What I witnessed at Student Senate April 16, 2009 was truly traumatizing. Not only did I feel personally attacked and violated, but I also lost nearly all respect for a majority of my senators.
Themed housing was the main agenda for Senate this night, and while I went in knowing that many senators were excited about getting the chance to vote down houses, I was unprepared for the unprofessionalism and outright hostility that I encountered among people who I had once considered my just and upright peers. As an example, I was taunted in Senate for approaching SASS (Students Against Sexism in Society) because many of the people I know are involved with this group (in which I have been proudly active for three years) and they also hold feminist ideals. This was somehow seen as biased, which was the main theme of the night.
Many senators held that bias was a big part of the Residential Quality of Life’s process. Even if this had been the case, it was out of line to call upon the fact that I was the girlfriend of the chair of the committee. Those most critical of Feminist House were part of the so-called “Man House.” It is not surprising that they are against feminism in any of its forms. I was told not to take this personally though; if I had been gay, I would have probably been called out too.
The Queer and Ally House was attacked because the community was seen as “isolationist” and within the realm of the Human Rights Center. The latter comment was made by someone who claims to champion feminist and queer rights. He and others seemed not to realize that with the amount of persecution of homosexuals in this country, some of that persecution might also be felt at Knox. Instead of considering their well-planned events, senators saw it as an attack on club statuses, arguing that queers should be happy with meetings and events.
If you want more proof of the fact that senators were blatantly anti-feminist and anti-gay, it can be seen in the lack of questions regarding one of the members of the Residential Quality of Life’s participation in the Humor House. Not only was the connection never questioned, but their activities also received little scrutiny. Whether or not more improv shows are needed on campus is questionable, but the fact remains that most people on this campus do not know what the Grievance Panel is. They, however, do know someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped and not done anything about it. Despite these things, the majority of senators thought it was more important to play Red Rover in the Tree House than provide information on what to do in the case of an assault. It did not matter that the committee agreed that Feminist House and Q&A’s house were voted as the strongest applications of all 12 houses that applied.
The concern that these houses were simply extensions of the clubs is unfounded when actually examined: most of the groups who applied were simply groups of friends who came up with the idea to play Twister once a week, and then decided they wanted a house. Club members should not be penalized for being passionate in more than one area in their lives; trying to create a center where their ideals are expounded is not something to be condemned, but praised.
No one should feel traumatized for any reason on this campus and certainly not at the center where our voices are supposed to be the most represented. If senators had brought up the ideas that our events were not clear enough, or that they did not agree with the program, it would be one thing, but using bias as an excuse for their discrimination is grotesque for a college that sees itself as politically progressive. Goddess forbid that someone have a girlfriend on this campus or know someone who was involved in last year’s themed housing or this year’s themed housing, or that they know people who are interested in the same things as them. I truly wanted to provide a service that did not exist here, but clearly Knox wants to play Scrabble all day instead of confronting sexism or homophobia in our society. If there was bias in the committee, it came from our peers being feminists and queer allies. Clearly, as demonstrated by a majority of members in Student Senate, Knox College is neither of those things.