Should a public university have a student lounge exclusively for women?
Mark J. Perry, an analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, suggested a few years ago that Michigan State’s women-only lounge is inappropriate at a public university. “Wouldn’t a women-only lounge that discriminates against men be in violation of Title IX?” he asked. While the federal Title IX is usually used to promote rights for women, it actually bans discrimination on the basis of sex.
This year, Perry filed a formal complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. (He is a professor University of Michigan at Flint, part of the rival university system.)
Now Michigan State has announced that it will close the lounge (which was a relic of the past, when both women and men had same-sex lounges).
InsideHigherEd covered the latest news. The article by Scott Jaschik noted that some women think that Michigan State’s decision is unfair. “Advocates for the women’s lounge say there are relatively few places on the main campus where women can study in peace, without male students talking to them and sometimes harassing them,” wrote Jaschik. More than 5000 people have signed a petition asking the administration to keep things the way they are. After all, says the petition, there’s a co-ed lounge that’s twice as big right next to the women’s lounge. (Another way of saying that is that the women’s lounge is half as big as the co-ed lounge, with nothing exclusively for men.)
As Jaschik noted, Mark Perry had some comments on his July 21, 2016, blog:
The vitriol, hatred, and hostility directed towards me by email, voicemail and on Twitter have been disturbing and disappointing, more than I have ever experienced in my life – much of it couldn’t be printed here due to the offensive content, but “You’re a piece of human garbage Perry and I hope something happens to your daughters, etc.” gives you an idea of some of the comments that I’ve received by voicemail this week (some have been forwarded to UM-Flint’s campus police).
It’s not clear whether Michigan State’s decision is based on Perry’s complaint or something else, but the school appears to be coming into line with state and federal law.