Section: News

Athletes found hosting parties, violating COVID-19 restrictions

The weekend after the first week of classes, several groups of students hosted private, on-campus parties, which violated Kenyon’s current health and safety regulations regarding COVID-19, some of which involved student-athletes.

“There were a few violations in the last week that, unfortunately, involved groups of athletes,” Director of Campus Safety Michael Sweazey said in an email to the Collegian. “This is particularly disturbing because Director of Athletics, Fitness and Recreation Jill McCartney and the coaches have been very proactive with messaging to their teams reminding them that violations of the protocols will be responded to and reported, resulting in disciplinary action.”

The Kenyon Student Conduct Addendum for the 2020-2021 academic year explicitly limits small gatherings within residences to no more than one guest per resident. The Addendum also stipulates that students currently participating in remote learning are not allowed on campus without approval from the Dean of Students or a designated individual. Furthermore, all students are required to maintain social distancing and wear masks when around other people.

A number of schools nationwide had coronavirus outbreaks resulting in shutdowns, layoffs and deaths. Among a growing list of schools, Boston University, California State University and the University of Arizona have all announced layoffs and furloughs of faculty and staff, according to The Guardian. An analysis by the New York Times found 60 coronavirus deaths connected to college campuses since the start of the pandemic. Recent reports of campus parties, however, suggest that not all students take the virus — nor the prospect of a total college shutdown and the loss of jobs and life — seriously. 

Kenyon announced on July 15 that all athletic competitions would be suspended through the remainder of 2020, as student-athlete travel and visitors from other campuses could present a risk of virus exposure. The Department of Athletics is following the NCAA’s guidance on returning to sports and the goal is to return to competition by the spring semester. Athletes who violate protocol cannot be benched from competitions as a form of punishment, limiting sanctions and accountability.

According to Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities James Jackson, a single student-athlete violating policies would not result in punishment of the entire team. The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, he said, intends to respond to all student violations — by athletes and non-athletes — equally and in accordance with the guidelines of the Student Handbook and the Conduct Addendum.

These violations are minor deviations from students’ overall safe behavior on campus, according to Sweazey, who says that students have generally abided by health and safety regulations thus far.

Sweazey noted that — although Kenyon expects all students to follow virus regulations — student-athletes have received more communication from coaches and athletic faculty about COVID-19 protocols than other students on campus.

McCartney stated that coaches actively speak to their teams on the seriousness of adhering to campus protocol. However, she declined to comment when asked if any teams had received suspensions this year, as did Men’s Lacrosse Coach Douglas Misarti. Men’s Tennis Coach Scott Thielke stated that he did not know of any parties, whereas Football Coach James Rosenbury III claimed that the football team had not hosted any. Men’s Basketball Coach Daniel Priest did not respond.

“Our coaches do have control over things. Coaches set team standards and there are consequences for breaking those standards,” McCartney said. “If students show flagrant disregard for campus policies that can always be a means of removal from a team. Those standards that are always in play are still in play now even though there isn’t competition.”

The Kenyon Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (KSAAC), a group meant to voice concerns from student-athletes, has encouraged student-athletes to comply with all of the College’s coronavirus regulations. KSAAC’s co-presidents, Clare Kelley ’21 and Ian McInturf ’21, declined to comment on alleged athlete parties, citing their current status off campus.

McCartney said she had suggested that KSAAC take on some of the responsibility of promoting virus guidelines among student athletes.

“I suggested that they are typically the leaders on their teams, but … that this is an opportunity to assume a leadership role on campus,” McCartney said. “They have sent out some messages as we go into weekends to just say, ‘Remember, this is the time to do the right thing and represent as leaders.’”

She noted that although it is difficult to regulate what students-athletes do off the field, it is essential that coaches remind players of their responsibilities on campus.

“What [athletes] do outside of practice time is probably more important than what they do during their practice time,” McCartney said.

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