The Women’s Lounge in the Union closed this summer after opening in 1925.
MSU spokesman Jason Cody said concerns of Title IX violations were brought forward regarding the lounge and several factors contributed to the decision of its closing.
Cody said MSU’s Title IX office and the Office of the General Counsel looked into the situation, which lead to the decision to turn the women’s study lounge into an all-gender space.
The State News sat down with three MSU students to discuss the importance of the Women's Lounge, challenges women face on college campuses as well as their take on Title IX.
The State News encourages other students to come forward with their stories and opinions on our Facebook page.
For doctoral student Apryl Pooley, the Women's Lounge was a place of refuge.
Pooley was raped twice while at Eastern Illinois University, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after she was assaulted and couldn’t escape her attacker even though he was hundreds of miles away.
“I would just feel his presence, I would just see him everywhere,” Pooley said. “But going into the women's study lounge, it was just like an immediate relief. I knew he wasn't there."
Pooley came to MSU in 2011 and discovered the lounge during her first or second week of classes, she said. Although she knew her attacker was not at MSU, there were times she still didn’t feel safe.
"When I was on campus and I was triggered or maybe having a flashback or feeling panicked for whatever reason, that (the women’s study lounge) was a place that I knew I could go and feel safe,” Pooley said.
During her first year at MSU, Pooley said she began “an amazing” recovery process. She said she found a therapist, counselor and other resources through MSU that helped her heal from her sexual assaults.
Pooley said her recovery would have not been possible without the Women’s Resource Center, the Women's Lounge and other resources through MSU, but she is concerned for what the future might look like.
"I feel so worried for people that might be coming to campus in a position that I was five years ago, who now don't have those resources available,” Pooley said.
She said the decision to close the lounge shows the administration is out of touch.
"It shows that MSU doesn't understand or doesn't care about the struggles that women face on their campus,” Pooley said. “If they don't understand, then I don't know why they aren't listening. There's plenty of people talking."
When zoology senior Alyse Maksimoski heard the Women's Lounge was closing she took action.
What started as a Facebook event, in which Maksimoski invited a few of her friends, has turned into a sit-in protest at the Union with more than 530 people confirmed to be going on Facebook and an almost additional 500 people interested in attending the event.
Maksimoski said she planned the event to show the university how crucial the lounge is.
"Women's spaces are still very important because women face discrimination and we face different issues than men,” Maksimoski said. “That may sound a little harsh, but it's true."
Maksimoski said women are catcalled and whistled at on campus and have to worry about being sexually assaulted.
"Before MSU says we need to treat women equally, they need to treat women equitably and recognize the aspects in which we are discriminated against and we are oppressed and we feel marginalized and validate that before they completely dismiss it and say men and women are exactly the same,” Maksimoski said.
Maksimoski also took issue with the timing of the decision to close the Women's Lounge.
"It just astounds me that there are all these actions being taken in the summer when there are hardly any students around,” Maksimoski. “I think that's a very strategic move, and you kind of see the true colors of the university.”
Maksimoski had one more message for the administration.
"Give us back our study lounge,” Maksimoski said.
A feeling women experience on campus at MSU is insecurity, art education senior Zoë LeBlanc de Smith said.
LeBlanc de Smith said women have to be on high alert to protect themselves and are constantly stared at while on college campuses. The Women's Lounge was one spot LeBlanc de Smith said she didn’t have to put up with it.
“You walk in the door and there was a sense of relief that overcomes you and you can just relax,” LeBlanc de Smith said. “You don't have to be aware of everything around you, you don't have to worry about someone staring at you or approaching you."
Smith said it seems like MSU is going backward instead of forward with the decision to close the Women's Lounge.
"They are not focused on people who are disadvantaged and people who really need an extra push,” LeBlanc de Smith said. “Women face different challenges in society, and that's obvious with sexual harassment and rape.”
LeBlanc de Smith said she has made her opinion on the closing of the lounge heard on social media and plans to attend an upcoming sit-in protest at the Union. She said the Women's Lounge is very necessary and believes Title IX was put into place to help people with disadvantages.
"I feel like the whole purpose behind Title IX law is because women are discriminated against more than men and that we see that as a society and we are trying to help people who are disadvantaged,” LeBlanc de Smith said. “By having this room it's not taking away any rights from men, it's just helping the women to get a leg up."