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Board of Regents, university officials take issue with legislator's speech

By Ryan Gabrielson
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 27, 1999

An Arizona lawmaker's comments that co-ed residence halls lead to pregnancy and immorality have raised a few eyebrows among UA and Arizona Board of Regents officials.

At Thursday's regents meeting in Tempe, Rep. Jean McGrath, R-Glendale, made several statements during her speech that attacked co-ed dormitories and women's studies classes.

"I'm not surprised that she made some provocative comments," Regent Jack Jewett said. "Philosophically I would not agree with her. She had a right to speak her mind before the regents. Some of the regents may have agreed with her, some didn't. Many of her comments I disagree with."

UA faculty chairman Jerry Hogle said he thinks McGrath should visit the UA campus to clear up any "misinformation" she may have.

"I'd like to have her visit us so that she could see that things are not what she thinks," Hogle said.

Among other comments made at the meeting, McGrath said she "cannot understand why a public university would want to have a co-ed dormitory - it's just beyond me."

"We spend a great deal of time fighting teenage pregnancies," she said. "We're working very hard to get people off of welfare. I think the universities are contributing to these problems with their co-ed dormitories."

UA Dean of Students Melissa Vito said she also believed McGrath did not have the proper background information to be justified in making those statements.

"We've had co-ed dorms for several decades and have found that the interaction of the sexes promotes friendships, makes females feel safer and has proven to be a positive experience for the students who live in them," she said.

McGrath also said at the meeting that she thinks students are misled about course content in women's studies classes.

"I don't see any benefit in having a lesbian studies class but if you want to, it's up to you," McGrath said.

Vito, though, said students she has spoken with have not felt the class in question - English 318: Women in Literature - is misleading.

"From everything I know of people who are in the program, it isn't 'lesbian studies'," Vito said.

After McGrath's comments to the board, Regent John Munger was the only member to directly address her. He expressed the board's gratitude for her attendance.

He emphasized the eagerness of board members to work with the Arizona Legislature and said he believed the board was "on the same page" as McGrath.

"I have no problem with co-ed facilities. But since she made the effort to attend the meeting, we should make the effort and look into it," Munger said yesterday.

Despite the state-wide controversy that McGrath sparked with her comments, UA officials said they still encourage feedback from elected officials.

"We wish that more legislators would come and visit. We are looking for a better relationship with (the Legislature)," Hogle said.

Vito said she does not think McGrath's comments will cause the UA to adopt any new policies regarding the gender make up of residence halls or in the content taught in any women's studies classes.

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