After a months-long investigation and a student conduct hearing, the student organization Peeps O’ Kenyon (PEEPS) has been suspended from campus. The suspension, which is due to violations of school drug policy, is set to last three years, and will be followed by three additional years of probation.
The process began in January, when Dean of Campus Life Laura Kane began investigating rumors regarding PEEPS’ new member initiation practices. The investigation became more severe when the administration learned that PEEPS had been distributing the drug LSD to initiate members during certain bonding events. PEEPS Co-president Eleanor Evans-Wickberg ’21 says that the LSD was non-compulsory, and that many members chose not to partake. Nonetheless, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities began to question members of PEEPS about their initiation process.
As a result of the investigation, the administration recommended that PEEPS be suspended for four years and placed on social probation for two. PEEPS did not agree with these sanctions, and composed a 46-page document defending their case to be submitted before the Student Conduct Review Board. The final hearing took place on April 21 in a meeting held over Google Meet. In the end, the Board decided to recommend a three-year suspension, followed by three years of social probation. This means that current initiate members of PEEPS will be able to re-form the organization before they graduate. However, it also means that for most current members, their time in PEEPS is at an end. While there is an appeal process, Evans-Wickberg thinks it would be unlikely to succeed, given how hard it was for PEEPS to reduce even the initial sanctions.
While some members of PEEPS feel that the investigation was justified, many are frustrated by the school’s apparent lack of consideration for the students under scrutiny. According to Evans-Wickberg, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities tried to catch students “off-guard” so that they couldn’t “prepare” for interviews beforehand. As co-president, she found the process very stressful.
“There would be no word from them for several days, then all of the sudden three students would be called in back to back presumably so they couldn’t speak to one another in between,” Evans-Wickberg wrote in an email to the Collegian. “James Jackson would also send me emails asking to meet the day of. It felt like we were on trial. But unlike a real legal trial, we basically didn’t have any rights.”
Other PEEPS members agreed that the investigation process was arduous and unpredictable; Elias Haberberg ’22 claims he was notified just 30 minutes before he was required to give an interview. “I was in my room at 7 on a Friday,” Haberberg said. “I got a phone call from an Ohio number, which I presumed to be important so I picked it up. Casey was the [Campus Safety] agent who talked to me. She said that James Jackson wanted to meet with me at 7:30, and if I didn’t want to walk over to the campus safety cubicle where it was supposedly being held, they would be happy to send a golf cart to escort me north. Highly irregular stuff. Blatant intimidation too.”
Delilah Cravens ’21, PEEPS co-president with Evans-Wickberg, understands why the investigation happened but feels it was handled poorly.
“I want to be accountable, in the sense that we broke school policy and by no means were being investigated unjustly,” Cravens wrote in an email to the Collegian. “At the same time, the means of investigation seemed unreasonably tactical … At times, the school would intercept students going home from class to have them interrogated without notice, always in the presence of campus safety. Other times, members would have to interview with less than an hour’s notice in the middle of a school day, and have to scramble to rearrange their schedules.”
James Jackson, director of student rights and responsibilities, acknowledges that being questioned by staff members can be uncomfortable, but denies that students were given such short notice.
“Students interviewed were sent emails requesting to meet normally the day prior to the interview,” Jackson wrote in an email to the Collegian. “In those emails, students were asked to let me know if they were unable to meet at the date and time listed in the email. There were a few students who stated that they had a scheduling conflict. Students that made me aware of conflicts were either rescheduled or canceled.”
The semester-long investigation and resulting suspension have been painful for PEEPS members. Evans-Wickberg believes that PEEPS serves an important role at Kenyon, and that its loss will have a negative impact for many.
“Not only do the Peeps provide a uniquely inclusive and free space on the Kenyon campus, Peeps is also an integral part of the lives and mental wellbeing of many of its members,” Evans-Wickberg wrote. “I am happy that the conduct review board at least decided to keep the organization around.”