Men and women could share Mount Vernon residence hall

Male and female residents may share Mount Vernon’s Pelham Hall this fall after residents of the women’s campus complained this week about GW’s decision to house men in the hall.

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At a Mount Vernon community meeting Monday, Executive Dean Grae Baxter heard from current Pelham residents who want to live there again next semester. Pelham is the only hall on the Mount Vernon campus with single rooms, Baxter said.

“I am almost certain they will be accommodated,” Baxter said. “We have worked with (Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert) Chernak and we are going to see if there is something we can do to accommodate them.”

The University’s announcement last week about housing at Mount Vernon infuriated many students on the campus. Many students said they believed the change will end traditions GW said it would uphold when it acquired Mount Vernon in 1996.

“We had a very constructive and informative exchange about what the introduction of men to Pelham does mean and does not mean,” Baxter said. “It does not mean a change in the direction of the development of programs for women. That continues to be our programmatic focus on this campus.”

Baxter distributed a memo to Mount Vernon students Monday, explaining the reason for the policy change and inviting them to the meeting.

Linda Donnels, GW’s associate vice president and dean of students, said the Community Living and Learning Center may allow Mount Vernon students to stay in Pelham Hall, but has not made a final decision. The University housing lottery is Feb. 20.

Students said Monday they felt GW administrators lied to them when they promised the women’s college tradition would continue.

“I don’t think they were angry about men (on the campus) as much as the original promises being broken,” said Naomi Schneidmill, a Mount Vernon freshman who attended the meeting.

Schneidmill said the Mount Vernon community is split on the issue of housing men on campus, and students are circulating a petition that asks the University to make Pelham coed.

“A lot of people feel it’s a good thing,” she said. “But some people feel men shouldn’t be (at Mount Vernon) at all.”

She said some students who are moving to Foggy Bottom next fall have no opinion on the split. But Schneidmill said most students were surprised by the sudden announcement.

“It was a big shocker,” she said. “It was not talked about until this weekend.”

Baxter said the short notice of the decision was an “accident of necessity” because of the housing crunch on Foggy Bottom and the extra space at Mount Vernon.

“I will not pretend this was the ideal way (of telling the community),” Baxter said. “What drove this decision on the fast track was the timing of the lottery and the necessity of getting out the information.”

Baxter said she was impressed with the loyalty Mount Vernon women have shown to the campus and its traditional values.

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