On Saturday night Campus Safety initiated a lockdown when a man, thought to be armed, threatened to harm himself in the area near the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC). The lockdown lasted only 30 minutes, but multiple sheriff cars arrived at the scene.
This is the third instance of such a lockdown since Kenyon first implemented K-Card locks on dormitories in 2010.
The swipe system that was installed in 2008, which students originally protested. The 24/7 locking of dorms only began in 2011. Opposition among some students was originally so strong that they staged a protest at the Gates of Hell, where they erected a false ID card check station. At this point, only dorms had K Card readers, and they were not locked during the daytime hours.
The first time Campus Safety was ever forced to systematically “lock down” campus was in 2010, during the much-publicized murder of Apple Valley resident Tina Herrmann, her son Kody Maynard and her friend Stephanie Spring. Her daughter, Sarah, was rescued when the Knox County Sheriff’s Office dispatched a SWAT team raided the house of the main suspect, Matthew Hoffman, in Mount Vernon.
On Nov. 11 of that year, a truck belonging to Herrmann was found in the Brown Family Environmental Center by Knox County Sheriffs. Herrmann and the others had been reported missing the day before. Calls to Campus Safety reporting the police activity were forwarded to Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman, who immediately authorized a lockdown of the campus in fear that the suspect, still not known to be Hoffman, was still on the loose. Ironically, Hoffman, who had been found sitting in his truck by the Kokosing Gap Trail, had already been questioned and released by the police.
During the lockdown, all buildings were only accessible via K-Card, and all academic buildings were physically locked at 9:00 p.m. There were several “glitches” in the system, according to Campus Safety Officer Deborah Shelhorn. Some buildings were locked earlier than they were supposed to, and some buildings were not locked at all.
A second lockdown occurred only two months after that, in December 2010. This time, however, the lockdown began due to suspicion of potential violence. On Dec. 11, students overheard former Gambier resident and Village Market employee John Freeman make violent threats against Kenyon students at the Village Inn. Freeman was arrested by police without incident that same day. Police found a semiautomatic weapon at Freeman’s house, but no corresponding ammunition.
Freeman was charged with inciting panic and released on bail one day later. The College, despite the fact that Freeman had been released with a clean bill of mental health, feared he would try to harm students. They initiated another lockdown, this time hiring special deputies from the Knox County Sheriff and requesting that police make more patrols in the area. Because this was the second lockdown in three months and Freeman had committed no crime, some students found the measures drastic.
David Sterling ’11 said in an interview with the Collegian that “[the incident] was very strange. I would never have anticipated that there would be any cause for it.”
Other students saw the lockdown as justified, considering the crimes committed in Apple Valley just one month before. Freeman was fired from his job at the Village Market and was no longer allowed on Kenyon property. Shortly afterward, he moved away from Knox County.
“One would like to believe it’s a joke, but in the wake of what’s happened in the past,” Alex Borkowski ’13 said in an interview with WBNS Columbus, “we’re definitely a lot more on edge and we’re going to take these things a lot more seriously.”
Today’s College lockdown policies are similar to those of seven years ago. Today, however, dormitories are locked 24/7 and buildings are already locked during the night. This means that, during a lockdown, nothing is different on campus aside from the locking of all buildings that don’t already have K Card readers.
While Campus Safety officers cannot remotely lock dorms to all K Card access, they are currently making plans to be able to do so in case of emergency, according to Community Advisor Molly Wyrsch ’17.
This would be a step away from the current procedures, where the only difference for students is that they are asked to stay inside.