The “Kenyon Bubble” is Not a Safety Net; Or, Why I Carry Pepper Spray on Campus

Safety on campus is often an important factor in choosing a college, and this can especially be of concern for parents. In fact, campus crime statistics are often found on college ranking sites such as These stats are often drawn from a school’s annual Clery Act report, which discloses such information to the public.

Part of the reason that I chose Kenyon was its rural location. Since I grew up in a small suburban town in Ohio, the idea of living in a big city was frightening to me. I wanted a school that had a quiet, close-knit, and safe atmosphere. Sleepy little Gambier certainly fit the bill.

Most Kenyon students would probably say they feel safe on campus. According to Kenyon’s survey of student comfort on campus, 50% of 287 respondents agree that, on the whole, they feel comfortable at Kenyon, and another 33% “strongly agree.” Many students leave the doors to their rooms unlocked, and plenty of them also leave their bikes unsecured despite a recent string of bike thefts. There’s a general sense of safety and security inside the “Kenyon bubble.” When it comes to violence and theft, the idea that “things like that don’t happen here” mostly prevails.

The fact is, though, that things “like that” do happen here. Last fall, the Kenyon Collegian reported that multiple students living in Farr Hall and other north campus residences had been victims of thefts. On April 16, 2017, the campus was placed on lockdown due to a suicidal student that allegedly had a weapon. Kenyon’s 2017 Clery Act report provides a breakdown of other criminal activities that have taken place on Kenyon’s campus in the last three years, but the point I’m trying to make here is that Kenyon is not a magical place of safety.

There’s a reason that I always lock the door to my room, even if I’m just going downstairs to do laundry. There’s a reason that I always carry my pepper spray with me if I’m going to be out after dark or if I’m running on the Gap Trail. It’s not that Kenyon is a generally unsafe place. It’s not that I feel less safe at Kenyon than I do elsewhere; it’s that I don’t feel any more safe at Kenyon than I do elsewhere. Kenyon is a beautiful school that’s full of amazing people who provide us with incredible opportunities for learning and bettering ourselves. This does not exempt it from occasionally being afflicted by crime. The “Kenyon bubble” is unfortunately not equipped with library-esque scanners that detect ill intent (or library books that haven’t yet been checked out).

I’m not trying to be a fear monger. I’m not suggesting that pepper spray be provided to new students along with their class t-shirt and planner. I just want to encourage other students to be aware and be prepared. Take the extra seconds to lock up your room or bike. Pay attention to your surroundings when walking across campus after dark. Call Campus Safety if you’re uncomfortable; they’ll send an officer to walk with you or drive you to your destination, which is an incredibly useful and thoughtful service (for non-emergency situations, call 740-427-5000). Download the Rave Guardian app! Kenyon provides us with so many ways to stay safe. Get the best of your Kenyon experience by using them; you’ll be amazed by how good you feel when you have peace of mind.


Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2