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Kenyon Observer the

May 1, 2013

State of the College President S. Georgia Nugent | page 8

Kenyon’s Oldest Undergraduate Political and Cultural Magazine


Kenyon Observer the

May 1, 2013


The Kenyon Observer May 1, 2013

5 From the Editors Cover Story president s. georgia 8 State of the College

Editors-in-Chief Gabriel Rom and Jon Green nugent

Managing Editor Megan Shaw Online Editor Yoni Wilkenfeld

conrad jacober

6 Kenyon’s Ingrained Socioeconomic Hierarchy The Perpetuation of Socioeconomic Inequality at Kenyon and the Accessible Alternatives ryan mach

10 Nobody’s a Critic

Featured Contributors Tommy Brown, Jacob Fass, Jon Green, Conrad Jacober, Ryan Mach and President S. Georgia Nugent

What Kenyon Criticism Can Do For Kenyon Literature tommy brown

12 Expanding College Bureaucracy

Increasing Student Resources or Continuing the Slide to Camp Kenyon? jacob fass

14 Vote Yes

Why Students Should Care About the Mount Vernon School Levy jon green

Our Modest Proposals for Re-Regulating Activities

Layout/Design Sofia Mandel Illustrations Nick Nazmi and Peter Falls Faculty Advisors Professor Fred Baumann and Professor Pamela Jensen The Kenyon Observer is a student-run publication that is distributed biweekly on the campus of Kenyon College. The opinions expressed within this publication belong only to the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Observer staff or that of Kenyon College. The Kenyon Observer will accept submissions and lettersto-the-editor, but reserves the right to edit for length and clarity. All submissions must be received at least a week prior to publication. Submit to tko@kenyon.edu

Cover Art by Nick Nazmi


5

FROM THE EDITORS

Dear Prospective Reader, As we prepare to leave the Hill for these summer months, we at the Observer would like to take a moment to thank those who made this year a success. Firstly, we would like to thank President S. Georgia Nugent for her service at the helm of our college during this past decade. Through all of the successes and controversies that have come and gone under her tenure, she has steered Kenyon with wisdom, composure and humility. Secondly, we would like to thank those who have submitted content to our publication this year. We pride ourselves on being able to feature the best and brightest from across campus, whether or not they happen to be members of our staff. And, thirdly, we would like to thank you, our readers, for continuing the spirit of engagement, debate and discussion on our campus. In our final issue of the year, the Kenyon Observer addresses issues pertaining specifically to our campus. Headlining this issue, we are pleased to feature President S. Georgia Nugent’s final State of the College address. Also included in this issue, Tommy Brown addresses the growing size of Kenyon’s administration, Conrad Jacober highlights the myth of meritocracy in academia, Ryan Mach argues that our campus community should challenge itself to embrace literary criticism and Jacob Fass explains why students should vote in the upcoming school levy election. While this is our last print issue of the year, the discussion does not end here. We welcome readers to engage with and respond to content printed on our pages, and will continue to publish content on our website, kenyonobserver.com, through this last week of classes. We look forward to continuing the spirit of debate and discourse the Observer has become known for on Kenyon’s campus next year. The Observer also regrets to bid farewell to graduating seniors Yoni Wilkenfeld, Nicholas Nazmi, Tess Waggoner, Tommy Brown, Frederica Hill, James Neimeister and Harry Glass. Your editors, Gabriel Rom, Yoni Wilkenfeld and Jon Green

“The most important function of a university in an age of reason is to protect reason from itself.” Allan Bloom


6

CONRAD JACOBER

Kenyon’s Ingrained Socioeconomic Hierarchy THE PERPETUATION OF SOCIOECONOMIC INEQUALITY AT KENYON AND THE ACCESSIBLE ALTERNATIVES The idea that we live in a meritocratic society, that one’s position in the social order is determined by one’s merit, is a pervasive myth; it fits perfectly with the “bootstrap” ideology that characterizes our individualized and antagonistic society. The facts, however, are to the contrary: the vast majority of the U.S. and world population dies in the same socioeconomic class to which they were born. Rather than focusing on the deep political and economic structures of our world society that must be destroyed and overturned to achieve a society that truly actualizes the tenets of freedom, reason, love, and justice, I want to focus on Kenyon policies that preserve socioeconomic inequalities and injustices. To begin, it must be noted that it is terribly problematic that there exists no affirmative action based on socioeconomic class, despite it being easily shown that the higher one’s class, the greater one’s access to supreme educational, monetary, experiential and social assets that cannon-fire any individual into higher education. Some do break past the iron chains of their lower socioeconomic class, but this occurs far less often than our direct surroundings and ideological training would inform us it does. Everyone knows a rags to riches story; statistics show their rarity. Despite all of this, there is nothing in higher education admissions to compensate for the lower class’

