Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Complaint filed by UM-Flint professor condemning women-only lounge in Union

July 19, 2016
<p>Prenursing freshman Bridget Kutsche studies Feb. 21, 2015, in the women's lounge at the MSU Union. The women's lounge is Kutsche's preferred place to study for the quiet atmosphere.</p>

Prenursing freshman Bridget Kutsche studies Feb. 21, 2015, in the women's lounge at the MSU Union. The women's lounge is Kutsche's preferred place to study for the quiet atmosphere.

Photo by Emily Nagle | The State News

A University of Michigan-Flint professor, Mark Perry, filed a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards MSU because a study lounge in the student Union was designated for women only.

The Union's Women's Lounge, located on the main floor of the MSU Union, debuted in 1925 and since then has served as a safe study place for exclusively women at MSU. Perry said this exclusivity could violate civil rights legislation.

"As a 20-year resident of Michigan, as a Michigan taxpayer and as a Michigan State employee (at UM-Flint), this issue is important to me because I believe that a women's only study lounge on the campus of a taxpayer-supported university is possibly in violation of federal civil rights laws (including Title IX) and Michigan State civil rights laws (including Proposal 2 passed in 2006)," Perry said. 

In the Michigan Constitution, Section 26 of Article I says: 

"The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." 

By providing only a women's-only study lounge in the Union, and not a men's-only study lounge, Perry said MSU is applying a double-standard in favor of one gender only: women. But he said having a both women's-only lounge and men's-only lounge would accommodate both genders and provide equal treatment under the law of both genders. 

Though Perry may have filed a complaint against MSU, MSU spokesman Jason Cody said there are changes coming to the women's lounge but not because of the complaint. 

"As MSU continues to evaluate facilities and programs to ensure access for all students, plans are under way to convert the space that has historically been used as a women's study lounge in the MSU Union," Cody said. "This decision was reached to ensure access for all students, not as the result of any one individual's complaints." 

The redesign and construction of what was once the women's lounge, is set for completion in August 2016. It will also include a lactation space and quiet study lounge that is open to all students. 

"If MSU does intend to open that space to all MSU students in the fall, I applaud MSU for its efforts to end its long-standing practice of granting preferential treatment to women and discriminating against men," Perry said. 

Response to the decision to end the lounge wasn't kind, to say the least. The president of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, Lorenzo Santavicca issued a letter asking for student input moving forward. 

See Twitter's reaction below. 

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