Memo to the Next President: On the Campus
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
Regardless of what you think of her tenure, one of President S. Georgia Nugent’s greatest accomplishments has been her custodianship and expansion of Kenyon’s physical assets. She has overseen a dozen major construction or renovation projects, along with countless smaller projects that help keep Kenyon’s nearly two-centuries-old campus up to date — the addition of an elevator to the previously inaccessible Ransom Hall, for example.
Kenyon’s next president will have big shoes to fill when it comes to living up to Nugent’s dedication to the campus. But the first order of business will be for the new president to prove him or herself by successfully handling several outstanding issues that are set to roll over from Nugent’s presidency.
Last year, the landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. completed an extensive master plan for the future management and development of Kenyon’s campus. The plan covered many issues, large and small, including tree health, the flow of traffic around the Village and even recommendations for a new type of trashcan. So that Kenyon’s campus can continue to be improved and developed smartly. It will be important for the next president to see that these recommendations are followed.
Most crucially, the plan outlined a procedure for the resurfacing of Middle Path, which is currently being tested in several locations. Kenyon’s next president will be in charge of making sure the resurfacing project goes smoothly, succeeds in making Middle Path more accessible and does not harm either the character of Middle Path or the delicate tree roots that grow underneath it. For this reason, Kenyon’s next president needs to quickly learn why this seemingly ordinary stretch of gravel is so important to the community he or she will come to preside over.
The community, of course, is inseparable from the campus, and it is in this area that Nugent has been less successful. Although managing Kenyon’s campus intelligently and cost-effectively is vital, it is also important not to damage another one of this College’s greatest assets — the sense of community found among faculty, staff, students and other Gambier residents. The decision of whether or not to partner with an outside company such as Sodexo has been deferred for the moment, but this issue will arise early during the next president’s tenure, and the community will be watching to see how he or she handles this delicate situation.
The next president should pay close attention to the recommendations of the Maintenance Management Advisory Panel and use its analysis as a guide. Even if the best course of action turns out to be one that is unpopular with the community — which is very possible — it will be up to the next president to convey this decision with compassion, honesty and transparency.
Finally, Kenyon’s next president should be interested in improving the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of the campus. The current large-scale sustainability initiative is a good start, but it is not enough. Specifically, Kenyon needs to explore ways to obtain more of its energy from clean, renewable sources — our electricity provider, AEP Ohio, currently generates 74 percent of its power capacity from coal, with only three percent coming from renewable sources such as wind and hydroelectricity. Nugent and AVI Foodsystems have done an admirable job of promoting and expanding local food options, which provides benefits to both the environment and the strength of the Knox County community. This initiative should also be protected and expanded by the next person to inhabit Cromwell Cottage.
While prospective students may initially be attracted by Kenyon’s academics — our student-to-faculty ratio, our prestigious English department, our increasingly competitive acceptance rate — many of them end up coming here only after visiting and falling in love with the campus. For Kenyon to remain prosperous for another two centuries, our next president will have to keep the stewardship of the campus foremost in his or her mind.
David Hoyt ’14 is a political science major from Atlanta, Ga. He serves on the Student Council Buildings & Grounds Committee and was its chair last year, and is the chief copy editor of the Collegian. His email is email@example.com.