By Steven Jackson
At precisely 7:01 p.m. on a frosty Monday night, Beloit Student Congress was called to order. Right off the bat, committee reports offered a gosh-danged goldmine of information, and Club Oversight Committee stood out as this evening’s shining star. For example, COO is in the process of yearly club oversight and review. “You may have a COO member sitting in on your club meeting,” warned Abigail Bohstedt’13, chair of COO. In other COO news, the committee just granted Education Club full club status.
Gender-neutral housing was the topic of this week’s forum. Residential Life Committee Chair Ben Schechter’11, back from a two-week hiatus with a spanking new coiffure to show for it, led discussion.
Gender-neutral housing is a pilot project established last year that provides safe and comfortable housing for individuals with non-conforming gender identities. Gender-neutral housing is currently offered in the second floor suites of 815, the third floor of Wood Towers B and C, and the third floor of Bushnell.
At the beginning of the year, there were five open rooms on gender-neutral floors. Considering the current housing crunch that has forced first-year students into five- or six-person living spaces, this underutilized space is a problem, and Residential Life is considering scaling back the program. Schechter asked students for their input and perspectives.
Several students pointed out that gender-neutral housing is poorly advertised on campus and that more publicity may help fill up those rooms. Schechter said that specific information about gender-neutral housing will be available to all students in the room lottery booklet this semester.
Students suggested opening gender-neutral housing to first semester first-years, who are currently ineligible for the program. Residential Life will consider changing this policy as well as making other changes when they review the program next fall. Although first-years are not eligible applicants, those on overflow housing lists are considered for surplus gender-neutral housing rooms.
Students inquired about abuses of the gender-neutral housing system, such as boyfriends and girlfriends living together under the sex-blind policy. Schechter reported that he knew of one or two rooms being used in this way, but that the majority of the rooms are being used according to the rules.
The general sentiment was that gender-neutral housing needs more time before undergoing major changes—it is still only a pilot project after all. Schechter urged students to get in touch with him by e-mail (schechte (at) beloit.edu) for further questions or discussion. “It’s my job to listen to what you have to say,” he said. “And I also think you’re pretty fantastic.”
After the forum, we waived the break, which is always a good feeling.
The first order of business was the long-awaited election bylaw changes, presented by James McQuaid’11 of Elections Committee. Three changes were proposed: 1) applications for student government candidates will now primarily be filled out and collected online, rather than at the Student Activities Office; 2) Elections Committee will have the option of making applications available earlier than the Monday before semester break; 3) Candidate platforms are now limited to 200 words.
The changes were heartily approved and we moved on the next and final order of business: Re-election of the Communications Coordinator. The Communications Coordinator is the link between the Executive Board and the student body. As such, he or she attends both Executive Board and BSC meetings and makes the weekly BSC sign that’s always getting blown down outside Pearsons. (The other day I spent like five minutes trying to prop it back up and get the paper set straight in the frame. I finally succeeded, and headed into Pearsons for a victory lunch at DK’s. As I walked inside, I heard the sandwich board clatter to the concrete—foiled again.) Overall, the Communications Coordinator “can make it so people out there respect people in here,” said Rich Steffensmeier’13, vice president and executive board chair.
The position was explained and Executive Board called for nominations. After several minutes of awkward silence in which no one made eye contact with anyone else, David Feldman was nominated. As the only nominee, the power was in Feldman’s hands. He explained he was busy this semester, but would be willing to do it if the time commitment was not too heavy. Executive Board assured him it was a maximum commitment of two to three hours per week—and he would get a key to the BSC office. That was all Feldman needed to hear; he accepted the key and the position and was promptly placard-voted into office. Good luck with that sign, David.