By Kathryn Flippin
Students from different organizations and many individuals have consistently pursued a rule change in Union’s open-dorm policy over the past few years.
Union’s current open visitation hours, which allow male and female students to be in the apartment of the opposite gender for a designated time, are Fridays and Saturdays from 2 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m.
But for some students, these hours do not seem like enough. With the ever-changing pace of college life and the demands students have, many think that having a few extra hours to mingle or study in residence halls would allow a more practical balance for students.
Many organizations would agree and have made several initiatives to the administration to enhance the open-dorm experience.
Most recently, the Student Government Association passed a resolution asking the administration to consider changing the open-dorm policy by adding hours from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 2 pm. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
The resolution stated that the extension of hours would not only help with group studying and projects with extended time periods of research and compilation but also would likely cause students to be more inclined to live on campus.
The resolution also made a point to say that college students can handle the extra responsibility that comes with having more freedom.
But even after the resolution made it all the way to the Board of Trustees, the board declined it, basically implying that the administration is not quite ready to hand off that responsibility to students.
After speaking with Dr. Kimberly Thornbury, dean of students, I learned that the senior leadership team understands the persistence many individual students and organizations have displayed regarding the matter, but they say no changes can be made to the policy.
Thornbury said it is not because they think we cannot handle the additional hours, but a big reason it is continuously turned down is because it is hard to find a balance between the desires of the students and the ongoing concerns parents, trustees, roommates and other constituents may have toward a policy change.
While I respect the need to find balance and I respect that Union has, over time, added multiple venues for group gatherings, such as the Honors Lounge, Barefoots Joe, and the Bowld Commons, and, even for special occasions like the Super Bowl, extended open-dorm hours, students’ respect toward this policy is waning.
As a resident adviser, I do not see an overabundance of students breaking rules on campus, but I have seen the constant opposition many students have toward the policy and, I think it stems from the idea that students think the administration does not listen to their suggestions.
In the following points, I want to show students why that is not true and show the administration some examples that could be considered.
First, students need to realize that the university has come a long way. Open-dorm hours used to only occur monthly, and now we get them every week.
Also, as I noted before, the university has made a big effort at providing various places for students to congregate on campus. Even the UU trails were blazed to add another place for students to fellowship.
Many say hanging out at these places is not always ideal or as convenient as one’s dorm room. But Ken Litscher, director of Residence Life, said that the limited hours are in place out of respect for roommates, the concerns of parents and the safety of the Residence Life community.
With the idea of respect being thrown around on both sides of this argument, I think it is safe to say that some kind of common ground needs to be considered.
While trustees, parents and senior leadership continue to decline students’ requests for these changes, they need to realize that adding two to four hours on a weekday is not a liberal stretch.
I think it would better encourage the students to use this time for studying or fellowship and would give students a better incentive to follow the rules when open visitation hours are over.
Also, another point that can be made, which was also noted in SGA’s “Extended Hours” resolution, is that many other highly esteemed Christian institutions allow open-dorm hours during the week.
Baylor University’s open visitation hours are from 1 to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 1 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.
One way Baylor accommodates parents and other students who want more restrictions in residence halls is by having specific complexes devoted to a “Limited Visitation Area.” In these complexes, the visitation hours are only on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m.
Another college that has switched to a more open visitation hours policy is Mississippi College. In its residence halls, open visitation is every night from 9 to 11 p.m. except for Wednesdays and Sundays.
Also, visitors must sign in at the front desk in the lobby of the residence hall they are visiting.
Because Union is unique in how the residence complexes are set up, the “sign in” policy would not work. But some of the other examples are a great way to show how these schools have found a balance between respecting the outer university community and respecting students.
For many like me, it has never been about the hours but about the respect for them. I think the administration would see a greater appreciation and following of the open-dorm policy if they took these examples and found a fair way to add a few more hours during the week.
Kathryn Flippin is a senior public relations major.