Student lounge closed due to slurs reopens

February 06, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

Students at Harford Community College once again have a place to relax between classes.

The Owl's Nest student lounge, which was shut down in mid-December because of charges of racial slurs and sexual harassment by students, reopened Jan. 24 in time for the college's spring semester.

On a recent weekday, the lounge was filled with students eating lunch, reading magazines and talking to friends.

"It's so quiet today," said Kristy Lowe, a part-time student who was sitting in the lounge. "I didn't come here much last semester because it was so noisy."

Students had complained about loud radios and TVs during the fall semester, said Scott Calkins, student government association president.

But it was racial and gender issues that led to the Dec. 13 closing of the student lounge, he said.

In one instance, a black student reported that racist remarks were made toward her and her husband, who is white. And some female students said they stopped going to the lounge because of sexist comments directed at them, Mr. Calkins said.

Because of such incidents, the student government association and college administrators agreed to temporarily close the Owl's Nest.

"The situation had been burning for a couple of months," Mr. Calkins said.

A task force of students and college officials was formed to address the concerns.

"We came up with terms by which the Owl's Nest could be used," said Megan Boyle, director of student life at the college, who will now monitor the lounge.

The room, which accommodates about 100 people, is next to Ms. Boyle's office in the basement of the college's Learning Resources Center.

The task force's rules, which have been posted outside the Owl's Nest, include basic requests, such as "Be courteous to other users of this facility" and more specific requirements: "No personal audio-visual equipment permitted."

"It's a first step," said Mr. Calkins. "This was just done to open for the spring semester."

Ms. Boyle also said there has been some disagreement on campus about whether to limit the lounge to student use or to open it to other activities.

Additional meetings will be scheduled to get input from students, and a final proposal on recommendations for the Owl's Nest will be given to college President Richard J. Pappas for his approval.

The college also will organize events to address the racial and gender issues, Ms. Boyle said.

"We'll bring people to the campus who are knowledgeable, so that students learn to appreciate each other," Ms. Boyle said.

Two speakers scheduled to speak at the college this month are community activist Bea Gaddy on Feb. 15 and WMAR-TV (Channel 2) anchorman Stan Stovall on Feb. 24.

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