Stephens College sophomore Alexandra Geisler scheduled her classes this semester not around a job but around Abbey Road, a Jack Russell terrier who needs walking at least twice a day.
For the first time, students at Stephens — where classes start today — may have pets other than fish in their residence hall rooms.
“It was heartbreaking to leave her at home,” said Geisler, one of six women sharing a room with their pets this year. “It makes me a lot happier to have her here with me.”
The fish-only rule still applies to most students living on campus at Stephens. However, women who reside on the first floor of Prunty Hall will benefit from the new pet policy.
By contract, these students are allowed to have cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, gerbils, rats, mice and dogs weighing less than 40 pounds as roommates.
Students must pay a $200 refundable deposit to have pets other than fish.
The students are responsible for disposing of waste, taking the pets home over breaks and carrying them in a crate while the pet is outside the student’s room but still in the building. If the women violate any of the policies, they must appear before a student governing board.
“We’re calling this a pilot program,” said Deborah Duren, vice president of student services for Stephens the college. “If it goes well, we’ll expand; if not, we’ll change.”
Duren said the idea to allow pets in the residence halls was first voiced last year but was not met with a warm response. It wasn’t until Wendy Libby, who had just become Stephens president, lived in the residence halls with her black Labrador, Abby, that the idea was brought to the table again.
“When I first came to Stephens last year, I didn’t have a home, so I lived on campus in Tower Hall for two months with my husband and my dog,” Libby said Tuesday.
The warm reception shown to Abby by students led many to believe that under the right conditions, pets could have a home in the residence halls.
“Administrators began throwing around the idea of allowing pets, so we gathered up a proposal, took it to senior staff and decided that we could do it,” Duren said.