Two students of color told us they may not apply to Kenyon this fall because of an encounter this past summer with a deputy from Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). The incident, which involved the deputy and three participants in the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, culminated in a near-citation for walking in the street. According to the students who were approached by this officer, they felt the incident was motivated more by the color of their skin than their apparent jaywalking. One of the students reported that the deputy asked him “what sport he was here for,” an indicator of racial profiling that assumes students of color could only find a place on this campus if they are involved in athletics.
While College administrators met with the sheriff and his captain to discuss the incident and policy enforcement, we are disappointed by the College’s muted response to what seems like a clear incident of racial profiling. We can talk all we want about making this college more accessible to underrepresented students, but based on our reporting, it seems as if College officials missed an opportunity to leverage their considerable power to create a more just and equitable environment. We aren’t the only ones who feel the deputy acted inappropriately.
Editor of the Kenyon Review and Professor of English David Lynn wrote in a letter to one of the students that the deputy’s “behavior was unacceptable.” We wish the College viewed the situation in the same way, instead of playing politics to appease both sides for the sake of convenience.
In the spring, admissions officers theorized that the results of the 2016 presidential election affected the drop in applicants to Kenyon, according to an article in the April 13 edition of this publication. They felt that, as a college in a red state, applicants from the liberal-leaning East and West Coasts were less drawn to apply. If the College wishes to address the ideological tensions that exist between it and greater Knox County, it must make a concerted effort to improve its relations with those who live there. Now that two participants in the Young Writers Workshop have expressed they may not apply to Kenyon because of the incident this summer, the College has an opportunity to do so.
Given the ever-increasing distance between both sides of the political aisle, it is the College’s responsibility to provide a safe space for students of all belief systems and backgrounds. Kenyon can act as a role model for our greater community, but only if the administration remains committed to furthering diversity on this campus. But in light of the events this summer, it has become increasingly apparent that there is a disconnect between what the administration is willing to say in press releases and to journalists, and what they are willing to do when it comes time to take concrete action.
One of the students told us the deputy told him that “we don’t tolerate that type of nonsense here at Kenyon.” We don’t. The actions of the officer shouldn’t represent what our community tolerates from a member of law enforcement. We’re responsible for protecting each other. We hope the College will encourage the Village to re-evaluate its relationship with KCSO.
This week, the staff editorial was written by editor-in-chief Bailey Blaker ’18 and managing editor Lauren Eller ’18. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.