Tentative compromise reached in Peoples Bank controversyA tentative compromise over the proposed move of the Peoples Bank to a site at 103 East Wiggin Street was reached in May, but the final design of the new building remains a work-in-progress.
Since last December, Peoples Bank officials have been trying to move forward with a plan that would shift their operations from the existing bank at the corner of Chase Avenue and Brooklyn Street to a new facility on East Wiggin Street. The plan was met with vocal opposition from community members and Kenyon, with concerns cited about pedestrian and traffic safety and a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
As the Bulletin went to press, the design issue was being addressed by representatives of the bank, the College, the village, the Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The bank needs the FDIC's approval on the building design before it can begin construction. Under federal law, the FDIC bases its decision on a recommendation from state agencies such as the OHPO.
The role of the FDIC and OHPO is to ensure that the bank considers the impact its new building will have on the historic character of adjacent properties, according to Al Knoeck, an FDIC official. Because the bank is licensed by the FDIC, it must comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which requires a review of projects that affect historic properties.
"The people from the Historic Preservation Office have told us they feel there is a unique historic atmosphere in the village and how special Gambier is," said Gambier Mayor Jennifer Farmer. She said she welcomed a closer look at the design compromise that was reached by the bank and Kenyon in May. Among the provisions of the agreement is a design that calls for wood clapboard siding and shutters on the new bank. The bank's original drawings, made public last December, showed a brick exterior.
While calling the design compromise a step in the right direction, Farmer said the changes still do not go far enough. "We're still left with a roof line that is out of character with the surrounding buildings and a one-story, monolithic structure that doesn't fit into the neighborhood," she insisted.
The mayor was encouraged by an alternative design proposed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art K. Read Baldwin '84 at a Village Council meeting in June. By turning the proposed building sideways, Baldwin's design allows for thirty feet of green space at the front of the building and shields the bank's parking spaces by moving them behind the structure.
"His drawings are fabulous," said Farmer. "The difference was just unbelievable." Those changes, along with others drafted by architects hired by the bank and the College, are being examined in the historic review process, she added.
In addition to calling for wood clapboard siding and shutters, the agreement between Peoples Bank and Kenyon stipulates that
- The bank will work closely with the mayor, Village Council,and village administrator on safety issues at the site.
- Kenyon will pay to relocate the house that now sits at 103 East Wiggin Street. The building, which is thought to be historically significant, will be moved to a vacant lot on Ward Street just north of the Palme House parking lot, according to Joseph G. Nelson, the College's vice president for finance. Preliminary plans call for the house to be converted for use as offices and small seminar rooms. [Editor's note: At press time, it appeared that the move to the proposed site would be disallowed on the basis of zoning issues.]
- Kenyon will have the right of first refusal, with certain conditions, to acquire both the existing bank site and new bank location should they ever be for sale.
The agreement ended months of sometimes acrimonious debate between bank and College officials. Bank representatives contend that their current building is outdated and the existing site does not allow for an expansion plan that makes sense for the bank. However, the bank's original proposal met stiff resistance from community members, who gained the support of the College.
Frustrated by a lack of progress in talks with bank representatives, Kenyon officials in March began the process of acquiring the Wiggin Street property through eminent domain. However, that action was halted once the compromise was reached, Nelson noted.
"I encourage everyone to join with us in the spirit of compromise and community good will and support the new bank project," he said. "This issue has fragmented our community enough. It is now time to cooperate with one another for the good of everyone in the community."
Kenyon enters into new contractFollowing a lockout that began when contract negotiations broke down on June 30, skilled-trades workers at the College returned to work on August 18 after approving a new three-year contract on August 13.
The seventeen workers--carpenters, electricians, helpers, mechanics, painters, plumbers, and utility personnel--are members of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, an independent union.
"We are both pleased and relieved to have brought this most unfortunate labor situation to an end," said President Robert A. Oden Jr. in announcing that an agreement had been reached with the locked-out workers. "We are grateful to all those who participated in the negotiations for their diligence in fashioning a contract acceptable to both Kenyon and this highly valued group of workers. We look forward to all parties doing their best to heal the wounds that have resulted from the events of the past month and a half."
Several bargaining sessions were held between the College and union negotiators during the lockout. A federal mediator assisted in confronting and narrowing the issues, which included wages and health insurance, in all but one of those meetings.
"I've been told that the Lord put our eyes in the front of our head to see where we're going and not where we've been," commented Joseph G. Nelson, vice president for finance. "I'm thrilled that we now have this situation behind us, that we can all look forward to moving ahead and continuing to work, without distraction, for this college that so many of us love."
Kenyon's only other unionized workers, its custodians and groundskeepers, are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW). (The College's food services are provided under contract by ARAMARK, whose workers are also unionized.) Kenyon signed a three-year pact with the IAMAW members on June 30. The lockout of the skilled-trades workers was the first labor stoppage at the College in more than twenty-five years.
"The maintenance staff will be very happy to get back to normal," said Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Thomas Lepley when the agreement was announced, "and we are looking forward to the future. We thank everyone for their patience and support during this difficult time."
Military-recruitment policy revisedF aced with large cuts in federal student aid, the College has reluctantly altered its policy banning military recruiting on campus. Kenyon officials estimated that the College could lose more than a quarter of a million dollars in student-aid funding if it did not lift the ban.
