College campuses, particularly those in New York City, are no stranger to guidelines meant to ensure the safety of students and faculty. One policy at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, however, has recently been under scrutiny after a petition calling for change began to gain university-wide attention.
In a detailed Facebook post that brought both support and commentary from other Fordham residents, Katie Doman, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’19, announced that she would be collecting signatures from both individuals and student organizations for support against the overnight guest pass rule, which prohibits undergraduate residents from hosting overnight guests of the opposite sex.
The overnight policy was enforced to support roommate rights and community interests, according to Jenifer Campbell, director of Residential Life at FCLC.
“The policy was developed to enforce roommate rights in addition to maintaining the expectation that guests are in fact visitors and not residents of the building by frequent sojourns,” Campbell wrote in an email statement to The Observer, implying that policy prohibits guests from visiting so often that they would become unofficial residents of the dorms as well. “The importance of students being able to focus on their studies and the reason why they have chosen on-campus accommodations is also the purpose for maintaining the policy.”
Doman, however, believes that there are other reasons for the guest pass policy, and that they go beyond concerns for safety and roommate rights, stating that “while the guise of the policy is the protection of marriage and abstinence against premarital sex, it is clearly just a ruse” based on several observations she has made surrounding other resident guidelines.
Besides having co-ed floors and a visitation policy that extends late into the night, the policy for graduate students living in McMahon Hall allows for two overnight guests of either sex for two nights in a seven-day period, something that Doman didn’t realize until she moved to a floor with many graduate residents.
“I didn’t realize until my first floor meeting that the graduate students don’t have to follow this opposite-sex guest policy,” Doman said. “As soon as I found that out, I was like okay, this guise of morality that Fordham is putting up as their reason for maintaining this rule for the undergraduate students is clearly false, because they’re willing to let graduate students break this rule.”
Doman also stressed that the policy resulted in fines for students that directly benefited the administration, in addition to using exclusionary language that failed to acknowledge same-sex relationships or individuals who do not identify within the gender binary, a point she brought up when meeting with Campbell and Keith Eldredge, assistant Vice President and Dean of Students at FCLC.
“Let’s for argument’s sake say this needs to be a protection in place for a student who is not bold enough necessarily about their partners being over too often, what then is in place for someone who has a roommate with a same-sex partner?” Doman said. “They say ‘well, we deal with that on a case-by-case basis, and if it becomes egregious, then we have a roommate meeting.’ Then why can’t we do that for people with opposite sex partners?”
In response to concerns raised by the fees and the difference in policy for graduate residents, Campbell wrote, “All students, undergraduate and graduate, are subject to fines. The fees are incremental in order to deter continual violation of the policy.”
There are close to 650 guest passes, as well as an average of 75 fines, issued each semester, according to Campbell. One student that faced the $15 charge was Elizabeth Davis, FCLC ’19, who finds it frustrating to leave with her friend after visiting hours end in order to avoid additional charges.
“I found myself in several circumstances where it was like, alright, it’s 3:30 a.m., time to be out on the streets of the city until 6:30 a.m., which is not much fun to look forward to,” Davis said.
As part of a class exercise for her Basic Research Methods class, Davis and other classmates polled approximately 90 students on their opinions concerning the policy. “Overall we found that students weren’t happy with it, they didn’t support it, they didn’t see it as needed and it validated my own feelings towards it,” Davis said.
Another student affected by the policy is Maggie Wong, FCLC ’19, a former resident who believes that the guest pass policy should be revised to allow guests to spend the night regardless of their gender. Like Davis, Wong also faced a frustrating situation as a freshman when her friend came to visit from another state.
“His hotel rental was messed up, and he had nowhere to stay and nowhere to go,” Wong said. “I was trying to ask the people from the Residential Office if he could just stay over, and they said no. He ended up sleeping on the couch outside McMahon all night.”
Doman said that she has received support from residents and student clubs, one of them being the Fordham Filmmaking Club. Additionally, Doman has also written her own Opinions article for the Fordham Observer. Regarding the future of the guest pass policy, Doman would like to see guest policies that address safety issues and are also fair and inclusive to Lincoln Center’s residents. She said her concerns come from a “logic-based place.”
“There are real reasons you’d want a list of all the visitors and guest visitation for the reasons that they said,” Doman said, going on to add, “It’s not the problem that I have with these rules. It’s not the safety component. It’s the actual logical component of ‘Is there is a reason to separate this out based on biological sex?’ And there isn’t. There is no reason to keep this policy.”