This Professor Uses a Law Meant to Protect Women to Take Their Safe Space Away

August 9th 2016

Taylor Bell

Michigan State University has decided to remove its women's study lounge after one male professor complained that the lounge was wrong for excluding men.

Mark Perry

According to Jezebel, MSU will shut down its women's lounge in response to a complaint filed by University of Michigan-Flint professor Mark Perry back in July.

Perry argued that the on-campus space strictly for women violated Title IX, a law that "requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding." After a school investigation, MSU agreed it was best to have the lounge removed.

According to Jezebel, the school will convert the on-campus women's space into an all-gender study lounge.

But the decision to close the women's lounge has sparked backlash from female students.

One MSU student, Alyse Maksimoski, created a Facebook event called "Take Back The Women's Study Lounge" to help protest the university's move. In an emailed statement to ATTN: Maksimoski said that female students are upset they no longer have a safe space.

"I have heard stories from survivors that this lounge was the only place they felt 100 percent safe from their attacker," Maksimoski told ATTN:. "I have heard stories from Muslim women who felt relief that they could remove their hijabs in the lounge. I have heard stories from many, many women who embrace a women's study lounge as a space safe from harassment, gawking, and perversion that they otherwise experience at other study spaces on campus."

As reported by the university's newspaper The State News, MSU came under investigation in September 2015 for mishandling sexual assault and harassment cases on campus.

While the school technically may have had grounds to remove the lounge based on the literal language of Title IX, that doesn't necessarily mean that justice was served.

Although equality is important, destroying a unique space for women that allows them to feel free is not a way to achieve that. Already, it is hard for women to exist in a space without being harassed, whether at work or on the street.

Title IX was essentially designed to eliminate discrimination based on sex. "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance," the U.S. Department of Education website states.

The U.S. Department of Education site also explains:

"Some key issue areas in which recipients have Title IX obligations are: recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; sex-based harassment; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment."

In this way, Title IX can facilitate gender equity. But in this case, the university decided to close down the female-only space where women felt safe from things such as sexual harassment.

Having a space for women is not an act of exclusion but an act of empowerment for women.

"We face different obstacles than men and we experience college differently," Maksimoski told ATTN:. "Going to the library or any other study space commands that we guard our bodies, our belongings, ourselves. Taking away a place where women can relax and not be groped, sexualized, catcalled, or photographed without their consent is a sexist move. It is not moving forward or complying with Title IX. It is dismissing the lived experiences of women on MSU's campus and saying that women don't experience the world differently."