First RHA Town Hall Reviews Guest Policy

RHA is working on addressing student concerns. (JON BJORNSON/The Observer)

Contributing Writer

The Residence Hall Association (RHA) held its first town hall of the academic year on Thursday, Nov. 9, which focused on Fordham University’s residence hall guest policies. After giving a brief introduction of the newly restructured organization, the class representatives gave presentations on the current guest policies, which included research into the policies of other Jesuit universities and information gathered by speaking to Dean of Students Keith Eldredge and Director of Residential Life Jenifer Campbell.

The main grievance with the policy aired by the students in attendance was its lack of inclusivity and its conservative nature. Specifically, students took issue with the policy that prohibits students from having people of the opposite sex spend the night.  RHA intends to make efforts to amend certain aspects of the guest policy.

The town hall was led by Preston Ross, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’19, the Advocacy Coordinator for RHA. Ross gave opening remarks before introducing each class’ new representatives.

Andrew Beecher, Gabelli School of Business at Lincoln Center (GSBLC) ’21, and Lucia Vacchiano, FCLC ’20,  presented research they conducted on guest policies of members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and other local universities. Cristina Mendez, FCLC ’19, met with Campbell regarding the best way to actually change Fordham’s guest policies. Campbell stated that the best way to enact change is by comparing Fordham to other institutions, specifically other Jesuit and Catholic colleges and universities, and showing how updating our policy would follow Jesuit values.

Beecher and Vacchiano found that Fordham University was in the majority when it comes to policies prohibiting opposite sex overnight guests—71.4 percent of Jesuit universities do not allow opposite sex overnight guests. However, they also discovered that there were AJCU members in relatively close vicinity to Fordham that do allow opposite sex guests. This includes schools like Fairfield University and Canisius College, which are located in Connecticut and upstate New York, respectively.

When it comes to other New York City universities, out of approximately every 115 institutions, 100 allow students to have overnight guests of the opposite sex.

Beecher and Vacchiano also examined the policy that requires students to obtain overnight guest passes 24 hours in advance. Thirteen out of 16 New York schools do not require students to obtain guest passes a full day in advance, according to their research.

The two also researched policies regarding the issue of gender-inclusive housing. This type of housing allows students to room in accordance with their gender identity, not necessarily their legal sex. Many universities have gender inclusive housing policies, including the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit university.

To summarize their findings, they stated that, “By comparison to other NYC and AJCU schools, Fordham University guest policy is not inclusive or progressive.”

Samuel Blackwood, FCLC ’19, met with Eldredge about these issues and presented his findings to the town hall. When asked about the opposite sex guest policy, Eldredge stated that this policy is in place due to the university’s stance on premarital sex. The Fordham University Student Handbook states “sexual intercourse is to be reserved for marriage,” therefore “cohabitation is…prohibited in the residence halls.”

This rule, however, only applies to undergraduate students. Graduate and law students who live on campus are permitted to have opposite sex overnight guests. Blackwood explained that Eldredge stated this was due to the fact that graduate students are more mature and are therefore better equipped to make better choices. Jenifer Campbell, director of residential life, said that graduate students would be less likely to come to Fordham to live on campus if they were required to adhere to restrictive guest policies, according to a presentation made by Mendez, later during the town hall.

In regards to housing policies based on gender identity, Eldredge stated that the Pope of the Catholic Church has declared that there are only two genders, which Fordham’s policies reflect. Blackwood questioned why Fordham’s guest policies differ from that of other NYC institutions, and Eldredge stated that Fordham’s faith is what differentiates it from other universities.

In addition to the policy on overnight guests, students expressed discontent with other aspects: the requirement to obtain guest passes a day in advance (and the fact that there is only a small window of time when these passes can be obtained), that opposite sex siblings and family members cannot stay overnight without advance request by the student, that both residence halls are not accessible to all residents and that day guests must be signed out by 3:30 a.m. Students also expressed the desire for gender-inclusive housing policies.

“I think the current guest policy is anything but inclusive and progressive,” said McMahon Hall resident Margaret Cohen, FCLC ’20. “I think that the policy sucks both logistically and in its politics.”

“I think the best words to describe it is heteronormative and transphobic,” Cohen continued. “Allowing students of any gender to have guests of any gender is the only inclusive move the administration can make except not allowing any guests.”

Led by Ross, RHA said they plan to take action in order to make changes to the guest policies, but will most likely be focusing on making small changes at this time. This includes aspects such as the hours in which students can obtain guest passes and the mode in which the passes are issued.

“When I was appointed to this position, the one thing that kept coming up was ‘guest pass policy’ and ‘overnight policy,’” Ross said. “After hearing it numerous times, the representatives and I decided to take action.”

Ross continued, “After doing my research, I came to the realization that the policy needs some work because of how inconsistent it is in its intent. Having heard the backlash from residents and how unhappy they are with it, I believe there is a way to still maintain Jesuit values while allowing us to have overnight guests regardless of their gender and/or sex.” Many students, it appears, would be delighted with this compromise.