James DiSandro ’22 returned to his North Campus Apartment (NCA) late Saturday night after Thanksgiving break and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. He went over to a friend’s apartment, came home and went to bed. It wasn’t until the next morning that he realized his computer speakers were gone. Wondering where they could be, he went to check on the three bikes that he and his housemates had moved inside, only to discover that those, too, were nowhere to be found. The truth solidified: DiSandro’s home was a crime scene.
The burglar(s) who ransacked his NCA stole three bikes, a Playstation, a pair of Beats headphones, computer speakers, floor-standing speakers and an assortment of other items.
“There’s like a big hole in the wall where the [bedroom] door was kicked in, [and] my room has a bunch of scuff marks on the wall now,” said James Mazer ’22, another resident of the NCA. Mazer said the burglar(s) also appeared to have removed one of his window screens, presumably in order to enter the house.
Meanwhile, a New Apartment was in its own state of chaos. The first thing Mike Henry ’22 saw when he returned home the Sunday after break was his TV at the bottom of the stairs leading to his upper-level apartment. Upon entering the unit, it became clear that his residence had been burglarized. Everything on the surface of his desk was taken, and his clothes were everywhere, except for his underwear and socks, all of which were stolen. Game consoles, speakers and luggage were gone, too. Three guitars lay in the hallway, most likely too big and bulky for the burglar(s) to take.
The intruder(s) also raided the fridge and left half-eaten, month-old prosciutto in one resident’s bed. They had shaved in the sink and taken the trimmer with them. On a table in the living room they had left behind a lighter, which the residents believe the burglar(s) used to smoke crack cocaine in the apartment.
“Someone had been in my house doing God knows what,” Henry’s housemate, Jim Finley ’22, said. “I was scared to use the shampoo. And I felt like everything I touched had this film of, like, ‘uhh.’ It’s just nasty. Like a weird psychological block where everything is gross.”
These break-ins have raised questions and concerns among those burglarized about the roles that the Offices of Campus Safety and Residential Life (ResLife) should play in these situations.
The burglarized residents reported the incidents to Campus Safety, who referred the case to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Officers did make visits to both the NCA and New Apartment to collect evidence and file reports of stolen items. Campus Safety also filed a report to ResLife who, much to the concern of the residents who were burglarized, took seemingly no action.
“We thought they might contact us about it but then they didn’t, which was a little odd,” said NCA resident Jack Seasholtz ’22. “I figured if I was renting a house from someone, and that house got burglarized, my landlord would speak to me.”
Seasholtz and Mazer ultimately decided to visit the Office of Residential Life to try to talk to someone in person about the incident. They went to the office three separate times before they were finally able to meet with someone to discuss the damage and discuss potential insurance coverage. The Office told them that they would email Fred Linger, the manager of business services, to inquire about insurance, but the burglarized students have not yet heard back.
Nick Becker ’22, another resident of the NCA, was more frustrated by ResLife’s inaction in ensuring that the burglarized students themselves were well after discovering that their homes had been ravaged. “[They should] reach out to us and be like, ‘Hey, are you doing okay?’ Because, just putting someone else in our shoes, that that could have been a traumatizing experience for them,” he said.
Mazer also expressed concern that the College has not reached out to the residents of the NCA. “It’s about actually, other than like one of us being in the house and getting stabbed — worst-case scenario, we’re stabbed — this is the worst thing that could happen to you if you live in an NCA,” Mazer said. “Honestly, incredibly distressing.”
Many of the burglarized residents are also horrified by the College’s failure to communicate to the student body about the break-ins.
“There’s been no communication with the entire school,” Becker said. “So people have found out we’ve been robbed through rumors, not through the school being like, ‘Yes, there was a crime committed on campus.’”
Becker also compared the current situation to bike thefts that occurred this past summer. In response to these thefts, Campus Safety sent an email to students living on campus, advising them to buy U-bar locks or to keep their bikes inside to prevent theft. So far, however, Campus Safety has not sent any emails to inform the campus community about the burglaries, or to provide advice regarding how to prevent them.
Burglaries on Kenyon’s campus are an unprecedented incident in the recent past, and both Campus Safety and ResLife plan to change how they approach similar situations in the future, according to James Jackson, director of student rights and responsibilities and interim director of residential life.
“I think it was definitely jarring for the students, but it was also like a step back for us because we hadn’t had [burglaries] previously,” Jackson said. “In the future we’ll definitely reach out to students if this occurs, just to make sure that they’re okay, and let them know that there are resources,” he added, specifically referring to those offered by the Cox Health and Counseling Center.
According to Director of Campus Safety Michael Sweazey, the Office has instituted a new officer-scheduling system that will increase the number of officers on patrol, especially during high-activity hours. This is especially important for this upcoming winter break, as the current national shortage of bicycles and electronics — items students tend to leave behind — mean they are likely to tempt thieves.
While officers from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office took fingerprints and hairs for DNA testing, the burglarized residents have yet to receive communication regarding whether or not the intruder(s) have been identified. None of the victims are terribly optimistic that they will. Residents of the NCA have been scouring Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist in hopes of possibly finding any of their items listed for sale, with no luck thus far.
As he prepares to graduate in less than two weeks, the incident has been particularly upsetting for Henry. “My conception of how safe Kenyon is has been altered,” he said. “Four years ago, I know this wasn’t a thing that I would even consider as having happened.”
Not many of the burglarized residents remain optimistic that students and their possessions will be safe this upcoming winter break. Becker, in particular, cautioned students to protect their belongings over break. “It very easily could happen again,” Becker said. “Be a nomad if you can; just bring all your stuff with you.”
Mazer concurred, expressing his belief that the burglaries will continue. “People are gonna get robbed,” he said.