Tiny Talks: “Lasallian Values and Access Control: Rethinking Campus Intimacy & Hook-Up Culture” with Jess Villano

by, Jilleen Barrett & Lauren Raziano, Asst. A&E Editor and Staff Writer

The Multicultural Center and the Lasallian Women and Gender Center co-hosted a Tiny Talk on Nov. 11 focusing on research done by senior Jessica Villano. Her research, which focused on social life at Manhattan College, is called “Lasallian Values and Access Control: Rethinking Campus Intimacy & Hook-Up Culture”.

Though many would think this issue solely affects resident students, the access control policy creates a problem for commuter students as well. Villano discussed how she analyzed the way commuters felt about this policy.

“The common theme amongst commuter students was how excluded they felt on campus by the policy,” Villano said. “It was from commuter responses that I was able to see just how isolating the policy was to some groups on campus and how it was not in line with an inclusive community.”

Villano mentioned that while the policy seems to act under the guise of safety, it appears to mostly prevent Manhattan students who do not live in the same dorm hall, Manhattan commuters, and outside students from interacting with each other.

“The policy negatively affected the students by limiting their interactions between the other students on campus and other dorm halls as well,” Villano said. “It limits basic bonding activities between students like studying, being friends with other people who live in different dorm halls, and now are cutting short the time that they have to be able to deal with them.”

Senior Alison McCormack attended the talk and thought it touched upon a lot of important aspects of student life. She told The Quadrangle how the policy has actually made her feel less safe as she has been forced to leave a friend’s dorm if she was not a resident of that building.

“There were many times where I would get a call from public safety [and] residence life at midnight, or 2 a.m., depending on the night, sitting safely in my friend’s apartment in OV, being told I have to go back to Horan,” she wrote in an email. “This meant I would have to do a 10 plus minute walk alone in the middle of the night. Especially being a woman, the thought of doing that walk can be terrifying. Most of the time, this resulted in me just staying home.”

Another aspect that Villano found in her research was that there is a conflicting understanding of Public Safety’s presence on campus.

Public Safety officers are only in Horan, Lee, and Overlook, where visitors must sign in with the officer on duty in order to enter the hall. Conversely, the visitor policy is a lot more relaxed in Chrysostom and Jasper given there are no Public Safety officers who check for sign-in processes for visitors. This difference in the placement of Public Safety officers generates two different types of responsibilities and experiences of having guests on campus.

Villano’s research also examined how the school views same-sex couples. The policy only permits for same-sex persons to be overnight guests, while opposite-sex students require additional hosting from another student on campus. Though same-sex couples can use this rule to their advantage, Villano spoke about how it delegitimizes their relationship.

“The policy does not recognize LGBTQ plus relationships in the dorms since they allow for same-sex overnight guests but not opposite overnight guests to stay in the same room,” Villano said. “This insinuates that nothing intimate will occur between the same-sex couple, but that something will between the heterosexual couple.”

Villano argues that this clause is hypocritical of Manhattan’s core Lasallian values for respecting others as the policy does not respect relationships between others.

“This goes against the Lasallian value of ‘respect for all people’, because as a member of the LGBTQ+ community they may not have their relationships legitimized by the institution that they’re going to, and that is not respecting their own sexuality and sensuality of others,” she said.

In an email to The Quadrangle, Villano spoke further about how this policy affects the LGBTQ+ community and why she does not see the problem as a mistake.

“I don’t necessarily think that it was an oversight,” Villano wrote. “We go to a Lasallian institution which means that we are working under Catholic ideology. This aligns with Catholic ideas that there should be no sex before marriage and not fully recognizing LGBTQ+ relationships as legitimate either. So, no, I don’t think it was an oversight as it is fully in line with ideas of Lasallians and Catholicism, but that does not mean that it should be continued especially when it does not fully recognize members of our campus community.”

The results of Villano’s research found that while the purpose of the policy was most likely instituted as a way to protect students and prevent them from sexual contact, it also hindered students from spending meaningful time with their friends.

  “The policy seemed to want to hinder these sexual relationships with students,” Villano said. “However, in the survey that I conducted, it showed that students were more concerned with basic bonding and academic activities, then they were hookup culture and it wasn’t as much as a concern as the administration may have thought.”

Villano offered solutions to these policies, such as increasing dialogue between students and administrators.

“I think that the policy needs to introduce student voices into the process of policymaking,” she said. “I think the key is to meet students where they are and use their input to create a policy that not only protects and respects students but also bolsters the Lasallian values and virtues that the school holds as core ideas. To do that you must add student voices into the conversation to create policies that take into account student lives as well as Lasallian ideology.”

She believes that when students and administrators are both a part of the conversation, the problem can be more easily resolved. 

“We can bolster the Lasallian values that the college is trying to bring in, as well as the values that the students already have and kind of create that center in the meeting complete meeting both places where they are in essence,” Villano said.

Beyond that, Villano feels that there needs to be a set of rules available to students so they know exactly what the policy is.

“There needs to be an accurate document that the students have information from and can see and view and be able to see where changes have been made,” Villano said. 

Ashley Cross, Ph.D. was the faculty advisor for Villano’s research and feels students should have more of a say in how they can interact with each other.

“I support Jess’ conclusions completely,” Cross said. “Students should be involved in policy decisions that affect them. They should have access to the policy in a complete written document. And I also agree that students are adults, who should have more freedom to make their own choices about guests, friends, and intimate partners.”

COVID-19 has intensified the need for access control for the sake of students’ safety, and Villano touched on that. Cross spoke about how she sees COVID policies working in the future.

“COVID, of course, changed everything, and part of what I think Jess hopes, and I agree, is that doing this makes sure that the really clamped down policy that exists under COVID does not become the norm once COVID is resolved,” Cross said. “We hope that Jess’ ideas — her toolbox of how to make policy that creates an inclusive community in line with Lasallian values — are taken seriously and put into effect when we are on the other side of COVID.”

McCormack agreed and gave a student’s perspective on the need for these policies. She also offered a reminder that the strict rules enforced by the administration are not all due to COVID, but have been in place since last year.

“I completely understand the COVID policies,” she wrote. “It is important to monitor students based on green-passes and whether or not they go here as we are trying to stop the spread of a global pandemic. However, to say that all of the strict rules on overnight guests and visitors are because of COVID isn’t true at all.”

There has not been feedback given by public safety or residence life as to how the policy has impacted them but Villano hopes to present her research to those departments. 

“I look forward to hearing their feedback of the project and hopefully give them insights to ways in which the policy can respect already present campus cultures and uphold the Lasallian values through school policies,” Villano said.