K-SWOC Hosts Town Hall, Bowman Challenges Report Data – Kenyon Collegian K-SWOC Hosts Town Hall, Bowman Challenges Report Data
On Friday afternoon, around 30 community members, almost all students, gathered at the Community Foundation Theater to participate in the Kenyon Student Workers Organizing Committee (K-SWOC) town hall on its published white paper earlier this month. The white paper is a report examining the College’s financial decisions during the tenure of Bracket B. Denniston III ’69, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Panelists, Djibril Branche ’23, Michelle Hanna ’22, Lily Beeson-Norwitz ’23, and Ammar Raslan ’26, discussed expanding K-SWOC’s efforts beyond labor issues to encompass all issues facing student workers face.
Seats at the front of the theater were covered with name tags for senior staff members. Although the union had hand-delivered invitations to their offices earlier in the week, no senior management was present at the event. In a statement to K-SWOC released by the union, Acting Chairman Jeff Bowman declined the invitation, saying the white paper did not reflect Kenyon’s values. He emphasized in his statement to K-SWOC that the report was anonymous, which he disputed in previous remarks on the white paper.
In an email to all students and employees, K-SWOC took issue with Bowman’s classification of the report as anonymous. “If you are unsure where the report came from, we can definitely tell you that it is the product of the collective efforts of our union members here in Kenyon,” the union wrote. When the college student sought clarification, K-SWOC declined to name co-authors for fear of retaliation by the College.
The meeting began by largely summarizing the report, which claims the College failed to financially support students during Denniston’s tenure as board chair. On the contrary, the union argues, Kenyon has invested in new buildings and expanded its commercial and financial divisions. On the morning of the town hall, Bowman sent the college student a statement specifying the inaccuracies in the report.
K-SWOC obtained the data from the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) report, a federal database that contains information on any institution that distributes federal financial aid. “In the whitepaper, K-SWOC relies on outdated staffing information,” he said. “Until 2021-2022, Kenyon misinterpreted IPEDS guidelines and classified as ‘business and financial operations’ any employee who handled financial matters for his office or department, even if his primary function was usually student or university affairs, library or computer science, or some other profession.” Bowman claimed Kenyon corrected its error in this year’s data, reporting only 30 full-time business and financial employees instead of the 93 reported in the most recent publicly available data, which K-SWOC used in its report. report.
Bowman also noted that there is no category for “student support services” in the IPEDS data. “K-SWOC made up this category and it’s unclear which professions are included – so we’re unable to provide comparable data for 2021-22,” he said. K-SWOC felt that it clarified in the white paper what it meant by “student support services,” sometimes abbreviated as SSS in the report, when it listed “Librarians, Computers, Healthcare, Counselors, Curators, Archivists, Academic Affairs, Sports, Chaplins, Other Educational Services. When asked for clarification by the college studentK-SWOC clarified the IPEDS categories they classified as student support services, namely “Librarians, Curators, Archivists”, “Student and Academic Affairs and Other Educational Services”, “IT, Engineering and Science”, ” Community, social services. , Legal, Arts and Media” and “Health and Technical Professionals”.
After the panelists finished summarizing the white paper, they mentioned K-SWOC’s plans to address more issues that affect students. “We believe a union can go much further than wages and benefits,” Branche said at the town hall. “We want to broaden the scope of what a good deal can mean; we want to go on the offensive in our campaign. To do this, they plan to bring guest speakers to campus (such as Thursday’s workshop, “Race and Labor: Let’s Talk About It” with Bianca Cunningham) to educate the Kenyon community on issues affecting student workers. Moreover, Beeson-Norwitz did not rule out more aggressive measures. “Future town halls and public demonstrations by student workers may be necessary if the Brackett Denniston administration continues to refuse to engage in a dialogue on the report’s findings and to negotiate in good faith with our union to find a solution that gives priority to people over buildings,” she wrote in an email to college student.
Following updates from the panelists, they asked audience members to talk to each other about the issues that affect them, and then share their experiences with the larger group. Almost all of the comments were from students wondering how the College manages its finances, sharing their negative experiences with the Cox Health and Counseling Center or expressing concerns about existing inequities at Kenyon.
A Town Hall student who has been struggling with life in Meadow Lane has spoken about the College’s decision to invest money in Pivot, Richard Serrea’s unfinished sculpture in the West Quad which was donated by Graham Gund’ 63, H’81 and Ann Gund. Branch acknowledged the group’s common concern over housing issues, then said he didn’t understand how Kenyon handles their finances. “I really don’t understand in any state where our money is going; it’s not democratic in that sense,” he said. The College publishes audited financial statements annually.
Another student said Kenyon operates like a business rather than a school, and they see this more clearly in the way Cox Health and Counseling Center is run. Several audience members argued that the health center did not provide enough support, an argument that has existed for some time both on the Hill and at other colleges across the United States.
The final part of the town hall looked at how minority groups navigate campus differently from their peers. “Echoing what a lot of people are saying, a lot of student workers, or students of color, or international students, these are often the ones who disproportionately use these resources on campus,” Beeson-Norwitz said. “They need those resources because they don’t have the same resources as the more privileged population.” When these students cannot access the services they need, it puts more stress on them than someone who does not need to have a job, which is unfair, she concluded.
After a question about the connection between racial justice and student worker issues, Branche further emphasized K-SWOC’s mission. ‘Our goal is not a union’, he said – although their slogan is still ‘our way, our union’. “Our goal is to benefit the entire campus community; our goal is racial justice; our goal is to give students a platform to seriously address the issues we have been talking about,” he said. “Bargaining for the common good is simply the means we use to do that.”