Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) spent much of its Wednesday meeting discussing a Residential Life rule that prevents students of different genders from sharing bedrooms in College housing.
According to the 2008-2009 Student Handbook, the Office of Residential Life's current policy reads: "Men and women may share living space provided that the number of bedrooms allows for separate bedrooms for each gender."
Vice President for Student Affairs Carly Berman '11 raised the issue, stating that she thought the policy should be revised. "Last year, a few concerns were raised about ResLife rules that require students rooming together [to be the] same sex," she said. "This clearly has the potential to limit students' options and create some problems."
"For example," she said, "if you...have a best friend that is a guy, and you want to live with them, at this point that isn't possible."
Several BSG members immediately voiced their support for Berman's proposal. At-Large Representative Nyle Usmani '12 stated that he believed that the rule should be changed, but that Residential Life should be involved in the discussion. "If the reason the rule isn't being supported is for concerns over sexuality, then the College is making a pretty heteronormative statement," he said.
At-Large Representative Rasha Harvey '12 also expressed support for the change. "Personally, I'm all for it," he said. "It seems to me like there are already situations where it is easily possible for different sexes to live together without the school noticing."
Vice President for Academic Affairs Sam Dinning '09 argued that changing the rule could be problematic for Residential Life.
"Legitimizing this and then preventing couples from living together is a huge hassle," he said.
IHC Vice President Dan Hetherman '09 said that in some cases this wasn't a problem, since "ResLife has made exceptions in the past [for students who] are married."
In response to this, Dinning quipped, "So tie the knot in Vegas and you are set."
Director of Residential Life Mary Pat McMahon confirmed that exceptions have been made for married students in the past. "But we generally do not allow mixed gender roommates," she said in a phone interview with the Orient. "There are exceptions made, but generally they are for personal reasons. I'm interested in talking to people about this, and finding out what their interests are about this issue."
Vice President for BSG Affairs John Connolly '11 acknowledged Dinning's argument, but said that he had to disagree. "The current rule is usually justified on the basis that if co-ed rooming were allowed, couples would move in together," he said. "This certainly could be problematic and in that light makes sense. However, the rule is heteronormative in that it doesn't recognize that gay couples can currently move in together freely. On this campus where we've got transgendered, gay, and straight students living and learning together, the rule seems anachronistic."
BSG President Sophia Seifert '09 said that the issue would also be debated in future meetings. "The measure that will ultimately come to a vote in the next few weeks will involve a recommendation as to how, as well as the reasoning as to why, this option should exist," she wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "Whether or not this measure passes will be the ultimate test of support for this option, and I hope that students talk to their BSG representatives about their positions."
In other business, Seifert and Connolly both made announcements to the governing body regarding projects they have been working on.
Connolly announced that the BSG newsletter was complete and would be brought to the Copy Center the following day. "Depending on the Mail Center's schedule, it will be in mailboxes hopefully by Friday, but maybe next week, since they don't stuff on Fridays," he said.
Seifert announced the results of a BSG evaluation completed last semester by members of the body. "I would like to happily let you know that most of you think your time is being used well," she said. "But the most common complaint is that people don't listen and they repeat each other. As much as I repeat myself each week telling you guys to do that, you need to do it."
"Our surveys had a lot of positive feedback," Seifert wrote in the e-mail. "People are enjoying the projects they are working on and have high expectations for this semester."