Campus / News / Student Senate / February 11, 2009

Senate Discusses GTF Report, Passes Gender-Neutral Housing Resolution

In a surprisingly quick meeting last Thursday, Student Senate discussed the recently released Greek Task Force report and passed a comprehensive gender-neutral housing resolution.

The Greek Task Force discussion, strictly kept to half an hour in length, primarily heard from Liz Soehngen, president of the local colony ATP, responding to and clarifying the situation.

“Being part of a national organization would put ATP on equal footing with the 3 existing sororities… It would allow us to recruit at the same time as them, on the same footing. But also it’s good for the campus in general, and not just us, in terms of recruitment. As it stands, we obey rules that Pan-Hel follows because we want to play by their rules. We don’t have to. Local colonies are not covered by the same restrictive standards as the national organizations, and they have less oversight, particularly since there are no provisions that require us to have a faculty advisor. We’re not responsible to a national organization, we’re only responsible to whatever restrictions there are on any group of students. We’re essentially a club that calls itself something different, technically on paper. As for us personally, aside from the recruitment, we would like to legitimately charge dues. There are certain little accoutrements we’d like, like pins and sweatshirts. Also, Greek organizations tend to have a long life span. When you consider that clubs come up and die within three years… A local colony has a similar life span,” Soehngen said.

The discussion was kept within its time limit and closed with a request to the Senate on behalf of the members of the local colonies.

“I would charge you as senators to ask the faculty on our behalf as students why it took so long for the report to come out and why it took so long to be distributed. Particularly since this report affects not only Greeks but non-Greeks as well. In some ways the timeline that it was kept to was a realistic timeline for the faculty, but not for members of the student body. They started sometime around the end of last year — my junior year — and I’m a senior now. In my dealings with the faculty, it’s struck me particularly how you can go through half your college career before a decision is made,” Soehngen said.

Next came the long-awaited presentation of a gender-neutral housing resolution, presented by Residential Quality of Life Committee Chair Michael Leon.

A resolution concerning gender-neutral housing

Whereas: Knox College Students are legal adults with the capability of making responsible decisions in regards to who they live with; and

Whereas: 89% of Knox College Students who approached the Housing Director and Senate Residential Quality of Life Committee when they tabled expressed interest in and support of gender-neutral housing at Knox College; and

Whereas: As guaranteed by Illinois state law Knox has and will always continue to have a certain percentage of its housing be single-sex housing; and

Whereas: 5 of our ACM peer institutions have already instituted gender-neutral housing including Colorado College, Grinnell College, Lawrence University, Carleton College, and Lake Forest College; and

Whereas: Knox has a history of being a progressive institution when it comes to taking a stand on issues of equality and discrimination; and

Whereas: Knox College’s Non-Discrimination Policy States: “Knox College does not discriminate on the basis of sex, gender identity or expression,… sexual orientation or affectional preference…[in] any of its educational policies and programs”; and

Whereas: The current housing policies violate Knox’s non-discrimination policy;

Therefore Be It Resolved: That the Student Senate of Knox College requests that the College adopt a gender-neutral housing policy whereby housing requests are reviewed in a gender-neutral fashion for all upper-class students; and

Therefore Be It Further Resolved: That if the college is unwilling to consider all upper-class housing requests in a gender-neutral fashion that it guarantees a minimum and varied number of on-campus locations where housing application will be processed in a gender-neutral fashion; and

Therefore Be it Further Resolved: That instructions will be added to the First-Year Housing form to contact the Director of Housing should an individual feel uncomfortable living with members of their own biological sex, and that these cases will be considered on an individual basis by the Director.

“This is something that the Residential Quality of Life Committee has been working on all year. We’ve been doing research, contacting other institutions that have gender-neutral housing, basically trying to figure out this might work at Knox and how it might work. We have been asked to formally express our opinion as a student body to see if we want this at Knox or not,” Chair Leon said.

In response to a question from Senator Chaudry about where the housing would be located, Chair Leon said, “The way the resolution stands right now, we’re saying that we would prefer that the gender-neutral policy be implemented so that gender could never be a discriminating factor, so that you couldn’t be told that you can’t live with a person because of their gender. This policy would be for basically all upper class students. Campus-wide is the preference. The college is willing to consider all the requests that we have. There will always be single-sex housing on campus.”

After a brief discussion and the acceptance of a couple friendly amendments, the resolution was passed in its current form.

There was also a brief discussion led by Safety and Services Committee Chair Sam Jarvis to inform the chamber about the opinions of students regarding cameras on campus. Chair Jarvis had tabled the previous week, and generally received positive sentiments from the student body. The most requested areas were campus parking lots, the area around CFA, and along Academy and West Streets next to campus.

Finally, Senate approved two additional fund requests: $30 to APO for a copy card, and $816 to SASS to bring Alix Olsen on campus.

After funding approvals this week, the Student Senate Discretionary Fund had $18,984 remaining for the year.

Student Senate sessions are held every Thursday at 7 pm in the Round Room of CFA.

Andrew Polk

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