In an August 15 letter to the assistant secretary of defense for force management policy, President Robert A. Oden Jr. wrote, "It is indeed unfortunate that the federal government and its various agencies have placed Kenyon College in the position of choosing between the welfare of our students and important principles of equal education and employment opportunities for all Kenyon students.
"We really do feel we now have no choice in this matter, thus the decision to modify our policies in this area consistent with recent changes in federal regulations and rules." Kenyon's ban on military recruiters began in 1992 when students objected to military recruitment on the grounds that it violated the College's nondiscrimination policy because the military discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.
Originally, Kenyon was only denied funding from the Department of Defense, but new laws deny federal funds on a wider level that includes the Perkins Loan, College Work-Study, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs.
"I'm not happy about the decision we had to make," said Dean of Students Donald J. Omahan, "but the impact the cuts would have had on our students was unthinkable."
Omahan added that he believes Kenyon has a good track record of being supportive of the College's bisexual, gay, and lesbian population and hopes that this decision won't send a message to the contrary.
Melissa L. Kravetz, copresident of the student group AlliedSexual Orientations, said she finds the decision upsetting but thinks Kenyon made the right choice. "If I were put in the position the College is in, I think I would have done the same thing," she said.
The City College of San Francisco lifted a similar ban just days after Kenyon did so. The colleges were among only a very few that had not revised their policies under the increasing pressure of loss of federal funds.
Maureen E. Tobin, director of the Career Development Center, said it's rare to deny recruiters access to campus. "It felt good to stand behind our principles and give all of our students an equal opportunity for job interviews," she said. "But when it comes down to choosing between principles and giving our students the financial aid they need, it becomes hard to stand behind those principles."
There are no plans to modify the College's recruiting statement, but Tobin and Omahan said such changes will be discussed.
Oden stressed that all recruiters who come to Kenyon's campus should be prepared to explain their employment policies. While Kravetz said she can't speak for the rest o the student body, she plans to be present when military recruiters come to campus and to question their policies.
Omahan is concerned with the effect Congress is having on the private sector. "It makes our ability to chart our own course more difficult," he said. "This leads to bigger issues that extend far beyond Kenyon."
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Campus sex survey reveals the facts behind the perceptionsF rom media reports, it sometimes seems that college campuses--Kenyon included--are perceived to be modern equivalents of Sodom and Gomorrah, with students hopping from bed to bed almost as quickly as they flip the pages of their textbooks. However, perception and fact don't seem to match when it comes to the level of sexual activity among the College's students.
The reality of the situation, reflected in responses to a campuswide survey conducted during spring semester, is that many students have an exaggerated view of how frequently their classmates are "having sex." They also overestimate the number of sexual partners that students have during their time at Kenyon.
Conducted by the College's Sexual Harassment Task Force, the survey shows that 42 percent of the female respondents and 39 percent of the males said they have had no sexual partners at Kenyon. The average is 1.42 sexual partners for women responding to the survey and 1.91 for men. In contrast, women respondents estimate that the average female student will have 5.23 sex partners by the time she graduates and the average male will have 8.26. Male respondents place the average number of sex partners for women at 4.86 and 6.27 for men.
"The institution does have this reputation for being sexually active, but it doesn't seem well-founded by theseresults," says Associate Professor of Psychology Sarah K. Murnen, who worked with a student committee in conducting the survey and compiling the results. "The first-year students have the most inaccurate impressions and the most inflated estimates of sexual activity."
The survey notes that among those students having sex, the average number of times per month is 3.24 among women and 4.81 among men. Again, those numbers are below the estimated totals from the respondents. Women guess that the average female is having sex 4.3 times per month and the average male 5.91 times; the estimates from the men were 4.06 times for females and 5.17 times for males.
Murnen points out that because a fairly large number of women (452) responded to the survey, the results seem to be "very representative" of what is actually occurring with women on campus. However, the results aren't so clear on the male side because only 198 men responded. Murnen, who has conducted extensive research on sexual violence and how gender influences sexuality, says it is always more difficult to get men to participate in psychological surveys and even more so when the topic is sex. "They may have thought the purpose was to determine the extent of sexual harassment on campus even though we avoided wording questions that would have created that impression," she adds.
However, the survey does indicate that sexual harassment is a part of campus life. For example, 54.7 percent of the women respondents and 28.8 percent of the men say they have received unwelcome touching in a social situation; 17.3 percent of the women and 9 percent of the men say have been in a situation where someone became so sexually aroused that they felt they could not stop the person even though they didn't want to have sex. Eight percent of the women claim that a professor or coach made seductive remarks about their appearance, body, or sexuality.
While the frequency of those incidents doesn't seem out of line with that of other studies seen by Murnen, she cautions that actions which may appear minor in scope have a cumulative effect. "Sometimes we dismiss everyday things as not being important," she says, "but an accumulation of those incidents on a fairly consistent basis can lead to one not feeling as comfortable or confident as one should."
The Sexual Harassment Task Force will use the survey results as a guide in developing additional programs, according to Associate Dean of Students Cheryl L. Steele, chair of the task force. She says the results will be addressed in the student discussion groups the task force has been sponsoring. A follow-up survey is a possibility, as is republishing the results this fall for new students and others who may have missed the report when it was released in the spring.
"The survey provides us with a better understanding of student attitudes and experiences," says Steele. "We'll use the information cautiously and in context with what we're already doing."
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