unequal access to necessary educational and social assets. What exists in admissions is rather the opposite: there is affirmative action for the wealthiest students contrasted with intense competition for the poorest. This is not unique to Kenyon; any school with finances that are less than certain into the next decade must admit students who pay full tuition to ensure its financial stability. This means that Kenyon and schools like it have much less competitive admissions standards for wealthier students who can pay the full tuition and much more competitive admissions standards for students beholden to a financial aid package. In effect, we have affirmative action for the wealthy against the poor, despite that any understanding would call for the exact opposite. Our “need awareness” ought to favor those who have been given fewer chances to succeed in life by their very birth, but it serves rather to ensure that the college is not burdened by the financial aid necessities of too many poor and lower-middle class students. It must be said that this is not the fault of Kenyon college, but of a society that is characterized by the dictates of profit and structures of socioeconomic inequality. If the ends of higher education were of greater importance than those of the economic demands of profit, this dilemma would be non-existent. Instead,

“Sheer ability, spelled i-n-h-e-r-i-t-a-n-c-e” Malcolm Forbes


7

higher education serves profit, and meritocracy is but an ideological myth. To the college’s credit, Kenyon does have an admirable financial aid system, whereby one-hundred percent of need is met in almost all cases. Kenyon could, however, do more to fight the injustices of economic inequality in which it takes an integral part. There exist institutions within Kenyon that perpetuate socioeconomic inequalities, even after one passes through the unjust process of admissions. The necessity for poorer students to hold one if not multiple jobs which pay at or near minimum wage is one problem. Because of the low wages of the student jobs on campus, poorer students must work more hours in order to make enough money to afford travel home, living necessities, and what remains after financial aid in tuition, room and board costs. In order to make enough money to pay my tuition, I must work as many hours as possible at Helpline in a given semester, taking more hours each semester and even adding an extra job for next semester. This is not just my situation, but that of many poorer students whose parents are not as well off as others’ parents, whose birth into their socioeconomic class is not a benefit as it is for the wealthy, but a heavy burden. Because I must work more hours, I have less time for school work, sleep and the activities many others have the leisure in which to take part. The cost of raising wages for student jobs on campus is not too great a burden for the college and would greatly

“I have the academic standing to apply for an NCA or Morgan, but must opt out due entirely to the fact that I was born into a family of lesser socioeconomic standing.” aid poorer students who survive on those jobs whilst also capacitating them match their wealthier peers in educational demands, as poorer students would have to work fewer jobs and fewer hours. The steep hierarchy of housing prices is another easily alterable injustice that poorer students face at Kenyon. Our financial aid covers only a dorm dou-

ble, meaning that students whose parents are not as well off cannot afford to live in anything more than a dorm double. Even when the option for living in

“there

is nothing in higher

education admissions to com pensate for the lower class ’ unequal access to necessary educational and social as sets .

What

exists in admis -

sions is rather the opposite .” an apartment or a single opens up junior and senior years, poorer students must opt for doubles or triples, lest they increase the already heavy burden on themselves and their families. I am, along with many others, faced with living in a dorm double or triple my senior year. I have the academic standing to apply for an NCA or Morgan, but must opt out due entirely to the fact that I was born into a family of lesser socioeconomic standing. These apartments are reserved for those whose parents can afford them. This is the injustice many poorer students face; it is one that is easily undone. Many schools are turning to f lat-rate housing to combat this problem, and even officials of our very own Housing and Residential Life are behind the idea. Money may have to be made up elsewhere, but that issue is no excuse for perpetuating the socioeconomic inequality of poorer students at Kenyon. The problems of socioeconomic inequality go far beyond Kenyon, but there are steps we can take to make Kenyon a place that truly values the ideas of freedom and equality. Though meritocracy is but an ideological myth spread to pacify those at the bottom of the social ladder with the false hope that they are not bound by the cruel chance of their birth, one’s merit ought to count more than the fortune or misfortune of one’s family finances. There are many policy changes, such as those argued above, that would lessen both the burden on poorer students and the importance of the wealth of one’s family in the opportunities a student is afforded. These injustices cry out to be righted. Let us actualize the values of our college, of the quest for truth and justice.TKO

