University officials continue to revise residential policies to accommodate an increasingly diverse student population while maintaining alcohol policies to ensure student safety.
Trinity University is part of the Associated Colleges of the South, a group of 16 distinguished liberal arts colleges and universities including Rhodes College, Sewanee: the University of the South, Millsaps College and Southwestern University.
According to David Tuttle, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, while these universities compare policies and ideas about university life, it is largely the students that influence university procedures.
At Trinity, revisions are currently being considered to the Residential Life practices in order to better accommodate LGBTQ students.
“We recently attended a Sexual Diversity Alliance meeting and solicited feedback about what we can do to meet the needs of LGBTQ students,” said Melissa Flowers, assistant director for residential education. “We received a lot of information, and it’s just unfortunate that in the past we did not know some of the opinions and feelings regarding our office.”
According to Flowers, one of their main goals this year in the Residential Life office is to ensure that students feel “comfortable and safe” in the school living environment, even if that means possibly changing the current structure of student residence hall placement. However, challenges often arise when opening the conversation between students and faculty.
“The problem is that it is really hard to ask students “˜Are you gay or transgender or will you live with a gay or transgender student?’ You can’t discriminate, so if you ask the question people will be like “˜Dude, why are you asking?’ But then on the other hand you can’t dilute it too much”¦” Tuttle said.
Placing LGBTQ students within residence halls may possibly cause challenges for residential life staff. However, according to Tuttle, policies are ultimately to promote the good of the student population as a whole.
“We don’t want to have a floor of gay and transgender students because that’s not fair to them, and it is not fair to the rest of the community. We don’t want to have separate housing like that. We just want to do right by our students,” Tuttle said. “Our students are pretty well educated about those issues and pretty open minded for the most part. For some it is very new, so we have to be sensitive to their feelings too.”
Most of the universities within the ACS have similar residential policies, but Trinity is one of the few universities without apartment-style housing near or on campus, unlike schools such as Sewanee.
Although residential life policies are often a popular topic for students, there has also been an increased amount of attention towards Trinity’s current alcohol policies, especially those prohibiting hard liquor on campus.
“Just because you have a rule that says you can’t have hard liquor on campus doesn’t mean you don’t have hard liquor on campus,” said Paul Chapa, Trinity University chief of police. “Ones that chose to drink hard liquor will continue to drink hard liquor. My experience tells me that we may have an increase [of violations if the policy changes], but it’s nothing that I can measure.”
According to Tuttle, John Brazil, the previous university president, instated the policy due to the high correlation between the consumption of hard liquor and hospitalizations or cases of alcohol poisoning, and the policy has been maintained in order to protect students experimenting with alcohol.
“With those levels of intoxication come other crimes like sexual assault and other poor decisions are made,” Chapa said. “It’s critical to the institution that we recognize that and continue to educate our student body.”
lthough one of the few universities within the ACS to prohibit hard liquor on campus, some of Trinity’s other alcohol policies are less restrictive in comparison.
“It would be clearer if [the policies] were more restrictive. We do give privileges to those who are 21 who have an underage roommate,” Tuttle said. “We let them have beer and wine. It would be simpler if we said “˜A room is dry until both occupants are 21.'”
Ultimately, administration, Residential Life staff and TUPD have maintained that the interest of students remains a focal point in all residential and alcohol policies.
“Our policies are value-driven, and to me that’s really important. We don’t have just a long list of “˜Thou Shall Not’s’. Our guiding policies are the respect for self, others, community, property and personal responsibility,” Tuttle said.
Deliberations continue between Residential Life and members of the SDA to better accommodate LGBTQ students, and these changes will be released soon.