After being notified that contractors would enter his room to install a radiator at famed progressive liberal arts college Oberlin College, where the tuition can run as high as $80,000 a year, a young male college student wrote in the campus paper, “I am very averse to people entering my personal space. This anxiety was compounded by the fact that the crew would be strangers, and they were more than likely to be cisgender men.”

Peter Fray-Witzer wrote in Friday’s edition of The Oberlin Review that he and other residents of Baldwin Cottage received an email from Josh Matos, the area coordinator for Multicultural and Identity-Based Communities, on October 7.

Fray-Witzer stated that Matos wrote, “I am reaching out to you to give you an update on the radiator project. Starting tomorrow (Friday, 10/8) the contractors will be entering rooms between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. to install the radiators. This will mean that they will be in your room for a period of time to complete the work.”

“I had not been contacted about any sort of radiator installation before this email, so right away the word ‘update’ stood out to me as untrue,” Fray-Witzer wrote. “I grew concerned reading the second line, which informed me that I had less than 24 hours to prepare for the arrival of the installation crew, and I was further perturbed by the ambiguous ‘for a period of time.’ In general, I am very averse to people entering my personal space. This anxiety was compounded by the fact that the crew would be strangers, and they were more than likely to be cisgender men.”

Noting that “Baldwin Cottage is the home of the Women and Trans Collective,” and Baldwin’s website describes the dorm as “a close-knit community that provides women and transgendered persons with a safe space for discussion, communal living, and personal development,” Fray-Witzer continued, “Cisgender men are not allowed to live on the second and third floors, and many residents choose not to invite cisgender men to that space.”

Then he segued to his reaction: “I was angry, scared, and confused. Why didn’t the College complete the installation over the summer, when the building was empty? Why couldn’t they tell us precisely when the workers would be there? Why were they only notifying us the day before the installation was due to begin?”

Fray-Witzer detailed what followed and his desperation: “The next day, I waited apprehensively. The workers began installing in common spaces, and I could see immediately that they were all men. It was clear that the College had not made a special request that male workers not be allowed onto the upper floors of Baldwin. Predicting when they would reach my room was pure guesswork. I was trying to anticipate whether I would be in class when they arrived, or if I’d have to welcome strangers into my room only to be ejected to allow them space to work.”

He continued dramatically, “When the insistent knock eventually came, I scrambled to get my mask on and repeatedly shouted, ‘Coming!’ through the door. Four or five construction workers stood outside, accompanied by someone who I could only assume — by his neat polo and clipboard — to be an emissary of the College. We stared at each other for a moment before I moved aside to allow the workers to enter. The emissary began issuing platitudes that the work wouldn’t take long and encouraged me to prop open my door. I asked meekly if I could actually not have a radiator installed in my dorm. I knew the answer was no before I had even said it, but hey — worth a shot.”

“I left for class, and by the time I had come back, they appeared to be done, though Polo Man warned me that they would return later in the week to check the insulation. Sure enough, they were back the next day. I felt mildly violated and a little peeved,” he wrote.

He concluded, “I understand, of course, that installations like this are routine; the College needs to improve its facilities occasionally, and who am I to stand in the way of that? After all, I get a brand-spanking-new radiator, right in time for the cold weather. But why not finish the project during the four months of the summer semester, when the building was unoccupied? Why not alert us earlier to the intrusion? Why didn’t the College make a schedule detailing when the workers would be likely to arrive at each dorm and in each room? They should have taken measures to keep students comfortable and safe — especially those who have elected to live in a specifically designated safe space.”

The piece prompted commentary online, including:

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