Next semester, students who do not live in Watson or McBride Residence Halls will have limited K-Card access to these buildings. In an effort to improve safety and reduce crime, the Office of Housing and Residential Life (ResLife) is implementing a pilot program to restrict access to student dormitories. K-Card access to McBride will be restricted for non-residents between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., and Watson will only be K-Card-accessible to residents.
The College may consider limiting non-resident K-Card access to all dorms as early as fall 2017, according to Director of Housing and ResLife Jill Engel-Hellman. Future expansion of such restrictions will depend on how well the pilot program plays out.
“This is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” Engel-Hellman said. “I do not see this as the magic bullet that’s going to fix everything; I see it as one way to address this.”
The initiative comes at a time when crime and sexual assault on campus have come under close scrutiny. The College chose to restrict access partly due to an incident in which a person, allegedly unaffiliated with Kenyon, sexually assaulted a student after gaining access to Mather Residence Hall. Recent break-ins at Farr Hall have also prompted discussions on how to reduce crime. By limiting K-Card access to residents, Engel-Hellman said the College hopes to prevent these kinds of incidents and make dorms safer, although she admits that restricting access won’t solve everything. She also acknowledges that the new policy may not be popular among all students.
“As I start to see these trends, it gives me insight on what we need to spend more time talking about,” Engel-Hellman said. “And in talking with people, I am very well aware that I don’t think this will be a popular thing.”
Along with limiting access to the dorms, maintenance will install alarms above the entryways that will go off if the door is propped open. Installing the alarms will cost about $4,500, but most buildings on campus already have these alarms, according to Engel-Hellman.
In a meeting with McBride residents on Tuesday night, Engel-Hellman said the new policy will allow students to view their dorms as a safe space. This year and in years past, students have come into the dorms late at night and scrawled obscene images on the doors and ripped down posters in the hallway. These images can be triggering for some students said Linda Smolak, deputy civil rights and Title IX coordinator, at one of the meetings on K-Card policy, and Engel-Hellman told residents the initiative will hopefully curb these acts of vandalism.
Student Council (StuCo) discussed restricted K-Card access in Watson and McBride during their meeting this Sunday, according to a Collegian reporter who was present, but did not mention the issue in their meeting-minutes.
In 2014, the Crozier Center for Women installed card readers and limited access because of theft of supplies for Take Back the Night and vandals who were opening the free condoms provided by Crozier and leaving the wrappers on the floor. This was three years after the College installed card readers around campus in the fall of 2011. Lacey Filkins, assistant director of new student programs and director of Crozier, helped push to limit access in Crozier between 8 a.m. 10 p.m. Since then, Crozier has not experienced any acts of vandalism, and she thinks Crozier has become a safer place for the students who live there.
Students have generally had a mixed reaction to the proposed initiative. Eleanor Wellik ’20, a McBride resident, isn’t sure how much safer the new policy will be.
“I feel safer to an extent, but I don’t really think that keeping people who don’t live in a particular dorm building out makes it any safer unless it’s a pretty specific circumstance,” Wellick said. “Most students can also be let into any dorm without question, and the buildings are already locked to outside individuals.”
Liz Eder ’17, student chair of the Housing and Dining Committee, disagrees, and believes the policy will make the campus safer for its students.
“This is the first step that really needs to be taken,” Eder said. “And, honestly, it will probably help us identify what else is to be done.”
Maya Kaufman contributed reporting.