Petition update

Frequently Asked Questions

Stop the Cuts Coalition
Gambier, OH, United States

Jun 25, 2020 — 

Why shouldn’t cuts to employee benefits be targeted? Why can’t we eliminate these cuts for some classes of workers while keeping them for others?

Kenyon cannot legally prorate classes of workers. Because the College operates on a 403b plan as opposed to a 401k, the institution is not allowed in its current position to cut benefits for certain groups of workers and not others. This is not about one specific group or sector of employee, it’s about all of them. In other words, if one Kenyon employee loses benefits, they all do. 

How else would the college cover this financial gap besides cutting matching retirement contributions? What are some alternatives to consider?

Kenyon has a $13.3 million Rainy Day Fund that, as far as we know, has not yet been tapped into throughout the pandemic and the ongoing financial crisis. If the College wishes to continue to assert that this Fund is not a viable option, they need to make this clear through an open discussion.We don’t wish to insinuate that the funding for matching retirement benefits must come from this fund, but rather that there has been a failure on the part of the college thus far to give adequate reasonings for why an institution with the ability to access such funds will not do so to protect its employees. Part of the problem is that we don’t know exactly which alternatives have been explored and discussed because this has been such a closed-off process.  We started this campaign in response to concerns from staff and faculty about the proposed cuts, as well as to provide students with a platform to support Kenyon employees while also critiquing Kenyon’s current decision-making process. 

Shouldn’t we be glad that Kenyon has managed to navigate the crisis so far without laying off any employees or introducing pay cuts? 

We are grateful for what Kenyon has done so far to protect workers. However, it is important to recognize that Kenyon could not run at all without the essential contributions of employees, especially as complications arise due to the ongoing pandemic. Keeping workers on payroll is not always an act of benevolence so much as a necessity if the administration wants to run a residential program in the fall. Therefore, the concerns and voices of these employees must be at the center of all debate and decision-making. We also believe employees should not have to choose between firing or furloughs and important retirement benefits, especially given Kenyon’s relative financial strength. Most importantly, we all must remain vigilant about making sure that plans put forth by the administration are as fair and equitable as possible. 

What would it mean for financial aid opportunities and tuition for years to come if the proposed cuts to matching retirement contributions are eliminated?

The cuts to retirement and otherwise are meant to balance the College’s operating budget and have no relationship to the financial aid budget. Nothing the administration has said thus far suggests that money made back from cuts to employee benefits would go towards increasing financial aid or lowering tuition, as these are separate parts of the budget to begin with.  If the administration does imply in the future that the College must choose between financial aid and retirement benefits for employees, we should all view such an implication as a particularly cruel form of economic warfare that attempts to pit low-income students against working-class employees. 

What is the Middle Path Partnership?

Established in 2012, the Middle Path Partnership (MPP), is an institution that provides for the cooperative governance of the maintenance department. Maintenance workers, represented by the maintenance unions UE Local 712 and IAM Local 2794, meet weekly with relevant administrators to discuss news and business. The idea of the MPP became a reality when the College attempted to outsource the employment of its maintenance workers in 2012 to SODEXO—a decision it reversed after widespread community opposition. We find it unfortunate that the philosophy of MPP, based on transparent and collaborative decision-making, was violated by the Kenyon administration in their unilateral decision to pursue retirement cuts with no plan to re-compensate workers. 

Why shouldn’t Kenyon employees just accept the cuts given the ongoing financial crisis?

Many Kenyon employees have expressed that they are willing to accept benefit cuts, and we understand that the present economic crisis will require everyone to make sacrifices. However, we feel that the process through which cuts have been planned so far has been unclear, exclusive, and antithetical to Kenyon’s supposed values of inclusion and collaborative discussion. The kind of top-down decision-making exhibited so far is one that many of us have seen from the administration in the past. In advocating for a process of navigating the present crisis based on shared governance between employees and the administration, we are also advocating for a future in which campus decisions are made with the input and evaluation of all members of the Kenyon community. 

What can I do as a current student to help support the Stop the Cuts Coalition after signing the petition?

Thank you so much for your support! We hope you will share the petition with other students, your parents, alumni, and whoever you know who has a relationship with the college. There is also a Stop the Cuts Coalition Facebook page that we hope you will like and share with others. We encourage you to contact members of the Kenyon administration, specifically President Sean Decatur and VP for Facilities, Planning, and Sustainability Ian Smith. Many members of the Stop the Cuts Coalition are also active members of the recently formed Kenyon Student Labor Coalition, an organization focused on building the relationship between workers and students on Kenyon’s campus. We encourage current students to attend future meetings of the Kenyon Student Labor Coalition and plan to hold meetings this Fall, depending on social distancing guidelines. 

What can I do as an alum to help support the Stop the Cuts Coalition after signing the petition?

Thank you so much for supporting Kenyon workers and their rights! As a Kenyon alum, you play an important and powerful role within the Kenyon community. We hope you will share the petition with other alumni and whoever you know that has a relationship with the college in addition to liking and sharing the Facebook page we have created that is dedicated to this campaign. Additionally, we encourage you to contact members of the Kenyon administration, specifically President Sean Decatur and VP for Facilities, Planning, and Sustainability Ian Smith. Senior Staff contact information is available here: (https://www.kenyon.edu/about-kenyon/office-of-the-president/senior-staff/ 

If you would like to be further involved in our organizing efforts or have further questions, please contact the Stop the Cuts Coalition via our Facebook page.


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