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Krishnamurti


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PRESIDENT S. GEORGIA NUGENT

State of the College Last year, I wrote a “State of the College” article for TKO, and this year, the editors have asked me to do so again. I’m happy to respond to their request. Naturally, in this final year at Kenyon, I have been ref lecting a great deal on “the State of the College”—both looking back over the decade of my presidency and also trying to gaze into the crystal ball to discern what the Kenyon of the future may be. First, let me say I would reiterate my rather upbeat analysis of last year. Once again, I would assert that the College is “the strongest it has ever been,” that we are on sound financial footing, that successive entering classes tend to be more academically capable and more diverse than ever before, that the faculty as well attracts new members who are impressive teachers and scholars and also are a remarkably diverse group, and that Kenyon’s excellence is increasingly well-known. All of these are great strengths that bode well for the

future of the College. But much has happened, in the world of higher education and in the larger world, since April of 2012 that inf lects my view of the State of the College, as I sit down to write one year later. I regret to say that I am not as sanguine about the future today as I was one year ago. The reasons do not have to do specifically with Kenyon. They have to do with larger forces in our socio-cultural context which are affecting higher education—and will likely have an effect upon Kenyon—but over which the president or the College has very little control. A very recent survey of college presidents by The Chronicle of Higher Education found that more than 90% of college presidents were very satisfied by their professional role. And I have certainly found that satisfaction. Yet—as I have discussed with him--I do not envy President Decatur taking on the presidential role at this moment in time.

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there. “ Will Rogers


9

Perhaps the most emblematic way of highlighting the differences in higher education between today and one year ago today is the situation that occurred last year at the University of Virginia—with which, I assume, readers are familiar. To brief ly re-cap: the president of UVa, Teresa Sullivan (a very experi-

“Liberal

arts education is a

American phenomenon. And, I believe, it has been the source of America’s leadership in innovation. Yet it seems to be either misununiquely

derstood or under attack in many quarters.” enced and highly respected president), was suddenly ousted by the chair of the university’s board (apparently without the knowledge of many members of the board). The ouster had to do with the board chair’s perception that the president was not moving fast enough to enact change—and, specifically, to develop online education. (It was later made clear that the president had already taken steps to institute online initiatives.) Faculty and students rallied in support of the president, and she was quite quickly re-instated. Firing and re-hiring a president within a matter of weeks is, to my knowledge, an unprecedented occurrence. And the governance situation at UVa remains f luid and unclear. The UVa episode is extraordinary; but across the country, the relationships among boards of trustees, faculty members, students, presidents and/or other administrators, and alumni are increasingly complex and perhaps fraught. Who has authority—over what? Where does responsibility / accountability lie? How does an institution prioritize (or balance) the necessity of financial viability and faithfulness to its traditional academic mission? These are increasingly thorny questions. And, more and more, the multiple (and, often, conf licting) constituencies that every college or university has are contending over responses to those questions in a very public way. In the past year, increasing use of social media has introduced an entirely different dimension into the life of organizations, including Kenyon. In the

world of Facebook, Twitter, etc. one voice can be amplified in extraordinary ways—even if its message is false. For traditional organizations, like colleges, making the facts clear, in light of erroneous information out there, can be something of a challenge. Reputational risk is huge, in an entirely unprecedented way. Learning to navigate in this new world is an aspect of the State of the College that simply was not on the screen one year ago. Other contextual factors that will affect Kenyon have been visible on the horizon. For several years, I have been saying to trustees, faculty, alumni, and national audiences that four main challenges face a college like Kenyon today: 1. the (global) financial crisis 2. demographics (i.e., a potential college-going population that is more ethnically diverse and less aff luent) 3. information technology (e.g., how will MOOC’s ultimately affect higher education in general and liberal arts colleges specifically?) 4. the crisis of confidence in ALL institutions, including higher education Again, these are not issues that are specific to Kenyon, nor can they be resolved by a Kenyon president. But he will confront them. I am hopeful that Kenyon’s solid basis of offering an outstanding education, garnering terrific alumni and parent support, and continuing to attract extremely strong students from around the world will result in the College f lourishing for years to come. I believe that will prove true. Yet the past year has seen many developments threatening higher education in general and liberal arts education in particular that leave me troubled. Liberal arts education, as it is practiced at Kenyon, is a uniquely American phenomenon. And, I believe, it has been the source of America’s leadership in innovation. Yet it seems to be either misunderstood or under attack in many quarters. I believe Kenyon—with other liberal arts colleges— must find ways to more clearly and persuasively make the case for this kind of education. I plan to work on this issue as a Senior Fellow at the Council of Independent Colleges in Washington. I know that President-Elect Decatur shares my commitment to this issue.TKO

