The Office of Campus Safety participated in anti-bias training over Thanksgiving break with Keane Tony, a former Canton police sergeant and former director of Campus Safety at University of Mount Union. The training follows incidents of alleged racial profiling that occurred on campus over the summer.
“This is something that [Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper] and I have been talking about since the incident that occurred between the Kenyon Young Writers and the Knox County Sheriff deputy,” Vice President of Student Affairs Meredith Bonham ’92 said. “Our Campus Safety Officers are working with a more diverse student population than they have in the past.”
The training comes at a time when law enforcement’s treatment of people of color is receiving national scrutiny, especially after a string of highly publicized police shootings in which unarmed black men were killed. According to the Washington Post’s police shooting database, 18 unarmed black men have been killed this year by law enforcement. In an interview with the Collegian, the highchool students involved in the incident with the KCSO deputy said they felt targeted because of their race, and two said they would not apply to Kenyon because of the treatment they experienced. After the incident, Hooper approached Bonham to discuss the possibility of anti-bias training for Safety officers.
Bonham said the College extended an invitation to members of KCSO to attend the anti-bias training session. Captain Jay Sheffer wrote in an email to the Collegian that he was not aware of an invitation to attend.
“I checked with the patrol Lt., Sheriff … none were aware of the training,” Sheffer wrote. “So no units attended the training with Security. The Office just went through an upgrade (September – October) and changed email providers, so something might have been lost in the transition.”
Hooper said that this is the first time Safety officers have received anti-bias training in about six years. He said he is not aware of any incidents where Safety officers showed bias, but said the College and the Safety Office would launch a full-scale investigation if an incident occurred. He promised to follow up with more training session over the next few years.
Bonham said there was an additional incident this summer between a Kenyon Educational Enrichment Program (KEEP) student of color and a Safety officer she was made aware of, but that the student did not come forward with a formal complaint.
Jacky Neri Arias ’13, assistant director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), said that she was in contact with that particular student. She said that a Campus Safety officer found two KEEP students waiting in the Watson Residence Hall lounge for their laundry. The officer told them to get their laundry and leave immediately, without checking their IDs, even though they repeatedly told the Safety officers that they were KEEP students, according to Arias. One of the two students called Arias, who set up a meeting with Campus Safety.
“I had several conversations with safety, VP Bonham, Dean Kennerly and the KEEP faculty about the importance of bias training so that students, faculty and staff of color aren’t doubted as being Kenyon affiliates simply because of the color of their skin,” Arias wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Hooper said Tony, who conducted the two-hour training and teaches diversity training to police officers throughout Ohio, asked the officers to think about how they interact with students, and highlighted the many cultural differences students or people might have over Thanksgiving Break. He also said Tony provided examples of a number of police officers who let their bias affect their actions.
Tony said one incident he remembers in particular is a University of Cincinnati Police officer who shot an unarmed black man in 2015 while he was in his car and then lied in his report of the incident, saying that the man tried to run him over.
Tony said that the key to acting without bias is to achieve self-awareness. He said law enforcement and Safety officers must take a critical look at themselves if they wish to act without discrimination. During the training, he highlights the difference between implicit bias, or subconscious bias, and explicit bias, which is a conscious bias one holds towards a certain group of people. Tony said they must recognize the bias they may harbor within themselves in order to move forward.
“You’ve got to say, ‘How do I really feel about individuals who have membership in certain groups,’ whether groups are sexually oriented based, culturally based, ethnically based or gender based,” Tony said. “And once you do that, that’s the first step towards changing behavior, changing interaction and better communication.”