A professor at the University of Michigan is responsible for the closure of a historically women’s-only lounge at Michigan State University.
Mark Perry, who teaches economics at UM’s Flint campus, wrote a blog accusing the lounge of exhibiting discriminatory practices and going against the laws set forth by Title IX, according to the Washington Post. He specifically leaned on the argument that women are statistically performing better in higher education and that men are, in fact, more in need of extra resources.
Many students at MSU, both male and female, have come forward to challenge the decision to make the lounge open to all genders claiming that it was a safe space and sanctuary for women, who are disproportionately preyed upon on college campuses.
“I’m signing because as a male, I’ve never felt threatened in a public space in my life, but every woman I know has,” one student commented on a Change.org petition started in mid-July. “I’ve never had to worry about people staring at me or coming up to me and forcing conversation on me while I’m trying to study, but every female college student I know has.”
“I myself have specifically used the women’s study lounge when initially going to the co-ed area to study, but then was harassed by a male student especially late in the evening, which continued even once I told him that I couldn’t talk and had to get my work done,” wrote another.
The room was opened in 1925 during a time where sexism was even more blatant than it is today and women needed a place to study and meet without experiencing the pressures of harassment by their male counterparts. A plaque summarizing its history still sits outside of the room.
“It’s disturbing and troubling to see Title IX invoked in this manner,” said Lisa Schwartzman, associate chair and graduate program director of MSU’s philosophy department. “The Women’s Lounge is the one women-only space on campus. The claim that its very existence denies men access to an equal education is absurd.”
Unfortunately, disproving Perry’s claim would lead to lengthy court proceedings and waiting for multiple decisions and appeals. While that route is still an option, it’s not clear whether it will be pursued.
This entire situation is an example of those with privilege claiming discrimination when they rarely can’t experience it. Having safe spaces for oppressed or marginalized groups is a necessary part of equality. Forcing them to join the status quo where they may feel threatened or experience discomfort, which is far from the worst-case scenario, isn’t a help to anyone.
Photo Courtesy: Wiki Commons