“Management works within the system. Leadership works on the system.” Unknown


10

RYAN MACH

Nobody’s a Critic WHAT KENYON CRITICISM CAN DO FOR KENYON LITERATURE Despite Kenyon’s literary reputation, there persists a general feeling on its campus that a truly cohesive literary “scene” has not made itself manifest in our community. In September of last year, a junior English major expressed in the Collegian his dismay at a lack of urgency on the part of Kenyon writers to carry on “the legacy of predecessors like John Crowe Ransom into the twentyfirst century.” What the “depressed literary scene” at Kenyon needs, according to the article’s author, isn’t “die-hard Kafka enthusiasts or scatterbrained Thoreau lovers, it just needs nerds.” Though what separates the “nerd” from the very common literary-minded thinker at Kenyon is left somewhat unclear, the author points to poor attendance at Kenyon Review events, under-funded journals, and a lack of “any serious digital presence” as symptoms of a literary community lacking in enthusiasm that nerds can apparently restore. If they are seeking enthusiasm, such critics are using the wrong barometers — while it is perhaps a loss to our community that Kenyon Review events are not as well-attended as they might be, this sort of delinquency is a lousy gauge of how much people care about literature at Kenyon. I find that stimulating literary conversation is quite common outside of these readings and lectures. With regards to the problem of insufficient funding, it should be noted that many students with great artistic and intellectual integrity are published in The Miracle Suit, an independently funded, published and distributed journal. I see much promise, talent and passion about literature in Kenyon’s community without having to look to its fringes, and would recommend that critics such as Mr. Ros consider the possibility of a collegiate society more complicated than the rudimentary dichotomy between sports enthusiasts and “nerds.” That being said, these criticisms still lead us to a more central problem: how can we, members of a generation that is said to be less literary than its predecessors, live up to the high standards of our forebearers? I have the utmost confidence that there is enough raw talent and enthusiasm at Kenyon to create substantial and significant work. My

humble prescription for consolidating and refining this talent is the introduction to our community of that less romantic, less beloved literary art: the art of criticism. Part of my intention in making this argument is to argue to Kenyon’s writers and readers that criticism is as worthy a channel of our artistic passion as literature

“I

would

these

recommend

critics

consider

that the

possibility of a collegiate society more complicated than the

rudimentary

between

sports

dichotomy enthusiasts

and ‘nerds.’” itself. Why are there so many undergraduate journals and magazines that lack even a peripheral focus on criticism of either published or undergraduate work? Though most writers become consumed with self-righteous passion whenever it is suggested that literature is boring or unimportant, they often implicitly concede that literary criticism is too dry and dull for publication, and relegate their critical output to the academic sphere. But are our serious critical evaluations of the literature we love merely arguments whose validity is measured in A’s and B’s and C’s? Are they really just value judgments that have no real worth unless you’re afraid that the graduate schools to which you have applied are watching? Such a belief misunderstands the mechanisms and processes by which great literature is developed and recognized. Criticism, just like literature, responds to the advantages and anxieties of its time, and places the work that it reviews historically, mediating a work of art’s novelty with its inherited traditions as well as its global contemporaries. It contextualizes literature, giving it an active role in an ongoing conversation instead of allowing it

“The man of knowledge must not only love his enemies but also hate his friends.” Nietzsche


