Section: News

New K-Card policy addresses safety, causes inconvenience

After a year of considering changes to students’ K-Card access, a more restrictive policy went into effect at the beginning of this semester. The new policy is intended to improve the safety of students in their residence halls.

Previously, students had access to every residence hall on campus by swiping their Kenyon ID card. Under the new rules, students — except in special circumstances — have entry access to only the residential building they live in.

The policy change has been met with some resistance from students. Following the announcement on June 5, students circulated a petition opposing the change in policy. Other students believe that there is a better way to increase safety.

“While I think it is a slightly hand-fisted way of going about it, I understand what they are trying to do,” said Gavin Coon ’20, after the Housing and Dining Committee’s meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the new policy. “Ultimately, safety should be the primary concern, but I understand exactly why people are upset about the inconvenience of it.”

The Office of Housing and Residential Life began deliberating changes to K-Card access policy after several instances of vandalism and crime at the conclusion of the 2015-2016 academic year.

After a summer of discussion on the topic, a work group consisting of faculty and students of the 2016 senior class convened at the beginning of fall 2016 with the purpose of reassessing the College’s access policy. The group met during the 2016-2017 school year and presented a report to President Sean Decatur in April of 2017.

The group reviewed input from Campus Safety, Student Council, the Housing and Dining Committee and students. The group also reviewed how much it would cost to make access alterations, and the practicality of potential changes. They looked at the card access policies of peer institutions including Denison University, the College of Wooster, Hamilton College, Carleton College and Ohio Wesleyan University. It found that most of these academic institutions restricted dormitory building access for non-residents some, if not all, of the time.

After a semester of deliberation, the group proposed and implemented a pilot program that tested different levels of card access in the McBride and Watson residence halls for the spring semester of 2017. In McBride, K-card access was restricted so that only residents of McBride had access between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. In Watson Residence Hall, access was restricted to just residents for all hours.

In April, the group used feedback from a number of different campus sources, including the Sexual Misconduct Advisors, Discrimination Advisors, Peer Counselors, the Counseling Center, Campus Safety and the Title IX Office in order to understand the effects  of the pilot program. “Virtually nothing was heard — good or bad — from actual residents in McBride or Watson, as well as other community members,” according to the group’s report to President Decatur.

The report also stated that the cost of vandalism dropped in McBride in the spring of 2017 compared to the spring of 2016. The college spent $180 on vandalism repairs in McBride in the spring of 2016 and $0 in 2017. Additionally, while Liz Eder ’17, the chair of the student council housing and dining committee and a member of the work group, sent two emails to the entire student body about two feedback sessions to students in April, only five students attended these feedback sessions. These students described the restricted card access during the pilot program as a “nuisance, hassle, and/or an extra barrier,” according to the report to President Decatur.

The work group concluded that the previous card access policy did not provide the desired level of safety and recommended extending and implementing the restricted access that was piloted in Watson to the rest of the College’s residential buildings.

“From my standpoint, if it was something where we knew we had this, but didn’t do it because of more or less convenience, we’re not doing the right thing for the right reasons,” Bob Hooper, director of Campus Safety, said during the Student Council meeting on Aug. 28. “So I was fully on board with this.”

The work group cited several reasons for their recommendation, including the potential for fewer crimes in residential buildings. President Decatur approved the change in policy following the recommendation of the work group.

Under the new policy, the shared laundry spaces in Old Kenyon Residence Hall, Gund Hall and Manning Hall are separated from the rest of the residential halls by card readers. New door prop alarms are in the process of being installed on the exterior doors of residence halls in order to prevent students from propping doors open.

Community Advisors have access to all residence halls 24/7. While the school still welcomes feedback on the new policy, Meredith Bonham ’92, vice president of student affairs, made it clear that this policy is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

“I do not want to give the impression that this is still an open debate, that this is a policy that we are going to change,” Bonham said at the Student Council meeting. “That’s not the plan.”

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