At the beginning of every school year, Meredith’s guest policy is conveyed to incoming students. Because of COVID-19, newer students have only recently begun interacting with the guest policy on campus. It isn’t uncommon for students to complain about the restrictions. However, the benefits of the guest policy should be more openly discussed.
First, Meredith’s guest policies actually have changed. At the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, Residence Life sent a survey to students asking for their perspective on changing the guest policies. The original policy was that male guests could only be in residence halls on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at designated times. Now, male guests can be in residence halls every day of the week during certain times. Meredith’s initial COVID-19 community standards didn’t allow guests and prevented the updated policy from being implemented until this semester.
I didn’t fully understand the guest policies when I first came to Meredith. The third week of school, I was sanctioned by Honor Council for having three male guests in my room past visitor hours. I remember feeling that the rules were unfair. I later learned that Campus Security had received a call from a student saying they saw someone being dragged into the residence hall. The Resident Assistant and Residence Director on duty were following up with the guests that were currently on campus to help that student as soon as possible.
There have been several instances during my time at Meredith where the privacy and security that the policy offers have mattered for me. My freshman year, a male former high school classmate of mine—who has stalked and harassed me since I was 16 years old—drove from Greensboro to Raleigh at night on two separate occasions to take me on a date that I told him I wasn’t interested in.
Spring semester of sophomore year, another male former classmate made romantic gestures via Snapchat that I wasn’t interested in. He attended NC State but was at his home in Durham because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every Friday for a month, he would tell me he was driving to Raleigh to come pick me up for a date. I blocked him on social media. In both of these cases, I was concerned for my safety. I was grateful that Meredith had policies in place that could protect me.
That same semester, I habitually went to a local park to study. A man who said he attended William Peace University approached me. He sparked conversation by asking me to take pictures of him at the park and asking me about the Meredith College sticker on my computer. We talked for a few minutes before he asked if he could have my number or a form of social media to contact me. All of these interactions made me feel uncomfortable, but there were no other people in the park at the moment. I decided to entertain his questions and eventually gave him my number for my safety.
When he texted me later that day, I didn’t respond. A week later, I received another text from him with a series of provocative pictures. I still didn’t respond and received more provocative pictures hours later. I no longer felt safe studying at that park, but I was more concerned about not having any protections in place if I were to return.
Safety and security is one of many reasons students come to Meredith. Even though students live in their own rooms, they still share a common living space. Colleges and their residence spaces are where students spend most of their time. Sexual assault and abuse victims on campus greatly appreciate the open house hours we have because of the security it gives us. They value having a safe space where they can focus on themselves and their education without fear of unwanted interactions with non-Meredith students. It gives them more control over the autonomy that college students have.
The guest policy is in no way perfect. The policy does not include guidelines for transgender or non-binary guests, placing transgender and non-binary students and their guests in a gray area. This creates a level of uncertainty that, similar to Meredith’s history of using gendered language, relies on the discretion of those enforcing the guest policy. Additionally, the guest policy is not equitably enforced. For example, students have raised concerns about their guests of color being questioned more than their white guests.
All of these incidents were nerve wracking to go through. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had to feel that way about Meredith—a place where I spend most of my time. A viable solution to this problem is to have residence halls with different guest hours to accommodate everyone’s comfortability with guests. I understand that students desire to have more freedom during their college experience. However, we as a community must account for the needs of everyone here. A person’s safety and security are of the utmost importance.
By Aminah Jenkins, Associate Editor