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to exist in an intellectual vacuum. Yet there remains the reductive tendency to characterize criticism as a refuge for unsuccessful writers. Surely, there are some writers who are less concerned with theory, less “criticallyminded” than others, but this cannot be a proper excuse for ignorance or even apathy regarding the role of criticism in literature. Even if he or she is not principally concerned with literary theory, a writer must at least be self-conscious enough to consider the theory behind his or her own work in a critical fashion. The fact is that the realms of literature and literary criticism are just as interdependent as you would expect, and an artist without critical sensibilities is as lost as a critic without the sensibilities of an artist. It would also be wise to liberate students from a prevalent attitude on campus that is hostile to critics. This attitude is often guised as humility or openmindedness, though it is actually quite poisonous to any thriving intellectual community. It manifests itself when people react honestly to the poetry and fiction in student publications and can be summed in this decentsounding admonishment: “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” People who believe in such a maxim cannot truly be interested in literature because they aren’t interested in distinguishing it from what is not literature — the banal, the trite, the hackneyed, the irrelevant; the things that allow us to separate the work that is important and valuable from the work that isn’t. No, critiquing someone’s work isn’t always “nice,” but when it’s coming from an educated, critical standpoint, it is always constructive. Criticizing the canonized literature of the past does not make you a contrarian and criticizing the works of your peers does not make you a mean-spirited crank. Critiques, when allowed to speak for themselves, can be as deep or as shallow as the writer allows them to be. But as long as they are limited to private conversation, they will always be perceived as petty and stemming from insecurity rather than intellectual energy. If we publish more criticism and give it the detached analytical setting it demands, so much aimless complaint can be given form and purpose, spurring more focused and deliberative discussion and fostering a sense of academic seriousness that nourishes the intellectual passion of aspiring writers. This is a much preferred alternative to the empty praise offered by uncritical readers in the interest of “open-mindedness.” Giving critics a voice on campus will not only raise our intellectual standards, it will also inspire our best artists. Nothing is more stimulating to a writer than a bruised ego. When people see their work or a work they cherish criticized, they are pushed to respond to that critique, to prove the critics wrong, to explore their full

potential as artists and intellectuals. What results is a community of self-conscious and serious writers, writers who think about their work as a craft and not as a mere outlet for their private anxieties and desires. What’s more, introducing criticism to the Kenyon literary scene will produce writers of real character, writers whose methods and ideals have been shaped by the same critical environment, an environment that is uniquely Kenyon. A conversation on campus about literary values inevitably results in similarities between the values Kenyon students adopt and, consequently, between the works they produce. This is exactly the sort of phenomena that allows very unique artists to write their work in a similar spirit. Expecting a school like Kenyon to produce groups of talented writers is rational but useless — instilling in those writers an intellectual and competitive urgency is the best way to ensure that they live up to their full potential and reflect positively on the college that fostered it. Clearly, I see much to be gained from the prospect of a critical community at Kenyon. All this being said, however, I also understand the reservations one might have about such an enterprise: talented people can also be very sensitive people, insecure about their abilities at articulation and the connection of those abilities to the very self they would hope to express. A bad review might discourage them from publishing their work, or even from ever writing again. Furthermore, some would argue that literature outside of the classroom is liberated from stifling intellectualism and that an uncritical environment is more open to self-expression. These arguments aren’t without merit, and as members of this community we are presented with a difficult choice about what we want out of our undergraduate experience: a choice between poetry camp and poetry. In poetry camp, we are taught the formal aspects of writing poetry, pushed and prodded in the right direction, allowed to exercise our imaginations and, in the end, made to feel good about our efforts. This can be a fun, important and intensely meaningful experience for many people, but it is not the sort of experience that typically produces truly great works of art. If, when we are honest with ourselves, we decide that what we want is to become real artists, we must recognize that doing so is not always fun or nice — that it is a painful, frustrating and very often cruel process that humbles us, angers us, pushes us into uncomfortable places. It is a process that isn’t for everyone, and we should make our choice with this fact in mind. But if what we really want to do is live up to our reputation as a literary school, to produce people who rival or surpass the talents of writers like D.H. Lawrence, Robert Lowell or John Crowe Ransom, the choice, to me, is an obvious one.TKO

