Keep the All-Access K-Card Policy at Kenyon College
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Recently, Kenyon College changed its dorm access policy to make it much more restrictive, even though this change is impractical and goes against the clearly stated desires of the community. In previous years, students used their Kenyon ID cards, K-cards, to swipe into any dorm on the campus, allowing the formation of a robust campus-wide community. This spring, two dorms, Watson and McBride, were chosen to be a part of a pilot program for resident-only K-card access without informing students in those halls of this policy when they chose their housing assignments and without asking for their feedback before implementing it. We, as Kenyon students, respect that the role of a college administration is to keep its students safe and educated, but we do not think that limiting access to dorms will accomplish these goals.
The most important concern is safety. We understand that the administration believes that this policy will make Kenyon safer, but we as students have a better understanding of what will make the campus safer since we, as residents, have more experience living on the campus. Under both the previous policy and the pilot program in Watson and McBride, people have been let into buildings by students who have held open the door after swiping their K-cards. This is done both as a basic courtesy and as a favor to students who say that they have forgotten their K-cards. There’s no reason to expect that this behavior will decrease under the new policy. Some students have even said they are more likely to let in someone they don’t recognize under the new policy because they will assume that the person is loitering because they are a non-resident waiting for a friend to let them in. This will be especially true for students who live in larger buildings, first-years in their first few weeks, and upperclassmen who may not attend hall activities as often as first years.Ironically, this will lead to less certainty about who is in what building because less K-Card swipes will be recorded.
As much as we would like to pretend that Kenyon is a safe place for all of its students, we have to consider the reality that it is not. This policy also limits the amount of safe spaces for a student walking home at night to enter if they are followed or threatened. In a situation like that, the safest thing for a student to do is to enter a dorm and surround themselves with bystanders or go into a friend’s room while waiting for Campus Safety or the police to deal with the problem. This policy prevents students from doing just that. The walk from the northernmost buildings (the New Apartments) to the southernmost (the Tafts) is nearly a mile long and at times poorly lit, and most of the all-hours buildings are nearly abandoned in the middle of the night.
There are also cases of domestic violence and assault. Although Kenyon discourages dating partners from living together and strives to make sure the dorms and apartments are free from conflict and abuse, there are still situations in which a student no longer feels safe in their assigned building. A student may be unable to formally request a temporary or permanent room change because the precipitating event happened late at night, or they may not want to make a formal report to the college, especially in the first few hours after the event. In situations like this, it might be helpful for the student to spend a night or two with a friend in a different building. This policy will put an extra barrier up for these students, especially since the event may happen at night when most of their friends are not answering their cell phones.
Then there is the simple fact that almost every adult has lost their wallet or left it at home at least once. Under the previous policy, if a student was in this position, they could have any of their friends let them in or wait for a passerby. Now, their options are seriously limited, causing students to have to wait for a CA on duty (Community Advisor) or dorm-mate to let them in, sometimes in the cold, the dark, intoxicated, or with a dead or missing cell phone. As nice as it would be to be able to assume that everyone has their phone and K-card with them at all times, this is simply not realistic. We have to base policy on realism, not idealism.
Kenyon students also oppose this policy because it disrupts the sense of community we are so proud of. Many students have expressed concern that they will no longer be able to enter the dorm of a sick friend to bring them dinner, or a friend who is experiencing a mental health crisis and is acting in a concerning way. Instead, their ill friend would have to walk downstairs and let them in.
Dorm common areas are some of the few all hours community spaces on the Kenyon campus, and they are used for club meetings, study sessions, and parties, especially for first-years who may not be living near any of their close friends. Keeping these community spaces open and welcoming is crucial to the health of our community. Students also drop by other dorms to loan an object, decorate a friend’s door, or just to hang out. This sense of closeness is special to Kenyon, and should be encouraged by administrative policies, not discouraged.
This policy will also create imbalances within the community. CAs have all-access K-Cards, and there is talk of other groups, such as the Peer Counselors getting access so that they can fulfill their responsibilities. These students may feel pressure to use their K-Cards for social purposes or lend them to a friend who has left theirs and needs to go back into a building to retrieve it.
However, the most concerning part of this policy is the fact that it was done in spite of overwhelming student feedback against it. To many students, this indicates a lack of trust and respect from the administration.
We hope that the Kenyon College administration will consider replacing this policy with one that takes into account the wants, needs, and unique identity of the community. Perhaps installing a camera at each door would allow the school to see who was in the building at a certain time without restricting K-Card access.
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