Early Sunday morning, an emergency notification alerting students that the campus was on lockdown failed to send, causing some administrators to take a closer look at how they can improve their emergency procedures.
The incident unfolded around 12 a.m. on Sunday. Safety officers received a report that there was a suicidal student behind the Kenyon Athletic Center. They immediately began patrolling Middle Path to tell students the campus was on lockdown and that they should go back to their dorms. Officers were also not permitting students to leave or enter Peirce Pub.
Twenty minutes later, the Knox County Sheriff apprehended the student. Officers originally feared the student was armed, but upon closer examination, they found he did not have a weapon. Safety officers only realized the lockdown alert failed to send after the incident, and they are still unsure why it did not send, according to Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper. The Library and Information Service team is looking into the issue.
Throughout the incident, many students around campus were distressed and confused. Harry Justus ’18, a member of the band Motown, was playing at the Village Inn (VI) that night. He found out about the lockdown when he went to the bar to get some water.
“Since that email did not get sent to tell us there was a lockdown, we actually found out when I heard one of the bartenders say, ‘I can’t sell alcohol right now, we’re on a lockdown, we’re not supposed to let anybody leave,’” Justus said. “We all were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he literally says, ‘I would not joke about this.’”
Shortly after, students received an email that the lockdown had been lifted, but some students left the VI during the lockdown due to the lack of official communication. Students at Peirce Pub faced a similar situation. Safety officers would not let Sarah Griswold ’20 back inside after she left the room to go to the bathroom.
“I was confused because they were not letting us back in after they just let out,” Griswold said. “Other people were outside and pounding on the doors. We couldn’t believe that they were not going let us back in.”
Meredith Bonham ’92, vice president of student affairs, said the College is determining how it can improve their response to emergencies in the future. Bonham is a member of the Kenyon Emergency Preparedness Team (KEPT), along with a number of other professors, administrators and safety officers. Bonham said KEPT will be scrutinizing the College’s response to Sunday’s incident more closely at their meeting next weekend.
“We plan at our next [meeting] to walk through what happened and to learn from it,” Bonham said. “When an initial alert is sent out to shelter in place, that is the only information that needs to be communicated, because that is what is most critical.”
Hooper echoed Bonham’s hope that the College will continue to improve how they react to emergencies but was pleased with how quickly Safety responded to the incident.
“A lot of things went very well. We were 18 minutes from the time we were called until the person was taken into custody,” Hooper said. “Training is key for thinking through the scenarios we normally deal with.”
Bonham hopes this incident will give the College an idea of what the students need to do in a lockdown situation as well.
“We want to focus on how we communicate with students,” Bonham said. “So when a student gets the ‘shelter in place’ text, phone call, etc., they know what that means, and what our expectations are in terms of getting them to safety.”