Students vote on bathroom locks

Some students' key chains may get a little lighter in the next few days. By the end of the week, bathroom doors will be unlocked for those residence halls that have voted unanimously to do so.

Most residents of West Campus voted on the plan at their first house meetings of the semester last weekend.

First-year students voted late in the Fall 2005 semester, but West Campus voting was delayed to accommodate students returning from study abroad programs.

"Campus Council has been trying to do this for the last three years at least," said Council President Jay Ganatra, a junior. "All the students I've ever talked to love the idea."

According to the rules formulated by Campus Council and approved by Residence Life and Housing Services, all residents of a hall must vote unanimously in order to unlock the doors.

If a resident who had voted previously in favor of unlocking the door changes his or her mind, the bathroom will be relocked.

In addition, students must have attended the meeting or have voted absentee with their resident assistants prior to its start for their votes to count. Ballots require names and unique ID numbers for verification purposes.

"It's just too much of a hassle to have bathrooms locked," said Crowell House EE resident Chris Lester, a sophomore. "People are protecting the bathrooms too closely."

Sex-specific locks were installed on bathroom doors after two alleged instances of sexual assault in 2002. The new locks replaced uniform ones that allowed access to all bathrooms, regardless of gender.

There have been other proposed plans to change the lock policy since that time, but no policy was ever instituted.

Ganatra said he is optimistic about the turnout for the voting process, especially for male bathrooms.

"I think a lot of selective houses, who have a lot of parties, support the idea," Ganatra said.

Several fraternity members confirmed that support within their groups was strong.

"Nobody wants the bathroom locked," said junior Matthew Hoekstra, president of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

"I don't know anyone who's really in favor of [locking the bathrooms]. You've already got card access restriction [to the dorm]."

But reaction was lukewarm elsewhere.

At the start of Crowell House EE's meeting Sunday night, only 30 of the 43 residents were present. Supporters of the plan darted in and out, calling friends and knocking on doors in an attempt to reach full attendance.

House EE RA Josh Solera, a senior, said the propping of bathroom doors was a problem during fall semester. But he said the standards laid out for voting made it hard to reach full turnout.

"It's difficult to get everyone in the same room at the same time with busy schedules," Solera said. "However, I'd also like to say that residents were given ample opportunities to talk to me. If people really cared, they'd be here."

RAs and residence coordinators placed posters advertising the vote and listing pros and cons to changing the lock policy on bathroom doors campuswide. Students were also informed of the proposal via e-mail.

Carl Krieger, RC for East Campus' Gilbert-Addoms and Southgate dormitories, said attendance at the voting meetings was high in his neighborhood.

"I had nearly full turnout for my area, but I think my area was one that had more turnout than others," he said.

Krieger said he had 100 percent male and female turnout on halls without opposition to the plan.

Campus Council initially approved a plan to let residents vote on their bathrooms in October.

Ganatra presented the plan as a way to cut student costs, both for loss of bathroom keys and for fines assessed for door propping.

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