This semester, the Office of Campus Safety began enforcing a 20-person occupancy limit for on-campus apartments, including the North Campus Apartments (NCAs) and New Apartments (New Apts). This capacity limit is accompanied by new policies regarding how student organizations can register for and host Social Events With Alcohol (SEWAs), commonly known to students as “all-campuses.” These policies come as part of an overarching series of changes by Kenyon’s Student Affairs Division designed to help encourage student safety and ease communication for organizing SEWAs.
Prior to this semester, the policy for hosting a SEWA required registered student organizations to register for the party by noon on Tuesdays to host an event the following weekend. Student organizations were also required to reserve event spaces such as the Old Kenyon basement, register members of the organization to complete online safety training, inform the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) of alcohol quantities and correspond with Campus Safety to help ensure further student safety at the start and end of the event.
While several SEWAs were hosted in the last two years under these scheduling guidelines, Director of Student Engagement Caleb Young said that the previous time frame placed stress on the OSE in terms of ensuring all volunteer members of the organization were both verified to be over 21 and had completed safety training. According to Young, Campus Safety often had to bring in extra staffing, and the short time frame strained the Maintenance and Facilities department, who assist with fencing for outdoor patios.
“To do this in a [three-to-four] day time window under the old process put a lot of pressure on our various campus partners, and our student organizations themselves to complete follow-up and last minute requests in such a short timeframe,” Young wrote in an email to the Collegian.
This semester, the OSE instituted three primary changes to the process for registering SEWAs in response to the issues with the previous system. One new policy is that requests to host a SEWA must be submitted at least 10 business days in advance of the proposed event, instead of the Tuesday prior to the weekend. This means that the latest possible date for organizations to register a SEWA is the Monday two weeks prior. Another major guideline addresses events held on private properties or in off-campus spaces, requiring that organizations hosting parties off-campus must register the event and adhere to the same policies as on-campus events. Lastly, only one SEWA is allowed per weekend night (each Friday and Saturday), with a maximum of two events per weekend.
In addition to the three major policy updates, Young added that the maximum capacity for registered BYOB events was increased from 100 to 120 and that social hosts for sponsoring student organizations may now be younger than 21. According to Young, Student Council reviewed a proposed draft of the changes along with a student advisory board, who provided feedback during last spring semester. OSE also collaborated with multiple administrative offices, including Campus Safety, Campus Events and Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Along with lessening the strain on the OSE and other related departments, Young noted that these changes — particularly the policy addressing off-campus SEWAs — were intended to lessen perceived inequalities between student organizations. Unlike last semester, fraternities with private properties off-campus, such as Delta Tau Delta (Delts) and Beta Theta Pi (Betas), will now have to register all-campus events in the same manner as on-campus SEWAs. No sororities currently have a private property to host all-campus events, and will still have to use on-campus locations to host SEWAs.
Young highlighted that this change may be a step towards reducing inequality between Greek organizations on campus, while also ensuring safety guidelines are being followed. “There was a strong desire from multiple groups to ensure that all student organizations follow the same process and policies when it pertains to the opportunity to host social events with alcohol,” Young said. “The current policy now puts all student organizations under the same set of rules in an effort to address some of the inequalities.” Young added that organizations who have access to private properties or off-campus spaces were sent additional communication over the summer to clarify the registration process for the fall semester.
Laura Woomer ’24, president of Epsilon Delta Mu sorority (EDM), emphasized that while these changes make hosting a SEWA a longer process, it does not mean that all-campus events have been banned — only that they require more extensive planning.
“I think people assume that the Greek organizations can just throw parties,” Woomer said in an interview with the Collegian. “[But] there’s so many hoops to jump through, and so many Ohio laws to get around too. It’s a very involved process.”
According to Hannah Long ’25, a member of EDM and one of the planning chairs for the sorority, the lengthened timeline for registering SEWAs meant that all-campus events have been delayed later than they would have been in previous years. Long and Woomer met with the OSE on the first day of classes, Aug. 25, and were told that the earliest date they could register for a SEWA was Sept. 15.
“We’re about two weeks later than we would have been on normal years,” Long said. “It’s definitely a longer process than it was last year… I didn’t realize a lot of the timeline changes until I went in.”
While Woomer and Long are excited to host ‘Wild, Wild West,’ the first all-campus event of the academic year, they also expressed discontent with the lack of transparency regarding the new registration policies. “It does feel like there’s more policing around what students can and can’t do, and information is maybe intentionally out of reach and hard to access,” Woomer said. “It just feels very inaccessible.”
Long also mentioned that due to Kenyon’s small, pedestrian-friendly nature, the campus generally provides a safer opportunity for students to drink than a larger campus would, because students do not need to drive or travel off-campus for social life. She worried that the new restrictions and lack of social events on campus may lead to students seeking opportunities to drink in less safe ways, such as binge drinking or leaving campus.
