“Keygate” causes stir
By Erin Grable, Staff Writer and Kathleen Layton, Editor-in-Chief
In early October, three YHC students were caught by campus police lurking between Maxwell Math and Science Building and the old gynmasium dressed in black and in possession of set of campus master keys. The incident led to one arrest, the exposure of a secret campus society and a revisitation of campus policy regarding student access to keys.
In the early hours of Friday, Oct. 1, students David McEwen and Tory Gravitt were wearing dark-colored clothing when they were approached by YHC police officer Tommy Shook. According to police reports, both students ran from Shook and were later found near the baseball fields by a deputy of Towns County Sheriff’s Office. McEwen and Gravitt were brought to the police station for questioning where they were joined by a third YHC student, Austin Freeman. All three claimed to be “exploring the campus” using a set of master keys that were provided to them through their membership in a secret organization called Delta Lambda, or “Down-Low.” McEwen was arrested, and the other two students were detained as additional suspects.
Once questioned, the trio revealed that as members of Delta Lambda they would sneak around buildings late at night using Delta Lambda’s set of master keys. These keys were passed down year to year. The keys were originally obtained from founding members Cody Morgan and Alan Guilfoyle. After questioning, Freeman handed over the keys to YHC police as well as a backpack containing books with information on other campus organizations.
According to Freeman, all three students were provided the opportunity to negotiate their punishment alongside YHC police and administration as a part of the appeals process. The allowance of an appeal is a common part of the disciplinary procedures at YHC.
“The cops were reasonable. All students who get in trouble on campus get an appeal, and we decided that it would be beneficial for us as students to be examples to other students rather than [for] them kick us out [of school],” said McEwen, a Spanish major from Conyers.
Eventually, it was decided that the three would individually serve 70 hours of community service, pay a fine of $300 dollars each, develop a program to return any additional master keys back to YHC administration and remain under a strict disciplinary program until they graduate.
In hindsight, McEwen, Gravitt and Freeman each have regrets about the incident.
“We ran because we looked sketchy in all black,” said McEwen. “We were scared. We were idiots. We knew it was wrong, because we had the keys.”
Agreeing with McEwen’s sentiments, Gravitt, a theatre major from Cumming, commented, “I thought my future was done for and that I was going to jail. I thought I was going to get kicked out of school—my whole future flashed before my eyes.”
Gravitt went on to say, “ever since that night, even though I didn’t get kicked out of school and it didn’t go on my criminal record, my life has still changed; because, I will be suffering from these consequences for a long time.”
Needless to say, each student has come to realize the gravity of their actions.
“Looking back I realize what could have happened,” said Freeman, a theatre major from Hart County. “Tori or David could have been shot because they ran. I thought of a range of things; but, since we were cooperative, the police decided to keep only the school involved. I thought I could go to prison or be suspended.”
Dr. Ron Ingle, the executive vice president and provost at YHC. Ingle said, “I trust that they’ve learned from this experience. It’s what we do here. Hopefully, they’ve learned something and make some changes to [their] decision making.”
Along with hoping that the lesson is learned, Ingle noted that the school will not press charges.
Ingle said, “as long as they follow their requirements it’s a done deal” in reference to their disciplinary requirements.
Though the incident occurred over a month ago, the repercussions are still being felt across campus. Ingle mentioned plans for a key policy to be established in the future.
“I’m planning on implementing a key policy. I understand that there are keys out there. I plan on having a key amnesty period, where there will be no repercussions for [having keys], so long as those keys are returned,” Ingle said.
Ingle stressed the difficulty of determining which students have the authority to have keys and how that approval should be reached.
While this incident posed a problem for administration, Rouseline Emmanuel, director of campus activities, said that she had no knowledge of the situation because “[Delta Lambda] is not a recognized organization [by YHC].”
Emmanuel’s office only deals with issues involving YHC-sanctioned student organizations.
Ingle believed that this issue was bigger than previously believed, but did not feel that notifying faculty about the event was an acceptable way to approach the issue.
Though Ingle was surprised by the gravity of the issue, Dr. Joy Goldsmith, assistant professor of communication and department chair, commented that she was not surprised that students have access from previous years. However, Goldsmith acknowledged that students having access to confidential materials is worrisome and could become a big danger.