Letters to the Editor
Far and above the rest
The last few Bulletins have been far and above anything that I have received in the past. The last one (Winter 2006) was super. I don't know what the difference is at your end, but what I am receiving now is heads and shoulders above the Bulletins of the past fifty years. Keep up the good work. These are better than 99 percent of the College Bulletins that I have ever seen. Wow!!!
--Bruce Willitts '52
Fiction vs. reality
The cover of the Winter 2006 Bulletin proclaimed "We Are Kenyon," picturing a white woman rugby player, and foreshadowed "one photographer's portraits of today's students" inside. Perhaps the photographer and Bulletin editor never conferred. Inside, the remaining photos portray, conservatively evaluated, seven minority students out of thirteen.
This is embarrassing. Kenyon's student population is 12 percent minorities. Implying that the student body is a global village is a sad violation of Kenyon's highest principle, intellectual honesty.
I was graduated in 1984. Back then, minority students were as common at Kenyon as nice weather. It's good to know the former is changing, even if the latter never will. I applaud Kenyon's efforts to reach out to minority students. But do it honestly, not through a transparent effort to both distort reality and self-congratulate. Fiction is one of Kenyon's hallmarks. The Bulletin should leave it to Doctorow, Chalmers, and Lentz.
--Eric Hauser '84
A political omission
For several days following the death of William Rehnquist on September 3, 2005, I accessed Kenyon's Web site looking for a statement from the College regarding the passing of one of Kenyon's most distinguished matriculates. After the passage of several days, I sent an e-mail to Kenyon's public relations director asking why no statement had been issued concerning the death of this former Kenyon student who just so happened to be the sixteenth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. I received a response stating that the College would deal with the death of the chief justice in the upcoming edition of the Bulletin.
Upon the publication of the Bulletin (Winter 2006), I was angered to see that the sole reference to Rehnquist's death was a small obituary included in the "In Memoriam" section.
Political ideology is the obvious reason for the College's omission of any meaningful acknowledgment regarding Rehnquist's stellar legal career and his significant impact on the judicial debates framing the last thirty years. Apparently, the fact that Rehnquist was named to the Supreme Court by a Republican president and maintained a conservative judicial philosophy trumps the fact that he was arguably the most important Kenyon matriculate since Rutherford B. Hayes.
The Winter 2005 edition of the Bulletin contained an article on whether a liberal orthodoxy prevails at Kenyon and other institutions of higher education. While concluding that a liberal perspective dominates at Kenyon, the author went on to comment on President S. Georgia Nugent's reaction to this reality: "While the polarization of the last election is still evident in some ways, so is the student body's energy and enthusiasm about the electoral process. Wanting to capitalize on that feeling, Nugent and others at Kenyon are exploring ways to keep political dialogue going, looking for opportunities to nurture voices from within the College while also inviting outside speakers to come to campus. It is through such exchanges that intellectual diversity will continue to thrive," Nugent says.
Intellectual diversity, indeed.
--George P. Harbison '76
The editors respond: In deciding how to note the passing of William Rehnquist, we felt that it would be presumptuous, misleading, and ultimately disrespectful to "claim" the chief justice as Kenyon's own, given that he spent less than three months at the College and that, in discussing his education and intellectual background, most authorities--including Rehnquist himself--have little or nothing to say about Kenyon. Our decision may or may not have been a wise one. But it did not arise from political ideology.
I was startled when I received the Winter 2006 edition of the Bulletin. I first thought one of my shirts had been stolen again, because Megan O'Neil '07, who graces the front cover, could be the identical twin of our oldest daughter Bonny (twenty years ago). Bonny was accepted by Kenyon but instead chose Hiram, from which she graduated in 1985 with a degree in German. She ended up in Kent, Ohio, where for many years she was the much loved proprietor of the legendary Brady's Café, a fifties-style coffee house at the corner of Main and Lincoln--recently devolved to a Starbucks, to the dismay of many.
--Andrew Graham '58
A gratuitous slap
As a current Kenyon parent as well as an independent college admissions counselor, I must lodge my objection to the gratuitous slap at independent counselors in the Bulletin article "Decisions, Decisions" (Fall 2005). The article accuses independent counselors of "taking advantage of students' fears and playing on the myth of the 'perfect fit' school."
No independent counselor I know ever would suggest that there is one "perfect fit school" for a student. In fact, we often spend much of our time trying to ease anxiety, reduce stress, and educate students and their parents about many lesser-known excellent colleges and universities. In my experience, independent counselors are often a voice of reason in a college admissions culture in which some colleges (fortunately not Kenyon) bombard students with marketing materials to induce applications from those who have little chance of acceptance (in order to drive down the college's acceptance rate), in which some parents believe that failure to gain admission to a "brand name" college dooms their child to a life of mediocrity, and in which some big public high school guidance counselors with huge student loads may be so busy helping students maneuver the shoals of high school that they have very limited time to learn about and recommend any college other than the local state university. And to the extent that the quote is meant to imply that independent counselors represent that they can get students into the colleges of their choice, please note that the ethical guidelines of the Independent Educational Consultants Association provide that independent counselors should avoid actions that may give the appearance of an attempt to influence an admission placement.
I am confident that within each class of Kenyon first-year students is more than one who would not have selected this jewel of a college without the guidance of an independent college counselor!
--Marsha Shaines P'08
Kerry at Commencement
I believe the selection of Senator John F. Kerry as Kenyon's Commencement speaker was inappropriate and disrespectful to the Kenyon community.-There is no doubt that Mr. Kerry has had a long career of service to the country, but he is at this moment, like George W. Bush, a highly controversial and polarizing figure.
For its lectures throughout the academic year, the College should seek to bring such figures, including and perhaps especially those with whom it disagrees intensely.-A Commencement address is not, however, an ordinary lecture.-It is the last taste an entire graduating class will have of its alma mater and, as such, an improper occasion for reinforcing the political beliefs of some students and denigrating those of others.
Kenyon's Commencement addresses should be tributes to everything for which it stands and to what makes it distinct from mess halls, manufacturing plants, and town squares.-They should be free both of the platitudinous cheerleading of members of presidential cabinets and the self-interested sanctimony of politicians who'd like to replace them.
Kenyon is not a campaign stop, nor a place to launch new political initiatives.-It is an institution of higher learning, a village unmarked by the vitriolic character of much national debate, an extraordinary place that should conjure up vastly more than partisan associations in the minds of people who know nothing else of it.
--David Donadio '03
Clarification on mosaic makers An article in the Winter 2006 Bulletin ("Parnassus in Olin," page 7) referred to a mosaic but did not identify its source. The work, in an Olin Library classroom named Parnassus and dedicated to classics, was created by the high-school Latin students of Dan Foley, who teaches in Dublin, Ohio, and coaches football at Kenyon. Foley's students, who designed the piece themselves based on the myth of Pegasus and the fountain of poetic inspiration, visited the College on February 24, when Associate Professor of Classics Carolin Hahnemann welcomed them to Parnassus in the guise of Athena, goddess of wisdom. According to Hahnemann, senior Thomas Cirillo, a classics major and Lords football player, told of "players rehearsing Latin declensions in the huddle." Now, those are student-athletes!
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