“We aren’t advocating for underage drinking in any way,” Long said. “But I do think that students who are 21 should have the opportunity, if they choose, to ingest alcohol and have it in a place where they can mingle with their peers and enjoy the night, without feeling like they have to make other risks, such as traveling off campus, to do so.”
Along with the changes for registering and hosting SEWAs, another factor that may affect social life on-campus is the 20-person occupancy limit for student apartments, where informal gatherings and parties are often hosted over the weekends. In an email sent out to the student body on Wednesday, the Office of Campus Safety clarified that the occupancy limits for non-apartment residences are three to four people for a single room, five to nine people for a double and 10 to 14 people for a triple. According to Director of Campus Safety Michael Sweazey, these occupancy limits were determined by the square footage of each residential space, which may vary across campus.
“Student Engagement, Facilities, Residential Life and Campus Safety works very closely with the Mount Vernon Fire Department (MVPD) to ensure that the campus is in compliance with the fire codes,” Sweazey wrote in an interview to the Collegian. “If the campus violates the state codes, which have been put in place to ensure the safety of the occupants of the buildings, it could face serious sanctions.”
Senior Director of Campus Life James Jackson also clarified that the 20-person limit for apartments varies per place, ranging from 17 to 22 persons. “20 was almost like rounding up,” he said in an interview with the Collegian. “They just said, OK, 20 across the board.” Jackson also emphasized that these standards and occupancy limits have always been present on campus, though enforcement has been relatively lax in the years following the pandemic. According to both Jackson and Sweazey, the recent enforcement of the occupancy limits is primarily intended to increase student safety on campus and comply with MVPD’s guidelines for Ohio’s Fire Code.
The enforcement has left some students confused as to why Campus Safety has been more active in shutting down student-hosted parties in the NCAs and New Apts. In addition, closing down parties in the NCAs on the weekends has resulted in many students socializing outside the apartments, where Campus Safety officers have asked them to disperse as well.
According to Jackson, Campus Safety officers’ efforts to break up outdoor gatherings is not related to Ohio’s Fire Code but rather to the Village of Gambier’s noise ordinances, which the College complies with. In addition, the College’s website adds that amplified sound cannot be played outdoors past 10 p.m. without prior approval from OSE and the Village of Gambier.
“If it starts out as a group of 10 here, a group of 10 there, then ultimately those groups become so large that they become one massive group, which is then more likely that there’s a violation of the noise ordinance,” Jackson said.
For some students, Campus Safety’s enforcement of the noise ordinance has felt too stringent and has resulted in interference with student life on campus. “It feels like they’re going out of their way to make things harder,” Raphael Melo ’25 said in an interview with the Collegian.
In particular, Melo discussed a concert hosted on Saturday, which featured five student bands who performed outside the NCAs. According to Melo, the drummer for the band All Goof No Ball (AGNB), the concert began at around 7 p.m and was briefly shut down by a Campus Safety officer only fifteen minutes later.
Melo and the organizers of the event had anticipated Campus Safety intervening with the performance, a risk AGNB was willing to take. “The discussion was like, ‘we don’t want to start because we’ll get shut down,’” Melo explained. “And then I responded, ‘Well, good thing we’re going first.’”
According to Sweazey, Campus Safety officers intervened in the performance because of its potential interference with noise ordinances for the Village of Gambier, but the officers present found a way for the performance to continue. “[R]ather than taking unilateral action to shut it down, the officers chose to reach out to Student Engagement and Residential Life to resolve the issue,” Sweazey wrote.
While the concert was interrupted, Melo and two other band members, Clark Webb ’25 and Sam Chafe ’24, recounted that the community came together to support the bands and encourage them to continue playing. Chafe described how members of the men’s lacrosse team began chanting “let the boys play” as Campus Safety officers deliberated on whether to allow the bands to continue performing.
“I had never seen that crossover before,” Chafe said. Webb added, “It was an amazing amount of unity in such a short amount of time.”
Campus Safety allowed the concert to continue, so long as the performance was finished by 9 p.m. “I think every band got to play,” Melo said, though he added that the time frame did mean that D.J.s, who had hoped to perform, were cut off by the deadline. “But otherwise, it was cool.”
Although Campus Safety had allowed the performance to continue, the band members expressed discontent at what they felt was an extension of anti-party sentiment by the Kenyon administration, both from the occupancy limits and the lack of SEWAs on campus so far.
With the lengthened timeline for registration for SEWAs, along with Campus Safety’s increased enforcement of both the noise ordinances and occupancy limits, the members of AGNB are worried that Kenyon’s administration is moving towards increased restrictions on student life overall.
“The breaking point is just the fact that people want these things to happen, and they’re going to clash regardless,” Melo said. “This [concert] was one of those points where that was going to happen.”
Chafe agreed. “It’s my senior year,” he said. “I want the social scene back. [Campus Safety] is shutting down the things that the students love most.”