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Kenyon’s criminal impact on the Village linked with alcohol use

Kenyon’s criminal impact on the Village linked with alcohol use

By Maya Kaufman

It’s not unusual to wake up on Sunday morning to visible remnants of the night before, whether it be a broken bench on Middle Path or a painting missing from the Great Hall in Peirce.

Kenyon’s drinking culture goes hand-in-hand with an inclination towards impulsive activities that affect not only the campus but the community as a whole.

Although underage consumption is the number-one offense committed by students, the College focuses on encouraging students to drink safely rather than preaching abstention.

P. Robert Broeren, Jr., the assistant city prosecutor at Mount Vernon Municipal Court, emphasized the role that alcohol consumption plays in relatively minor criminal offenses such as vandalism and burglary.

“The common thread that runs through nearly everything where Kenyon students have contact with law enforcement in Knox County is that the use of alcohol or other illegal drugs … tends to lead to making poor decisions and that generally tends to lead to unfortunate interactions with law enforcement,” Broeren said.

Captain Jay Sheffer, who is second-in-command at the Captain Jay Sheffer, who is second-in-command at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, echoed Broeren.

“People will do a lot more things while they’re intoxicated,” Sheffer said. “You don’t really think about what you’re doing or look at the long-term effects … [People] just act upon the here, the now in whatever condition they’re in at that point.”

Brandon January ’15 said that it is difficult to be aware of any possible repercussions when alcohol comes into the picture. “I feel like people indulge in being drunk and don’t realize the consequences,” January said.

Yet, offenses committed while under the influence perhaps stem from a larger issue: that students take the campus and its resources for granted.

“I think that people have a tendency at Kenyon to forget what is public [property] and what is private [property],” Luke Kresslein ’15 said. “People think, ‘This is my bench and I can break it, or this is my campus, this is my space … so I can do with it what I want.’ But that’s not true.”

While drunk actions often do not have any long-term effects on the campus or surrounding communities, the attitude that these offenses do not have real consequences could potentially give rise to more serious violations.

Last semester, a former Kenyon student broke into the home of a Gambier resident while intoxicated. The student, who transferred out of Kenyon for reasons unrelated to the incident, was indicted on fourth-degree felony charges of criminal trespass. Broeren emphasized that such an offense does have an impact on the surrounding community.

Nancy Ingling, the resident whose home was broken into and a former employee of the College, said that the incident has made her feel unsafe. She reported being unable to sleep through the night for several months following the break-in.

“I think it’s made a permanent change in my life,” Ingling said. “If there’s any place in the world you want to feel safe it’s in your own bed and your own house. And I don’t feel safe there [now], and I always did [before].”

Ingling believes that crime on Kenyon’s campus has become more serious and has taken a number of safety-related precautions since the break-in last spring.

Although Broeren said that the number of serious criminal offenses “has remained roughly constant,” he added that he has seen a “definite increase” in the number of underage consumption of alcohol cases involving Kenyon students in the last five years, with no apparent influencing factors.

In 2013, there were 25 arrests for liquor law violations on campus, up from four arrests in 2012, according to the College’s crime statistics. However, there were 139 cases of underage consumption or possession from 2013 to 2014 — a drop from the 161 instances from 2012 to 2013, according to the statistics reported in the Student Handbook. Yet both the number of uses of the Good Samaritan Policy and the number of intoxicated students transported to Knox Community Hospital increased in the last year. These numbers suggest that while alcohol consumption may be perceived as increasing on campus, students are staying safer by requesting help — either for themselves or on another’s behalf.

Ultimately, it is relatively rare that Kenyon students will commit serious criminal offenses when under the influence.

“I’ve never heard of Kenyon students causing problems,” Rob Pienkos, a Mount Vernon resident, said. “I’ve always seen [Kenyon students] as responsible and mellow.”

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