Nostalgia Haunts Recent Campus Changes
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
The other night I dreamt that someone had switched out all of the furniture on the third floor of Ascension Hall. Where the thrones once stood were three faux-leather armchairs. In place of the wooden tables were slabs of searing, synthetic plastics. Blinding white lampshades replaced the once soft yellow glow.
Distraught, I bounded down the stairs and out the door. Upon looking to my left, I found that the South Quad had been removed. In its place was the Kenyon Athletic Center.
I woke up in a cold sweat and decided I needed a latte. I headed north to MiddleGround, only to find that both the name and ownership had been changed. After nearly being blinded by the new aesthetic, I was doubly startled when the barista took my order on an iPad.
I am aghast at how quickly Kenyon has changed in my short time here. At the risk of saying nothing new, I’ll quell my own complaints with the fact that a yearning for a pastoral ideal conflicts with yet another solemn truth: the inevitability of change compels its acceptance.
While that fact is much harder for some to accept than for others, there is little reason why it should present any challenges to our community of forward-minded scholars. After all, I think that each of us can recognize the subtle irony in an Episcopal bishop’s utopian vision of monastic castles inhabited by Lords in the American heartland.
Philander Chase’s vision, though quixotic in its borderline grandeur, is a major source of this campus’ unusual capacity to instill nostalgia. Though the southern end of Middle Path harkens to a time that never materialized in any of the 50 states, the more modern aspects of this college town — the Market, the post office, the Bank, the Bookstore — revive a golden age for us to inhabit. Gambier, after all, has two Main Streets.
Still, much to my disappointment, I have yet to see an apple pie cooling on an NCA’s window sill, or to hear John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” rattling those white walls. But we’ll get there.
It is true that much has changed here since I first arrived as a Young Writer in the summer of 2008. Market Dogs were 50 cents, Bexley Hall was a hub of creative activity, the best place a student could live was a house called Woodside, Kenyon hadn’t built a gallery and the only coffee shop on Wiggin Street was called MiddleGround.
But does the departure of a dearly beloved café spell a Kenyon out of balance?
For a school so deeply enchanted with the past, Kenyon has definitely doubled down on “new” in recent years. It’s hard to believe that this is the same village of smart people as the one that has struggled for decades to find a name for the “New Apartments.”
Of course, it just might be that the only problem with all the new stuff around here is its blatant, unabashed newness. At least Mather and McBride were built with the common decency to sit nicely in the woods without being bright, fluorescent eyesores like the KAC or the new room in Olin.
I write all of this out of love for this little home of ours. Though it is difficult not to wince when an adolescent voice cracks, puberty is hardly grounds for disownment. With the understanding that a teenager is not an endowment-driven enterprise whose tuition raises with every newly-erected pimple, it is my earnest hope that all of Kenyon’s new toys will age as gracefully as the castles before them.
In other news, the weather is still going to get colder around here and the sun is still going to shine in the morning because, for good or bad, some things take far longer than others to change.
Chad Weisman ’12 is an American studies and English double major. He nurtures a tried and true love for the school. His email is email@example.com.