Memo to the Next President: On Diversity
A weekly series featuring campus experts and the issues that matter to them.
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
This year, our student body has the highest number of students from underrepresented backgrounds, the largest income disparity between students and the highest number of international students enrolled in the College’s history.
Our campus is changing: we are becoming increasingly diverse. Kenyon’s next president will be arriving in the midst of this period of transition, and it is vital that she or he is aware of the new needs that will result from our changing demographic. Addressing these needs will come only through collaboration and communication between the president and the rest of the community.
With the introduction of a more socioeconomically diverse student body, for example, comes the need to review certain policies concerning housing. As of now, the housing process that staggers the cost of living in doubles, singles and apartments has become an obstacle for students who receive financial aid. The recent construction of the new North Campus Apartments has further emphasized this isolation, as many students cannot afford to live in these luxurious apartments, despite meeting the academic requirements. This is an opportunity for cultural change at Kenyon through administrative policy that standardizes housing costs and opens apartment housing to everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic background.
The Project for Open Voices — a student-led coalition that seeks to open a dialogue concerning diversity at Kenyon — had the privilege of sitting down with the Board of Trustees’ diversity committee in April. Among the topics brought to their attention was the exclusionary housing policy. The discussion was a hopeful moment of collaboration between student groups, administrators and trustees. In the same way, the new president can and should play an important role in this dialogue — not only by setting a precedent, but also by acknowledging both the shortcomings and strengths of the current Kenyon community. By incorporating such a collaborative model, Kenyon can lead other progressive institutions in doing the same. It is the responsibility of the president to exemplify such behavior.
As we look forward to a more equitable future, we must acknowledge the needs of every student on this campus — with regard to religion, class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability and citizenship. We need a president who is prepared to bridge inequalities within our community, respond to the needs of students and offer support to those who may feel marginalized.
Karina Cruz ’15 is an American studies major from the Bronx, N.Y. She is an organizer for the Project for Open Voices and a member of the Diversity Advisory Council. Her email is email@example.com.
Brett Miller ’15 is an American studies major from New York, N.Y. She is an organizer for the Project for Open Voices and a co-coordinator of Environmental Campus Organization (ECO). Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.