Michigan State University closes women-only study lounge

michigan state university

Michigan State University has closed its longstanding women-only study lounge, which, since 1925, sought to provide women with “a safe refuge and… haven for reflection, study, and solitude.”

The change comes on the heels of a Civil Rights Violation complaint filed by University of Michigan professor Mark J. Perry, who claimed the lounge presented an affront to gender equality, unfairly discriminating against men by excluding them from the space. He commented:

“I think MSU owes an apology to the thousands of men whose civil rights have been violated by having a public space on a public campus that they were prohibited from entering.”

Unsurprisingly, Perry is a self-described men’s rights activist. As a professor of economics and finance, he spends his time claiming the gender wage gap does not exist, contributing such nuggets of wisdom to the Wall Street Journal as: If women didn’t get pregnant and have children, they would make more money, thus the wage gap isn’t discriminatory against women — it’s just an effect of women’s choices.

(What flawless logic! Although, I suppose if men didn’t choose to rape, harass, belittle, intimidate, and generally terrorize women, there would be no need for the MSU women’s lounge. So by that logic, it’s not really discriminatory against men, either.)

Despite the fervor of Perry’s men’s rights activism, spokesperson for MSU Jason Cody stated that the change had nothing to do with Perry’s complaint. “It’s safe to say that it wasn’t just this professor bringing this issue up,” Cody said. “Over the last couple years, we were looking at it. Now is just the time that our leadership got together.”

It seems the removal of MSU’s women-only study lounge is part of a larger trend of the university dismantling female-specific services in favour of “inclusion.” In April 2016, MSU disbanded the University’s Women’s Resource Center, stating:

“It is time for services across campus to take responsibility for being aware of and addressing needs formerly served by [women’s] organizations, designing more broadly for inclusion so everyone is included wherever they choose to participate. Inclusion and advocacy are everybody’s business.”

The loss of the beloved study lounge caused a stir on social media as many female students expressed sadness and disappointment. A Change.org petition calling to reinstate the space has garnered over 4,000 signatures. It reads:

“We are petitioning to take back our study lounge, reinstate the Women’s Resource Center, and the support of our Women’s Counsel. Our society has a history of gender inequality and MSU’s community is sadly no exception. Our University has been tarnished by ongoing investigation of mishandling sexual assault cases, of mostly women. The lounge was a space where sexual assault victims could go and feel safe, a space away from their attacker. Now our lounge, the only room on campus where women could relax and just be around other women, is being taken away.”

Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.