There were not enough microphones for the voices that crowded the Union Ballroom on Tuesday night.
Some students voiced concerns on the as a part of a forum hosted by MSU’s undergraduate student government ASMSU, the Residence Halls Association and the University Activities Board. The students interrupted both each other and the speakers, eager to be heard and desperate for a course of action.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Services Denise Maybank, Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore and Coordinator Jessica Norris were in attendance, alongside professor and chair of Sexual Violence Advisory Committee Amy Bonomi, who served as a moderator for discussion.
Norris kicked off the night by explaining to students that faculty had been getting complaints about the existence of a women’s lounge for years, and that it went against Title IX.
“As we move forward, one of the things my office is interested in hearing about is the campus climate,” Norris said. “We’re going to continue efforts this year for students and faculty to participate in focus groups and public forums through partnership with the Sexual Violence Advisory Committee.”
Norris said the goal of her office is to work on campus climate and make sure they not just hear , but make our campus safer and take action in doing so.
Maybank spoke next, also talking about transparency with students.
“I really want to think about where we’re going and what will happen in relation to women’s resources on campus,” Maybank said. “My hope for this upcoming semester, through the Women’s Advisory Council, is that we have quality representation of women students.”
There was a moment of small group discussion facilitated by Bonomi that challenged students to deliberate on what the university does well. However, students were quick to jump into complaints about the way MSU has handled sexual assault cases in the past, and little positives to the situation were shared.
“I think the university is great at keeping up appearances,” media and information junior Anna Gustafson said. “But I want to be proud of this university, and I’m not proud of this. We need to be fighting this battle, not running from it because of a few complaints.”
Likewise, students lamented the loss of what many female students shared as a safe space.
“What I don’t understand is how this decision was made so quickly,” sociology senior Katrina Groeller said. “I’ve read the history of the Union. I know that we used to have a lot of things, but students voted them off. But there wasn’t a vote for this. Students weren’t asked.”
The administration made few comments once students took the helm of the conversation.
“As a male, the existence of a women’s study lounge does not violate my rights,” social relations and policy junior Sam Granger said.
Bonomi ended the forum on a high note, thanking students for participating in the forum.
“I am so thankful for the voices we heard today,” Bonomi said. “And I know that change can be slow, but it’s ongoing conversations like this that make it happen.”