On Saturday, Oct. 24, the College alerted the Kenyon community of a positive COVID-19 test result, assuring us that anyone who may have come in close contact with that person would be notified and advised of next steps. As noted in our article this week, however, Director of Health and Counseling Chris Smith and the administration knew of this positive test as early as 5 p.m. Friday afternoon and chose not to inform the community for another 24 hours.
Though this is not the first time the administration has failed to be transparent with the Kenyon community, this time is different. The administration’s inability to promptly inform the community is, at best, irresponsible, and at worst, a matter of life and death.
After extending the quiet period over the weekend, the College said it would test all employees this week. The College’s decision to lower its COVID-19 alert status prior to receiving all employee test results is also reflective of this irresponsibility; not only is this the first time Kenyon has tested employees since August, but to lift the quiet period without receiving these long-overdue tests is reckless.
We at the Collegian are concerned that the administration’s recent decisions are symptomatic of larger problems: a lack of organization in Kenyon’s COVID-19 response and a level of ineptitude which the College wishes to hide.
The fact that the College did not notify the community of the positive test for a full day and did not update its COVID-19 Dashboard for roughly 72 hours casts doubt on the integrity of the Dashboard. If we cannot trust that the Dashboard is giving us the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 on campus, we are left to wonder how much of what we know from the administration about COVID-19 at Kenyon is true.
As an anonymous source told the Collegian, Kenyon has not been taking adequate steps to ensure that students who came into close contact with the positive case are being isolated properly. The student noted there was “no real way to enforce” isolation, suggesting that for all intents and purposes exposed students would be free to roam the campus.
President Sean Decatur told the Collegian this week that — in line with Knox Public Health (KPH) guidelines — quarantined students are not meant to leave their residence halls for any reason, including for meals, whereas this anonymous source told the Collegian that quarantined students are being told to get their own meals from Peirce. What is more worrying, Chris Smith not only confirmed but was not concerned by this, implying that such breaking of quarantine was necessary for mental health.
Not only is this a public health risk, but it also illustrates the College’s alarming departure from KPH protocol. Moreover, this is not the first time the College has gone against KPH’s advice; another anonymous source told the Collegian last month that Kenyon isolated them in poor accommodations, even after the student was cleared by KPH to return to campus.
The College’s actions in both of these instances suggest that it does not trust KPH, setting a dangerous precedent for public health protocol during the ongoing pandemic.
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Mae Hunt ’21 and Evey Weisblat ’21, managing editor Sophie Krichevsky ’21 and executive director Elizabeth Stanley ’21. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.