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College considers K-Card restrictions

The Residence Hall Card Access Working Group recommended that K-Card access be limited to only those who live in each residence hall beginning fall 2017 in the report they submitted to President Sean Decatur at the end of April.

The group concluded that the current K-Card access model leaves students at risk in a number of ways. This semester, they tested two possible new models in McBride and Watson Residence Halls. McBride limited access to residents between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., while Watson limited access to residents at all times. The working group concluded the Watson model was most in accordance with prioritizing student and community safety, according to the report. Not limiting access to all the dorms puts the College at risk for liability if an incident were to occur, the report states.

Specifically, the group felt limited access to residence halls would reduce instances of vandalism or intrusion by “random drunk people.” It would also address the fact that, currently, “academic buildings have more restrictive access than the residence halls, where students sleep and shower,” according to the report. Community Advisors, who can enter any residence hall at any time, would continue to have unlimited access; Campus Safety could provide Discrimination Advisors, Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Peer Counselors with building access as needed, if the College implemented a restricted access policy.

The group was comprised of 15 members, three of whom were students. They met monthly during the fall 2016 semester and then once more in April 2017.

The Residence Hall Card Access Working Group was formed in August of 2016 after students, faculty and parents voiced concerns about the current level of K-Card access. The Office of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) held two community meetings on July 6 and 19 last summer, each with 20 students present.

“Where I want to be, if at all possible, is on the preventative side because it takes a lot of time and energy to respond to a crisis or an emergency,” Director of ResLife and Assistant Dean of Students Jill Engel-Hellman said.

Some students do not trust that restricting K-Card access will make Kenyon safer. Julia Josowitz ’18, a resident of Watson, said she did not feel more secure due to restricted access.

“If you just stand outside the door, someone will come eventually and will let you in,” Josowitz said. The report notes this concern, but Engel-Hellman pointed out, “[K-Card Access] is not a one size fits all; [it] is a piece of a much larger and complicated puzzle.” The conversation about student safety will continue beyond just the recommendation and implementation of this specific policy.

Where the working group sees the question of K-Card access as one step of many in the quest to make Kenyon safer, students are concerned that its impact will be nullified.

“I think it is just trying to create a false sense of security,” Josowitz said.

The working group collected information from nine peer institutions and fifteen other Ohio schools.

“I had a colleague go to a conference recently and do a straw poll,” Engel-Hellman said, “and every institution around the table had more restrictive access than we did.”

Overall, the two trials in Watson and McBride were aimed at observing how restricted K-Card access might impact the day-to-day lives of students.

“While some students expressed concern with the changes after they were announced in Fall 2016,” the group’s report to President Decatur reads, “virtually nothing was heard — good or bad — from actual residents in McBride and Watson, as well as other community members.”

The students who did voice concerns did so in feedback sessions on April 3 and April 6, numbering five in total. Students were uncomfortable with the “extra barrier” required to let friends into residence halls, as well as general insecurity when they forgot their K-Card and no one was around to let them in.

Josowitz, who was unable to attend any of the feedback sessions due to conflicts, voiced similar complaints, saying that the extra effort required to let people in has actually impacted the feature that attracted her to Watson in the first place: how quiet it is.

Engel-Hellman welcomes these concerns as the discussion about student safety moves forward. As for next year, whatever change comes will be uniform throughout campus, and ultimately, the decision for what this change will be rests with President Decatur.