Section: News

Notably large, young first-year class raises eyebrows

Notably large, young first-year class raises eyebrows

by Gabrielle Healy and Maya Kaufman

In the U.S., turning 18 doesn’t only mean gaining the right to vote — for some, it also brings the first year of college.

But this year, Kenyon administrators have been vocal about the high number of first-year students who are not yet 18, and thus not yet adults in the eyes of the law.

While admissions statistics show the number of underage first-year students who entered Kenyon this fall does not mark a significant change from years past, the 493 members of the Class of 2019 are raising administrators’ concern that minors on campus could encounter issues regarding the age of consent. Training leaders for groups like Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMAs), Beer & Sex Advisors and Upperclass Counselors (UCCs) emphasized this fact during orientation.

SMA Hayley Shipley ’17 said her instruction emphasized the specifics of confidentiality surrounding underage students and how the SMAs are mandated reporters who lack confidentiality in cases involving students under 18.

By Ohio law, someone is legally able to consent to sexual intercourse at the age of 16, but a 17-year-old student remains a minor, leaving him or her in a complex space in certain instances of sexual activity. Although groups such as the SMAs and the Counseling Center are confidential resources for students in cases of sexual misconduct, if an underage individual identifying as a victim of sexual misconduct approaches one of these outlets, the case must be referred to the Title IX coordinator and the director of Campus Safety, according to the student handbook. From there, the issue is reported to the Knox County Children’s Services’ child abuse hotline.

However, it is possible under certain conditions to talk to individuals confidentially about an issue of sexual misconduct.

Shipley said that if an underage student wished to discuss a possible instance of sexual misconduct with her, both parties in the conversation could speak in hypotheticals without breaching the confidentiality of the resource. “I would probably tell [College Counselor] Nikki [Keller] about it, and kind of use her discretion,” she said.

Keller said that although the information would not remain completely confidential because otherwise-confidential sources would have to report the incident, underage survivors of sexual misconduct will still have the same amount of control over the investigative process.

“That does not necessarily mean that anything different will happen,” Keller said. Knox  County Children’s Services “may choose not to do anything, [but] they may reach out to this student and say, ‘Would you like to do anything formal?'”

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