Changes to Gender-Based Guest Policy in Talks for First-Years

Jane Miller | The PHOENIXFirst-year students could soon have more of a choice in who may stay with them overnight as RHA and SGLC hope to remove gendered language from Residence Life policies. If changes are approved, they’ll be in the 2018-19 Community Standards.

Following the passage of legislation by Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) and the Residence Hall Association (RHA), first-year students living on campus could soon have more freedom in choosing who they host as overnight guests.

Though SGLC and RHA have produced their own unique proposals, both organizations center their legislation on the removal of the gendered language used in the current first-year guest policy so that students can have overnight guests regardless of their gender identity.

Currently, first-year students can host non-Loyola guests of the opposite gender during visitation hours, which are from 6 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, according to Loyola’s Community Standards.

For guests of the same gender, the above rules don’t apply. Residents are able to get a guest pass which allows individuals of the student’s gender to stay with them overnight.

The proposed changes echo the response from a campus-wide survey given to students living in residence halls by RHA earlier in the semester.

The survey received 1,644 responses total, about 37 percent of the population which was asked to participate, according to RHA president Jacob Lang.

Three quarters of respondents expressed disapproval for the first-year residence hall visitation hours and 93 percent said they would favor a policy change.

Residence Life also conducts annual surveys to gauge students’ satisfaction with their residence experience, though the questions can change depending on the year, according to Jennifer O’Brien, associate director of housing operations for the Department of Residence Life.

Both SGLC and RHA have been hearing student feedback on the guest policy for sometime, but the proposed legislation marks the first organized effort to invoke desired changes, according to Maddie Drescher, a SGLC senator.

Drescher served as chief sponsor of SGLC’s legislation as part of her role on the residence, commuters and dining committee.

Both SGLC and RHA, along with the Office of Student Conduct and Resolution (OSCCR) and Residence Life participated in a meeting earlier this year about the proposed changes.

“The representatives on the administration end were incredibly open to hearing us out, they said there was room for improvement [in the guest policy],” Drescher said.

“Residence Life is grateful for the combined work of RHA and SGLC, and their engagement with the student body on this topic,” O’Brien said in a statement to The Phoenix.

While both legislations call for the removal of gendered language, the organizations propose unique amendments to the current guest pass policy, of which first-year students can receive four per month.

SGLC calls for an unlimited guest pass policy. RHA recommends keeping the current policy, but waiving family visits from a student’s guest pass total. 

Both legislations justify their proposed changes by stating the current overnight policy contradicts parts of Loyola’s Community Standards, which emphasize the importance of acknowledging and respecting student diversity, including the diversity of gender identity.

SGLC’s legislation also calls out the current policy as being contradictory of the student promise, a set of values students commit to upon their enrollment at Loyola.

“By limiting our interaction with community members, whether they be Loyola students or not, based on gender expression or identity, we cannot fully live up to the student promise as it’s outlined currently,” Drescher, a first-year psychology major, said.

The changes could be implemented as early as fall 2018, according to Drescher. 

“The department is actively considering the recommended changes, in alignment with the annual editing process of the Loyola University Chicago Community Standards,” O’Brien said in an email to The PHOENIX. 

As to what form the changes take, Lang noted that it comes down to which legislation is selected, although he added there isn’t a level of competition between the two organizations.

“In the event that both are considered, we can kind of create an amalgamation of the different legislation so that everything is fluid and solid,” Lang said.

A number of Jesuit institutions including Georgetown University, Santa Clara University and Loyola University New Orleans don’t restrict their overnight guest policies based on gender, according to SGLC. Local universities including DePaul University, Northwestern University and University of Chicago also don’t limit their guest policy on the grounds of gender identity, according to their respective websites.

Drescher sees the recommended amendments as positively impacting the Loyola community.

“Ultimately, I think it’s a great step forward if all goes well to allow students to live up to the student promise …  and to remove what we say is discriminatory language,” Drescher said.

Hannah Trais, a first-year nursing major, noted that students already find ways to get around the current rules.

“I think it also puts a lot of stress on students because people try to find ways around it, like get their friend to check someone in for them, and I think it’s better to just be upfront about what they are doing,” Trais said.

Aleks Kostic, a first-year neuroscience major, said she didn’t understand the reasoning behind the current guest policy.

“I think it’s pretty ridiculous … we are allowed to have people of the opposite gender in our rooms if they are spending the night if they are siblings, but if they are just friends, they are not allowed,” Kostic said.

When told about the proposed changes, Kostic expressed support.

“It would be a lot nicer to have that freedom and independence to bring your friends over and that’s the whole college experience. So yeah, that would be pretty cool,” Kostic said.

The proposed changes await evaluation by OSSCR. Any revisions to the Code of Conduct proposed by OSSCR will be submitted to Jane Neufeld, the vice president of student development, for signature.

According to Residence Life, students will be notified regarding any changes upon the publication of the 2018-19 Community Standards.

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