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Benjamin Franklin


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TOMMY BROWN

Expanding College Bureaucracy INCREASING STUDENT RESOURCES OR CONTINUING THE SLIDE TO CAMP KENYON? A college education is seen as a prerequisite for employment, and increasing access to post-secondary education is widely seen as fundamentally good across most political lines, but college tuition has been steadily increasing for decades. Theories abound as to why tuition has increased at a rate more than twice that of inflation, ranging from declining public funding to increased financial aid. However, a national trend not often discussed that correlates well with this rise in tuition costs is the expansion of college bureaucracies, as well as the consequences this has on campus. A November, 2012 article in Bloomberg Businessweek notes that the growth of college administrators is a national trend, stating that “employment of administrators jumped 60 percent from 1993 to 2009, 10 times the growth rate for tenured faculty.” A December, 2012 Wall Street Journal article corroborates this finding, stating additionally that “[growth of administration is] part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.” Examining Kenyon’s Audited Financial Statements since 2000, it is clear that we are no exception to this national trend. Since 2000, academic funding as a percentage of the College’s operating budget has remained at a steady 35%, consistently the largest slice of Kenyon’s budgetary pie. However, the percentage allocated to the administrators of the College bureaucracy (“Student Services” in the reports) has risen dramatically in recent years. In 2003 it represented 15% of the operating expenses and rose to 22% by 2012. Although this seems like a small change as a percent of a growing operating budget, what was a $7.75 million budget in 2003 has nearly tripled to a $22 million budget in 2012. Kenyon, like many small liberal arts colleges, boasts an impressive student-to-faculty ratio. There is a faculty member for every ten students, and we can all attest to the benefit this has had on our education as smaller class sizes and more accessible office hours have allowed us to foster better relationships with our professors. The fact that the College has maintained 35% budget allocation towards faculty reinforces how central our relationship with faculty is to our experience here. However, a ratio not often promoted,

or even discussed, at Kenyon is that of students to administrators. According to the Higher Learning Commission’s 2012-13 Institutional Update, while Kenyon enjoys a ratio of 10:1 for student-to-faculty, we have a ratio of nearly 7:1 for student-to-administrator. There are many valid reasons college administration has expanded in recent years. Liability presents a major concern for any college, with Kenyon being no exception. The argument could be made that the existence of a large administration, one that requires students and student organizations to adhere to an increasing amount of regulations, allows the College to ensure the safety of its students and reduce its vulnerability to lawsuits. However, even this argument does not elucidate why the administrative budget of the College has nearly tripled in nine years. Going to college today does not entail any more significant risk than it did ten years ago, and to my knowledge lawsuits against the school have not increased during this period either. College administration, especially in regards to liability, cannot be said to have become so increasingly complicated in the past decade so as to justify this increase in cost. Thus, concerns about liability alone cannot explain this expansion. Increased administrative interaction with students and student organizations could also explain this increase. For example, there is a good reason for the administration to allocate money to the Student Activities Office, as offering resources to students and their organizations to expand their outreach and efforts is certainly a good thing. However, a well-funded Student Activities Office does not portend an active student body; it is not the existence of that office that drives students to become members of campus organizations, but rather the students’ drive to become engaged and involved on campus. If the administration were to merely make these resources available to student organizations independent of an administrative body, we would certainly still benefit from their use. However, under the current administrative structure, in order to maintain their organizations students must register them, receive approval, submit reports throughout the year and attend required leadership courses, among other bureaucratic hoops, every

“If government is the answer, how stupid was the question?” Judge Andrew Napolitano


