Racial, religious and LGBT groups are fairly vocal on campus--sometimes to the point where they make some people angry. I don't think any student can feel out of place at Kenyon--unless they're close-minded. That's the thing I love about Kenyon: there are so many different types of people here, who all interact and become friends with people who are completely different from them. In the cafeteria, you can occasionally point out one table as the soccer guys, or another as kids from the Unity House (the LGBT meeting place on campus), but in general, I find people to be unclassifiable, which is absolutely wonderful to me. Geographically, politically, religiously, and economically, students at Kenyon are extremely diverse. There is frequent political debate, though you can easily stay out of it if you're not into that. Generally, I think Kenyon is a more left-leaning campus, but there are definitely conservative people here, too, which differentiates us from a place like Oberlin. The diverse student body is what makes the school so appealing to me. And even better is that are all unclassifiable.
Kenyon isn't diverse. They're trying, but you can't really force that sort of thing. It used to be more socio-economically diverse, but because of the acceptance rates and the types of students they're seeking, that's going away, too. LGBT and religious diversity is pretty good, and both groups have an active presence on campus. For the most part, all different groups or cliques get along, because it's so small and everyone goes to the same parties and has the same classes. It used to be that most students would wear pajamas or casual jeans and t-shirts to class, but it's getting more dressy (and hipster), especially for women. As far as four tables go, that's a big part of Kenyon. The swimmers sit together, the betas (mostly football players) sit together, the circle table (mostly minority students) sit together, and then there's everyone else. Most Kenyon students are from New England, Washington D.C. or Ohio. Students are pretty politically aware, but there's also a definite bubble culture wherein its very easy to ignore the rest of the world.
There is a good support network for LGBT folk at Kenyon. There is a special interest house where the organisation has a base, and where they can meet etc., and people on campus are for the most part really accepting and there is no separation. There was one incidence since I have been there where someone was ridiculed for their sexual orientation, but that was an isolated incident and had other facets besides sexuality that lead up to it. Wealthier students are obviously the majority, but like I said earlier, I was surprised by just how many people were far from rich, and working hard to maintain themselves on scholarship or with loans. To classes, dress is very VERY casual! And yes, students are very politically aware. There are a lot of opportunities to see speakers who come to school talking about different political, social, or environmental issues, and there is often a very good turnout.
Kenyon students are varied. A lot of people are lazy when it comes to broader issues, but that's definitely not always the case. We care, but we're disorganized. Some students are extremely active politically, and others don't want to be bothered with the issues right now. I'm involved with the LGBT community on campus, specifically the politically active branch, and getting others involved can be difficult. This is partially because Kenyon is generally a very welcoming community, so people forget what it's like off the hill in the real world. A lot of people are upper middle class, but not everyone. There isn't a lot of racial diversity, but the number is growing. There are religious groups and an active LGBT group on campus, all of which are very warm and welcoming.
Kenyon is so white that there's only one black dude on the basketball team. Mostly upper middle class, but you find people from other socio-economic groups. Everybody mixes and migles, and snobbery is looked down upon. There are, however, those minority students that for the most part keep to themselves, like a little "support group." Kenyon students are rather unkempt. People often go to class looking like they just rolled out of bed. Sweatpants and a northface jacket are like the Kenyon uniform. It's so disappointing. However, there are pockets of people with impeccable or interesting style, which is always refreshing and a joy to see. Theres also those troupes of people who think they have style, but they just rock American Apparel all the time, and ALL look alike.
Kenyon students are from all over. Perhaps the most predominant group are upper-middle class New Englanders. People wear anything and everything to class. In one class you'll see some people in sweats, jeans & t-shirt, sun dresses, and usually a few pairs of Uggs. There are few racial/ethnic minority students on campus but I wouldn't say that such students would feel out of place. Students do not seem particularly political, although Kenyon made big news in the 2004 election because students waited in line for hours (the last polling station to close) to make sure their votes counted. Kenyon definitely leans way to the left, but as with other things, I feel like this is changing some.
I feel out of place at Kenyon. Most of the kids here have been extremely heltered and seem to have no interest in observing a world different from their own. It''s a very preppy sort of place, and there's a WASPy sort of sloppiness to the appearance of many, mostly sweatpants and J Crew. I have been criticized for my own eclectic style of dress, which then bears the question "are people reeally judging you base don what you wear?" and apparently some are, which is kind of pathetic. I have found two extremes: people can be really, really sweet or incredibly judgmental. In such a small place, word travels fast, and if your reputation is at all disputed, then you might have a problem.
Kenyon is a very laidback campus; some people are so laidback they slip into apathy about "issues" of politics, religion, race, etc. However, there are still students who care quite deeply about these issues and, if nothing else, discuss them quite heavily. Basically, we are a small school, but somehow, there's a niche for everyone. If you really like the big city and the anonymous nature of it, though, then Kenyon will be a very tough place for you. That said, we have loads of people from large cities here, and they love it! Kenyon provides students with the chance to make their own place at the school; you just have to do it!
I think a very conservative student might feel out of place, just because the campus is strongly liberal. This is not to say that everyone is liberal--there's a Republican student group as well as Democratic (and Libertarian). People seem very free to just be themselves, not caring what they look like. I know I try to look put together for me, not because I'd be out of place if I didn't. Politically, it's a very interesting campus--a few years back students waited for 13 hours in the rain to vote in the presidential election, but almost all of the student government positions run uncontested.
Diversity is the Holy Grail of the Kenyon Admissions Office. Try as they might to draw in students from a wide range of backgrounds, the same throngs of Mid-Western/Mid-Atlantic, Middle Class/Upper-Middle Class, Caucasian/Non-Hispanic, and Christian/Apathetic fill the halls. Then by harping on so much about multicultural affairs, the administration inadvertently clusters the coveted 12% together and fosters the very separation that they hoped to dispel. The greatest diversity in the student population is in its opinions. And even may occasionally seem startlingly uniform.