Section: News

Party woes plague students

The theme was Oceanography 101, and a wave of excitement washed over two seniors hosting the first party in their North Campus Apartment (NCA) this past Saturday night. They invited 50 friends, anticipating not all would attend. At 9:30 p.m., the sea of guests began to arrive. About an hour later, at 10:45 p.m., the party was forced to drop anchor: Campus Safety had arrived. The party was overflowing with revelers, so the safety officers pulled the plug. The two seniors have a student conduct meeting today to discuss the violation and possible consequences.

Two weekends into the new academic year, some students are still unsure how to host small gatherings in line with College policy, which, starting this semester, no longer requires small party registration. Small gatherings comprise of about 20 students, according to Student Council meeting minutes. Though the rules for such parties are the same as in previous years other than registration, according to Director of Student Engagement Laura Kane, those rules are noticeably absent from the Kenyon website and Student Handbook. Now, realizing information is difficult and perhaps impossible for students to find, members of the administration are beginning efforts to communicate the fine print.

“If you’re going to be holding us accountable and treating us like adults, as it’s supposed to be, you need to at least tell us the guidelines that we’re supposed to be following,” Phillip Gray Clark ’17, student council president, said.

The Office of Housing and Residential Life, the Office of Student Engagement, Campus Safety and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities are collaborating on a flier listing guidelines for hosting small gatherings, which Kane said will be posted around campus and distributed via email by the end of this week. Lauren Michael ’17, a Community Advisor for the NCAs, arranged a meeting with Campus Safety Supervisor and Emergency Response Coordinator Todd Bell in which NCA residents can ask questions about the party policy. The discussion will take place Sunday at 8 p.m. in the Craft Center; if the meeting proves popular, similar ones may be offered for students living in other areas.

Clark attributed the delayed announcement of guidelines to a lack of communication between administrators, as well as confusion over who is currently responsible for addressing questions about the policy.

“I keep on hearing from [the Office of] Student Engagement that it’s going to be Housing and ResLife; now it’s going to be James Jackson, director of student rights and responsibilities,” Clark said. “We’ve had two weekends now, and I haven’t heard anything. I think that’s really unsafe for students.”

One major point of confusion for students is how many guests they can host at their small gatherings. Clark was under the impression that capacity has changed, but Kane said this was untrue.

“There have never been changes to occupancy requirements,” Kane said. “When it comes to the communication of that number, and any confusion there might have been, I would encourage [students] to talk to Housing.”

Capacity can be calculated by dividing the square footage of the room space by 20 and then rounding down, but Collegian staffers could not find the actual capacity numbers for apartments such as NCAs on the Kenyon website. After multiple calls to the Office of Housing and Residential Life, the Collegian was told no ResLife staffers were available to comment.

“If [students] weren’t clearly told the occupancy of their apartment, I don’t understand how they can be held accountable,” Clark said. “We’re used to Old Kenyon parties where you can barely move your arms.”

When Campus Safety arrived at Oceanography 101, the officers told Nora Hamovit ’17, one of the hosts, that NCA occupancy was 17 to 20 people and their party was overcrowded. Hamovit said the officers told her that “as long as there aren’t people overflowing from your house or the music isn’t too loud they’re probably not going to do anything.”

Hamovit said Safety did not give the apartment a chance to clear people out and restart the party as is common practice at all campus parties, instead shutting it down completely.Safety officers shut down two parties last weekend for overcrowding, according to Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper.

“Most of the officers have been here a long time,” Hooper said. “They have a pretty good idea of when things are becoming a risk not only for the host but for the institution.”

To Clark, last weekend demonstrated much more College oversight of small gatherings than he envisioned when he announced the party policy updates in June. Clark believed removing the registration requirement would give students more independence in terms of hosting parties, and that the College would take a step back. Instead, he is frustrated that students are getting in trouble for violating party guidelines that were not communicated to them.

“This isn’t the policy that I signed off on,” Clark said. “I am strongly in the camp of bringing back the old system.”

Hamovit is afraid students’ lack of clarity on small gatherings will result in larger parties, such as all-campus parties, dominating the social scene.

“I think when they make a party policy, it does have a lot of influence on the social structure of the school,” Hamovit said. “I wouldn’t necessarily be happy if only large parties that are registered by a large group are what would happen.”

When the small gatherings policy is reviewed in the spring — Kane told Clark it would be — Clark said he plans to advocate the return of the old system. “I have not heard one student who is liking this,” he said.

Victoria Ungvarsky contributed reporting.

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