As a Michigan taxpayer, public university employee and a man, Mark Perry is tired of the university system granting its own exemptions from the state’s civil rights laws.
The University of Michigan-Flint professor filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights over the women-only study lounge at Michigan State, which does not have a similar space for men, MLive reported Monday.
The school claims it hasn’t received Perry’s complaint yet – the agency told the Lansing State Journal it was received July 7 – and says it was already planning to make the lounge coed, after 91 years open to women only:
Cody said the switch to include both genders at the study lounge was prompted by conversations about complying with federal discrimination laws and assuring access for all students.
“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.”
MSU doesn’t appear to have said anything publicly about this pending change to the lounge – which is becoming an “all-purpose quiet study area” – before Perry’s complaint made the news, judging by the shocked reactions of mostly women on social media this week.
The State News published a selection of outraged tweets responding to Perry’s complaint. One angry alum even called the addition of a private lactation station to the updated lounge “a bizarre cop-out.”
Predictably, there’s already a Change.org petition with 2,800 signatures, explicitly filed in response to Perry’s complaint, to “take back our study lounge, reinstate the Women’s Resource Center, and the support our Women’s Counsel.” You guessed the rationale – a safe space for sexual-assault victims.
Venn Diagram of the Day on the Women-Only Study Lounge at Michigan State University pic.twitter.com/zZR92RDMHF
— Mark J. Perry (@Mark_J_Perry) July 20, 2016
It strains credulity to think that MSU started arranging to make this cherished institution coed without pressure from Perry.
He has written about gender issues in The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post and has been publicly flogging the university about the exclusive lounge for years, as he told MLive:
Perry said he’d written about the women’s lounge at MSU on his blog several times over the years, “expressing outrage” on how a public university can maintain a space barring a gender without offering them an equal space.
Perry said after conducting Google searches and collecting anecdotal evidence he’s concluded it’s the only women’s study lounge in a U.S. public university.
IMAGE: Aleksandar Mijatovic/Shutterstock