13

single year. Recently, even the Observer itself was in danger data on student-administrator relationships, on the other of losing its recognition as a student organization because hand, suggest a less cozy relationship. Despite having a it had failed to submit a form self-evaluating events it never better ratio of administrators to students, according to the held or planned to hold. same NSSE survey less than half of students felt that adGreek life serves as another example of administrative ministrators were “helpful, considerate and flexible.” This overreach. Nearly all current national fraternities at Ken- is certainly an improvement from 2008, when that figure yon began as secret societies. Yet, today they must submit was less than a third of students, but clearly underscores a schedules of all their activities, attend the same required void between students and administrators. There are many leadership courses and abide by the recently passed Stan- avenues for students to voice their concerns with the addards of Excellence. I contend that these organizations ministration, both publically and privately. These concerns would remain excellent in the absence of the overwhelming are justified and should be listened to by the administration. administrative paperwork they must currently follow. Near- Viciously attacking particular administrators, as happened ly all Greek organizations hold regular fundraising events last week in response to the announced Send-off policies, for different causes and the community service hours con- however, is misguided, disrespectful and inexcusable. tributed by Greeks is significant. In requiring Greek orgaThis national trend towards increasing college adminnizations to complete various assignments around campus, istration, especially if it directly contributes to higher tuwhether in co-sponsoring events or contributing a given ition costs, is worrisome. It is encouraging that Kenyon number of service hours, the administration inherently di- has maintained its academic budget in the face of this, minishes the fact that all Greek organizations already do but the College has nearly tripled its administrative budthese things without prompting. Additionally, a student get in the past nine years. Though much of this goes to elected to a position of leadership within their organiza- legitimate and widely utilized resources on campus, such tion has already demonstrated to he percentage allocat a dramatic increase in spending its members his/her leadership certainly requires scrutiny. Once abilities. Requiring these student ed to the administrators of established, bureaucracies tend leaders to attend mandatory to defend themselves. And who leadership workshops seems to the college bureaucracy has can blame them, as trimming be not only redundant, but parisen dramatically in recent the administrative budget would ternalistic. likely include layoffs for certain To be fair, many positions years administrators. However, if adlumped into the Student Services category offer important ministrative bloat contributes to higher tuition — with and widely used resources on campus, such as Health and Kenyon being one of the most expensive colleges in the Counseling Center employees. At least part of the blame, country already — it should be assessed whether or not though, for this increased administrative spending lies with such an increase in spending is justified. the intrusion of Kenyon bureaucrats into what should be Beyond rising tuition, though, Kenyon’s administrative the sole domain of student life. Summer Send-off serves growth has its own consequences. The reduction in student as a good example. Amid increasing concerns about both organizational autonomy, the requirements imposed on risk management and liability the event has been restricted, these organizations in recent years, administrative advising regulated and staffed by the administration. Many of these of student government, a decreasing concept of personal concerns are justified, and thus justify a burden held by responsibility; all these are consequences of a growing the administration. However, this year’s Send-off Part II administration. Student independence and autonomy, the was organized, funded and staffed exclusively by students ability to make and learn from our own mistakes, are the on Saturday, save for the increased overtime for Campus eventual costs. When each consequence is taken individuSafety officers. Both days went off without a hitch. Friday ally, such changes seem benign. Taken as a whole, they inindicated that there are areas in a Kenyon student’s life that dicate a movement towards a more paternalistic campus. have been necessarily curtailed or regulated because of re- This is a recent trend and its manifested costs today are alistic concerns by the administration. Saturday indicated largely the subject of a salty senior’s rant about the degthat the students are still perfectly able to organize them- radation of Send-Off, annoying bureaucratic hoops, etc. selves, engage their community and take the steps to ensure If the trend continues, though, and the campus genuinely a safe and successful event. shifts towards more hand-holding of students, towards Students’ relationship with faculty remains strong at more aggressively paternalistic policies that restrict student Kenyon: according to the most recent National Survey of choice and independence, the graduates of this great ColStudent Engagement 71% of students surveyed said that lege leave Gambier with a much diminished ability to think their faculty was “available, helpful and sympathetic.” The and act for themselves.TKO

“T

-

.”

“Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.” African Proverb


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JACOB FASS

Vote Yes WHY STUDENTS SHOULD CARE ABOUT THE MOUNT VERNON SCHOOL LEVY

On May 7th , our community will decide whether the opportunity to support local education and or not to provide its school system with emergency bolster our community’s economic competitivefunding that would prevent layoffs and the cancel- ness by voting in favor of the upcoming levy. lation of all extracurricular activities for the comSome have suggested that students should not ing year. The proposed vote in local elections. $5.6 million in additional “T he average family moves Some have even claimed revenue, $14.75 for evthat out of state students ery $100,000 in property, about every five years . I n - should not vote in Ohio would be the first increase creased mobility means that at all. These people argue in funding for the school we stay in communities for that Kenyon students are system in sixteen years. not truly part of the local Last November, a similar shorter periods of time ; it community, that we will proposal failed by roughly does not mean that we don ’ t not pay the property tax200 votes (voters also rees that the levy will raise, jected a levy increase in have a vested interest in the that we are not educated May of 2011); as the state fate of those communities .” about longstanding local of Ohio has reduced fundissues and that we will not ing for public schools by stay in the community long eight percent, years of steadily decreasing school enough to witness the effects of the changes we are funding have forced increasingly painful cuts to voting on. As a matter of law and logic such argueducation. ments are seriously f lawed. Voters in the Mount Vernon school district, inKenyon students live in Knox County at least cluding members of the Kenyon community, have seven months out of the year. Not only do we pay

“A penalty for refusing to participate in politics is you end up being governed by inferiors.” Plato


