meet each semester with a different group of faculty, staff, and students on the subject of anti-racism; the committee met with members of Student Council’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in November.
In September, the full board participated in an anti-racism workshop led by the Perception Institute. Drawing on the latest research, the Perception Institute helps organizations develop strategies to reduce discrimination and disrupt the cycle of bias at the institutional and individual levels. The board built upon this foundation and devoted a portion of the winter meeting to reflecting on a shared set of readings, recordings, and videos to gain greater awareness of specific ways in which systemic racism functions in our society — from disparities in health care to gaps in generational wealth, and beyond. They considered what this means for their work as trustees, including acting with both urgency and persistence.
The Board will continue its work in full support of the work being led on campus by President Decatur.
Advisory Committee, Proposals and Funding
In the fall the Anti-Racism Resource Advisory Committee was constituted. Its members include
Chaplain Marc Bragin (Kenyon Interfaith Partnership), Isabelle Chritton ’24, Dana Diallo ’23, Associate Director Rebecca Eckart ’07 (Center for Global Engagement), Professor Abbie Erler (Political Science), Professor Yutan Getzler (Chemistry), JJ Hunter (Athletics), Professor Ben Locke (Music), Mireille Manzella ’22, Professor Ira Sukrungruang (English), and Somphors Tann ’23. Four proposals from faculty, staff, and students were submitted to the committee during the first semester. All four were funded. The committee looks forward to receiving more proposals this semester; to submit a proposal, please complete this form.
Programming and Resources
In October, as part of its yearlong virtual residency, Theater of War Productions performed “Antigone in Ferguson.” This performance catalyzed discussions about race and racism at Kenyon and at the other members of the Five Colleges of Ohio, who were invited to participate. Over 600 people registered for this event.
Over the course of the fall semester, members of the Cox Health and Counseling Center met regularly with other staff and faculty to consider ways of augmenting resources for BIPOC students. In addition to taking advantage of professional development opportunities for the health and counseling staff, the Center also developed a set of resources specifically designed for BIPOC students and increased the diversity of its staff.
During the fall semester the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion organized several events focusing on anti-racism. These included the Kenyon Monologues program during Orientation, a panel discussion on anti-Asian bias incidents (“I Am Not a Virus”), and the screening of a documentary on the American Indian Movement.
The ODEI is also working in conjunction with the library staff to establish an Anti-racist Resources Hub, whose purpose is to readily provide anti-racism materials for Kenyon students, staff, and faculty.
Also in the fall, Student Council embarked on a review of its policies and procedures “to identify areas for clarity and improvement to support College anti-racism work.” Likely areas for enhancement include standardizing the committee selection process and creating more accessible information for student organizations and their advisors. An additional area of focus is the Business and Finance Committee Bylaws and the process by which student organizations receive funding. The students and their advisor, Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane, are gathering and analyzing data to ensure that student activity fee money is allocated equitably.
The Department of Dance, Drama, and Film organized the “Race in Motion” Performance Studies Virtual Speaker Series, in order to expand anti-racism programming, enrich the College’s curricular offerings in the performing arts, and engage students in active conversations on the intersections of race and dance.
During the fall semester, chief diversity officers from each of the Five Colleges of Ohio (Denison, Kenyon, Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan, and the College of Wooster) met weekly to develop diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism support opportunities for faculty, staff, and students in the consortium. Similar programs occurred later in the term.
The Department of Athletics, Fitness and Recreation established an Anti-Racism Group, which meets monthly to discuss anti-racism education and action. The department also collaborated with ODEI and the Advancement Division last fall on a series of panels, titled “Walking in Our Shoes,” to learn about the experiences of current and former student-athletes of color. Members of the department are using feedback from the panels to inform action steps for this spring.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone in the Kenyon community for their efforts supporting Kenyon’s commitment to becoming a more anti-racist institution. We have demonstrated our commitment to furthering this work that we have begun. I look forward to reporting on our progress again at the end of the academic year.
Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Senior Advisor to the President
Professor of English