Gregory vonFreymann, a Campus Safety supervisor at Kenyon, has seen a lot during his 20 years on the job. As we rolled along the backroads of the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC), he told me about a student who froze to death overnight after falling asleep on his way back from a party, locking down the College after a man wanted for mass murder was spotted on campus and apprehending an outsider with a backpack holding a pound of marijuana and a loaded 9 mm pistol in one of the dorms.
“Of course that’s over 20 years, and it sounds bad, but usually I’d say there’s a couple of major incidents every semester,” vonFreymann said. “And sometimes the stress is hard on the officers, and sometimes we’ll get counseling involved for them to kind of debrief.”
VonFreymann made one thing clear during my ride-along last Friday with Campus Safety: For safety officers, there is no such thing as the Kenyon bubble. While much of their work includes normal college campus policing – like shutting down overcrowded parties, assisting drunk students and breaking up altercations on campus – they still have to face the darker realities of the world. VonFreymann knows this all too well; just last semester, he had to resuscitate a professor after he suffered a heart attack on campus.
I met vonFreymann earlier in the night at the Office of Campus Safety with Ben Neal ’19, a photographer for the Collegian. VonFreymann works from either 3 p.m. to 5 a.m. or 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. — the latter of which he calls the “impact shift” — four days a week. Two officers are usually on a shift during the weekdays, and three to four overlap on the weekends. For busier weekends, like Summer Sendoff or Halloween, more officers will be on duty — somewhere between five and six, according to vonFreymann.
After describing the basics, he took us through the office – a drab, slightly crowded building near the post office that houses about four separate offices. We stopped by the control room, where he introduced me to the Knox County Sheriff ’s Deputy, Kevin Williams. Williams stops by the office throughout the night to check in on the officers and see if they need any assistance. If “s— hits the fan,” as vonFreymann told me, Williams is the guy the officers call. He then directed our attention to a board on the wall behind him, which he affectionately referred to as the “love-me wall.” This holds the names of a number of individuals that the safety officers keep an eye out for, from thieves to local sex offenders.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, vonFreymann explained how safety divides the campus up into four quadrants when they’re doing their patrols – northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest – and the senior officer patrols the outer areas, such as the BFEC and the wooded area behind the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC). For any medical emergency, he is the one called, because he carries the EMS bag in his trunk; for anything else, the officer responsible for the area will investigate instead.
Later, as we wound our way through the woods surrounding the Kokosing River, vonFreymann expressed his discomfort coming down here alone at night without a means of protecting himself. The twisting and turning roadway behind the women’s softball field, which Safety calls the “College Park Area,” does not allow for a quick means of escape. And, vonFreymann told me as we turned towards the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC), there are some nights when he and other officers come across suspicious-looking individuals wandering through the woods. When this happens, vonFreymann calls for the Knox County Deputy, but his distance from the center of campus practically ensures it will take around 10 minutes for an officer to arrive.
“I don’t have any way to defend myself—we don’t carry firearms,” vonFreymann said. “Hopefully I can get into the car quick enough to get the hell out of the way.”
“That is sometimes an issue, and it’s not the best feeling when you come across somebody and you really are kind of trapped,” he added.
Personally, vonFreymann, who has a concealed carry license in Ohio, would prefer if the Campus Safety officers were armed. He believes the influx of mass shootings on college campuses in the United States has made arming the safety officers a necessary factor in keeping students safe. VonFreymann also pointed out that Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a law in December that would allow concealed carry on college campuses. The idea of a 21 year old being able to have a concealed weapon on campus unsettles him, especially because he does not have the means to protect himself or the students.
“We don’t live in the same world from when I came 20 years ago. And it may never happen, and it may never be needed. But I always say: Why be inactive? Be proactive,” vonFreymann said. “Why wait until something happens, and then go ‘Oh yeah, we want them armed now’? That doesn’t make sense, because if somebody gets hurt, we could have maybe stopped it or lessened it.”
“If they want me to engage, I can’t,” he added. “I’m just going to be a victim.”
Even though Governor Kasich’s bill became law, President Sean Decatur has told the Collegian in past issues that Kenyon will remain a gun-free zone. Nevertheless, Campus Safety officers received active shooter training for the first time this year. This spring, faculty will receive the same training, according to vonFreymann. The frequency of mass shootings across the U.S. has put many colleges and universities on edge; according to Mass Shooting Tracker, a crowd- sourced database, 604 people were killed in mass shootings last year.
All in all, it was mostly a quiet night. We stopped once to check out a fire alarm that went off in the KAC, but it turned out to be from a faulty wire. I could tell vonFreymann takes protecting the students seriously, and that he loves the College and the work he does. VonFreymann did not expect to stay at Kenyon; he came to Gambier 20 years ago after a stint in the military, and thought he would eventually enter law enforcement. But the job has been too satisfying for him to leave.“I took the job part time, but then it gets into your blood,” vonFreymann said. “And one thing that’s nice about the job is that it’s always different. Every day is different. Even though we do a lot of things, there is always some crazy thing that happens.”