On a campus known for its beauty and immersive residential learning experience, it is no secret that some Kenyon student housing doesn’t live up to those ideals.
Strategic improvements to campus are addressed in the ongoing master planning process. The most recent version from 2014 included the addition of the West Quad — now under construction — as well as the addition and renovation of student residences.
Kenyon hired the consulting firm Brailsford & Dunlavey early this year to create a housing plan, which included focus groups with students in February, and a survey of all students in May. The Brailsford & Dunlavey consultants noted that the nearly 50% response rate was the highest from among the more than 300 colleges and universities for whom they’ve performed similar work.
Paul Goldberger P’04, chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee and a well-known architecture critic, led a discussion of the report and recommendations at the November meeting of the Board of Trustees. “We have long known that turning our attention to updating our housing options would be our next priority for the campus; we’re pleased but not surprised that so many Kenyon students have lent their time and input to this important work,” Goldberger said.
Among the key findings of the study were student preferences for:
South Campus residences;
new construction that offers better access to laundry facilities;
environmentally responsible design.
Ever Croffoot-Suede ’23, chair of the Housing and Dining Committee on Student Council, said she was impressed with the detail included in the study as well as the attention paid to students’ opinions. “I believe that the findings are an accurate portrait of student belief and thus show a positive way forward for the future of Kenyon housing,” she said.
Additionally, the study concluded that any new housing must be financially self-sustaining, with renovations coming from the College’s operating budget and any new construction being primarily donor-funded.
“The pandemic has reminded us all of the central role our residences play in learning at Kenyon,” said President Sean Decatur. “As we look to the future to preserve and enhance that defining feature, and remain competitive as higher education continues to evolve, improving our housing options will be a key focus.”
Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, noted that the study reflected students’ desire for progressively independent living options. “We know today’s juniors and seniors want that apartment-style living that helps prepare them for life after Kenyon,” Bonham said.
Despite areas identified for improvement, the survey did find that 84% of students are generally satisfied with their residential experience. The College’s newest residential builds received the highest ratings from students, with the North Campus Apartments (completed in 2011) and Farr Apartments (completed in 2019) leading the way.
Mather, Caples and McBride Residence Halls and the New Apartments received the lowest marks. The report presented by Brailsford & Dunlavey recommended the eventual demolition of the New Apartments, with a first round of renovations on other residences beginning this summer or next if funding is available in the operating budget. Any possible new construction, as recommended by the plan, will rely on securing donor funding; that work is ongoing in Kenyon’s Advancement division.