Sacred Gravel

If the apocalypse ever does come to Gambier (and, as with everything else, we'll have to wait until it's already passé on the coasts), the cause will be a proposal to pave Middle Path. Forget the inconvenience of mud and slush, particularly to anyone wearing heels. Forget bone-cracking falls on the ice. Forget the affront to those with physical disabilities. Forget the expense of new gravel every year. Pave Middle Path? You may as well declare World War III right now.

It's not worth asking whether there are sound reasons for paving the path. This is not a cost-benefit question. Sacred, sloppy Middle Path is a matter of tradition, of identity, of Kenyon's difference. Basically, goes the argument, if God had wanted Middle Path paved, He would have made us Middlebury.

Suspicions are forever seething that the College has plans to hard-top the hallowed mile (actually, more like a kilometer). During the summer of 1989, the administration paved some "tributary" paths on the south end with a surface called "exposed aggregate," chosen for its "natural, gravelly look." When students returned in the fall, they pounced, and officials had to deny that the improvements were "starter paths" clearing the way for Bexley-to-Old-Kenyon paving.

They also had to explain why the tributaries jutted into the main pathway. The answer: to prepare for work restoring the width of the path to its original ten feet. And they had to insist that they hadn't sneakily waited until students were gone for the summer before making the changes. Spring had brought an $80,000 donation from trustee Robert Tomsich for the work, which was intended in part to keep mud and gravel out of the recently refurbished south-campus dorms and Ascension Hall.

The College has in fact contemplated paving Middle Path at least twice, mainly to save money on upkeep. The first time was in 1970-71, and one response was the creation of Middle Path Day, wherein students helped tidy the campus. In 1979, anthropology professor Kenneth Smail suggested that Kenyon raise money by having donors pay for bricks (inscribed with their names) that would cover the path. The trustees decided against the idea (which would have required about 133,200 bricks).

The issue resurfaced (as it were) this spring, as additional tributaries were paved and accessibility concerns generated a faculty petition arguing that the time had come for humanity to trump tradition. The Collegian endorsed the idea of paving Middle Path. The trustees are studying ways to satisfy everyone. DeliciousFacebook FacebookStumbleUpon StumbleUponDigg Diggreddit reddit