Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier news editor
Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier deputy news editor
On Monday night, Residence Life and SGA hosted a town hall meeting in order to allow students to discuss their opinions and concerns with the Visitation Policy. Currently the policy states that during the school week students cannot be in opposite gendered rooms between the hours of 1 a.m. and 10 a.m. On weekends, the time is extended to 2 a.m.
Last semester, the proposal to change the policy came from students at an SGA meeting. After the meeting, the discussion began, and a committee was created to look into the policy and the concerns of students pushing to change it. The town hall meeting is the next step taken by the committee to hear concerns from the students and what they wish the policy could be changed to.
The purpose of the town hall was to begin discussions over the policy. Lindsey Taylor, dean of students, Lindsay Norman, associate dean of students and Michael McElveen, assistant dean of wellness, sat on a panel that not only presented information to students, but also shared history of the policy and how to change the policy.
The process to change the policy is long and slow, according to Taylor. She described that this process is lengthy because the college has shared governance with its students. In taking the time to make the policy change, Taylor explains that everyone will have an opportunity to speak up about the change in policy before a proposal is drafted. There will also be several focus groups conducted and surveys of the student body and community.
“What I want out of this process is to ensure that we are taking into account all members of the community and we need to hear from all members regardless of where you fall on it in terms of where it needs to be so that we are making good decisions,” Taylor said. “And that’s part of shared governance.”
Once the committee feels it has heard from a majority of the community, Taylor explained that a proposal will be drafted from the concerns and recommendations of the community that will then get set in front of the Student Life Council, which is comprised of both students and faculty.
Only after there is a recommendation that is agreed upon by both the committee and council, Taylor explained, will it then go in front of President Steve Briggs for approval.
The biggest concern from Taylor as this process continues to move forward is how will it impact the community.
“We know that policies have to adapt based on the current day,” Taylor said. “What I get charged with in terms of what I am able to account for and answer to, whichever policy is being reviewed, is how does this impact the community?”
Speakers also shared the history of the policy’s creation. Taylor stated that she found first mention of the policy in the 1960s, with a policy on both curfew and visitation. Taylor explained that the committee could only find the women’s code, which stated that female students had to be in their residence halls by 10:30 p.m., and lights out were at midnight, with the exception that seniors did not have to follow the lights out policy. All students had to sign out of their hall if they wanted to leave.
The hours shifted in 1995 from noon to midnight on weekdays, and noon to 1 a.m. In 2007, they shifted again to 11 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends. And lastly, in 2018, they shifted to the current hours that school upholds now.
“Historically, policies are put in place through looking at the mission of the institution,” Taylor said. “Honestly that is what we are founded in and what we are rooted in, and what we still look to mission in today.”
McElveen also shared some health-related statistics and research. He found a research study that noted that the average student goes to bed at about 1:54 a.m., and wakes up at about 9:12 a.m., with a standard deviation of about two hours.
He then looked specifically at Berry students. During the spring of 2018, Berry participated in the National College Health Assessment and he noted that the top three factors that Berry students rated that affected their performance in school was stress, sleep difficulty and anxiety.
According to McElveen, it is important to set healthy sleeping habits. He explained that bad sleeping habits can lead to poor academic success, substance abuse and mental health problems. It is also beneficial, he stated, that roommates set a guest policy so that both students understand the expectations of the others.
After sharing statistics, Norman explained her role on the panel. She wishes to bring a new perspective to the committee that is based upon student’s opinions. She also wishes to take into consideration everyone that the new proposal will impact.
“I’m hoping that today, I can hear from a good range of perspectives and students so that I can represent that opinion when I sit on the committee, that Lindsey [Taylor] had talked about, for the Student Life Council,” Norman said.
There were many concerns among students that included concerns of safety for female residents in traditional style residence halls; concerns that the current policy excludes certain demographics on campus; concerns for religious beliefs; concerns for more inclusiveness for the LGBTQ+ community; and concerns for RAs who must sit desk.
The panel responded with a variety of responses, addressing each concern individually in order to be clear and concise with each response. Taylor explained that she would like to hear from students on campus with different demographics, gender identities and sexual orientation so that her perspective could be expanded upon.
As the committee moves forward, they are considering the concerns of students, and Taylor urges students to reach out to any member of the panel. She explained that this process is a conversation, and students should not feel that they cannot express their concerns and opinions for the policy. Most importantly, Taylor discussed that she is the voice for students and the community.
Although this is just the beginning of the process, Taylor explained that students must be patient so that proper protocol is followed and every voice is heard.
“There is not a way to expedite the process because we want the best outcome,” Taylor said.
The committee is now moving forward to host focus groups with current students as well as surveying the community.
“This is not intended to be a one and done conversation, where we tell you what our decision is,” Meredith Johnson, who led the panel, said. “We are not at a place where we are making a decision on a recommendation at this point.”
Students can still submit their questions and concerns to SGA or to any of the panel members.
“This is the beginning point of the conversation,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of work to do, we have to do more research and get more input from students.”