September 14, 2007

S.A. Members Clash Over Gender-Neutral Housing

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The Student Assembly spent much of its time yesterday in a stalemate over whether or not to implement gender-neutral housing in residences halls.
Arts and Sciences Representative Vincent Hartman ’08, the main proponent of the resolution, made several adjustments to clarify the proposal in light of new data. Hartman introduced data from other prominent universities that have implemented gender-neutral housing, including Dartmouth College, California Institute of Technology and the University of Southern Maine. Each school, Hartman said, has received positive feedback from their students on the matter. Additionally, all three schools have noted that all the objections they faced to gender-neutral housing came from parents, not the students themselves. Hartman also noted that there was no increase in rates of sexual assault or rape with the implementation of gender-neutral housing.
Despite the amended resolution, including new data in support of gender-neutral housing, Vice President of Finance Adam Gay ’08 still had his doubts.
“My main concern is that there must be enough data to support the benefit of gender-neutral housing,” Gay said.
In response, Hartman cited research suggesting that gender-specific housing actually promotes rates of sexual assault and rape and that gender-neutral housing did not carry with it a rise in the rate of sexual assault.
Still, other representatives continued to object to the bill as a whole.
“There are plenty of gender neutral housing options off campus,” Engineering Representative Christopher Sarra ’09 said. “I don’t see why this is necessary.”
Representatives suggested suspending a vote on the resolution until Hartman can obtain more data on the issue and report regularly to the S.A. Hartman would file reports until two to three weeks before the end of the semester so that a decision could be reached before the housing lottery in the spring. Hartman opposed the proposed voting suspension, he said, because of an upcoming internal housing lottery in November for upperclassman dorms.
“West Campus will be doing an internal lottery in November because some students will be moving into off campus housing early,” Hartman said. “If it is not done before then, this resolution will be delayed by two years.”
Aside from the issue of gender-neutral housing, the S.A. also welcomed new representative Andrew Wang ’08 at yesterday’s meeting. In addition, the S.A. approved funding for two student organizations: Welcome Weekend and Mind Matters. While Welcome Weekend’s funding faced little opposition and was approved unanimously, Mind Matters faced a bigger fight among the S.A. representatives.
All members of the S.A. expressed sincere and wholehearted support Mind Matters’ mission. Executive Vice President C.J. Slicklen ‘09 hailed Mind Matters as “phenomenal,” saying that he “could not support them more.” However, some members took serious issue with the budget that Mind Matters had laid out. When the budget was compared with the group’s budget from the previous year, there was a nearly $10,000 increase in required funds, a jump which struck Hartman as unecessary.
“There is no demonstrable need for all their funding,” he said.
Much of the additonal funding had been devoted to increased advertising for a projected 30 Mind Matter events throughout the year as well as a conference that the members of Mind Matters would attend. International Representative Mazdak Asgary ‘08 questioned the need for so much funding, noting that no other student organization received as many funds for advertising.
In spite of Asgary’s objections, the funding was approved 13-4. Just before voting, Vice President Slicklen reminded the S.A. members that they were elected to spend the money of the students wisely, and that Mind Matters was in the benefit of the students.
“I can’t imagine they would disagree with us,” he said.