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sales taxes when we spend money at local businesses, we also do pay property taxes in the form of higher room charges (when landlords’ costs rise they transfer costs to their renters). Moreover, even if Kenyon students did not pay taxes, as Mitt Romney inelegantly reminded us during the last election, millions of Americans do not pay income taxes. No one suggests that they should not vote for candidates and issues that affect others’ tax rates. In reality, most appeals for students not to vote come down to an emotional argument that, as residents for four years, we are not truly rooted in the community. Yet this argument ref lects an unrealistic ideal about the nature of communities in the 21st century. The average family moves about every five years, only one year longer than a typical student’s time at Kenyon. Increased mobility means that we stay in communities for shorter periods of time; it does not mean that we do not have a vested interest in the fate of those communities. In fact, Kenyon students have a strong interest in seeing the levy passed, as the $1.3 million in cuts that will take effect if the levy fails will have a serious impact on the quality of education in Mount Vernon and Gambier — education that is a high priority for professors, both current and prospective, who have school-aged children. All extracurricular activities, sports, clubs and musical performances that enrich the lives of students outside of the classroom will be cut; if the levy fails, the school system simply won’t have the money to keep the lights on outside of school hours. Additionally, six teaching positions, one administrator position and two unspecified positions would be cut. These cuts are not a matter of trimming waste from a bloated budget; it’s not as if Mount Vernon has too many teachers as it is. Mount Vernon has been operating under severe funding constraints for years. The district has already eliminated bussing to high school, cut 24 teaching positions through attrition and frozen teacher salaries for the last two years. Already, these cuts have been cited by professors who have turned down offers to teach at Kenyon as their reason for going elsewhere. If our community does not have adequately-funded schools, professors with children will not be willing to move to our area.

It is true that the funding system for schools based on property tax levies is inefficient and f lawed; many would prefer funding schools through an income tax instead. But voting down the levy for this reason would be cutting off our noses to

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the point guard on the bas ketball team , you played the tuba in marching band , you

were the president of the debate club or you did some thing else to set yourself apart from your peers .” spite our faces. These cuts would have immediate and negative consequences for thousands of Mount Vernon students; those who place value on educating them must be willing to operate within the system in place in order to do so. Kenyon students have benefited tremendously from the very things that would be cut if the levy fails. Whether or not you had off-the-charts SAT or ACT scores, what got you into this school was what you did outside of class. You were the point guard on the basketball team, you were Maria in West Side Story, you played the tuba in marching band, you were the president of the debate club or you did something else to set yourself apart from your peers. If this levy fails, students in our community will not have the same opportunities we had; they won’t be able to stand out in ways that we were able to. The last levy failed by a margin of only about two hundred votes, and it was Kenyon’s votes that made it close. Students came out to vote this past November in incredibly high numbers, and if you registered in the fall your registration is still valid now. It is vital that we show up and vote to pass the school levy on May 7th . Our community needs our support.TKO

“Not everything that counts can be counted.” Albert Einstein


JON GREEN

Our Modest Proposals for Re-Regulating Activities Student activities at Kenyon are nothing if not regulated, and the Kenyon Observer recently learned this the hard way as it was nearly disbanded for failing to fill out an end-of-year program evaluation form. In short, because we did not self-evaluate the programs we never planned or put on we were, for a short time, not officially recognized as a re-registered organization for next year. While we found the exercise rather silly, we here at the Observer are nothing if not constructive. In the spirit of an efficiently-regulated extracurricular experience, we offer Student Council and the Student Activities Office a list of organizational hurdles that we feel we would be more likely to take seriously as we attempt to prove ourselves as a functioning organization next year: 1. English Premier League-style relegation for underperforming organizations Hold weekly paperwork-filing competitions between student groups. Members of the two lowest-scoring groups at the end of the year must transfer to Denison. 2. Celebrity Apprentice: Kenyon Leaders One alumni from each organization returns to campus and runs an event. Whichever alumni runs the best event secures full funding for their organization for the coming semester. 3. Leader Lunch and Lifts Organization leaders eat lunch with, and then bench press, Sean Decatur. Organizations must complete fifty reps over the course of the semester in order to be eligible for BFC funds. 4. Introduce and mandate an OrgSync app In an attempt to synergize the student life experience on multiple platforms, organizations whose leaders fail to download the OrgSync app must attend a supplementary technology re-education seminar with LBIS staff. 5. BFC By-Law Quiz Bowl Three-member teams from each student organization pit their knowledge of BFC by-laws against each other. Winning organizations receive mandatory social fun-time with Christina Mastrangelo in her inflatable bouncy house behind the Gambier Community Center.TKO


TKO 5.1.13