In a big step to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ of universities, such as Stanford and Dartmouth, UC San Diego is offering “Gender Neutral/Inclusive” housing starting Fall 2011. What this means is that UCSD will be allowing continuing students who are eligible for on-campus housing to have the option of roommates of the opposite sex. A big concern of this proposal is that incoming students will lack a stable environment because they are standing on their own two feet for the first time. Since the Warren College application for this type of housing states that you MUST be a continuing student in order to be eligible, freshman need not worry about this unless they encounter it their building. The ultimate goal of this gender inclusive housing is ultimately to help the LGBT community on campus.
What parents most worry about when their “little baby” goes off to college is that they will be surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and sex. Considering that most college students are in their late teens and early twenties, experimenting with different things is practically a given. Gender-neutral housing opens up an entirely new realm of possibilities for experimentation. Boys and girls living together can produce many different outcomes. On the application for gender-neutral housing, each student has to answer several essays in order to gauge the student’s understanding of how to solve sticky situations. The four questions presented are: Why does their group want to live in Gender Inclusive housing; how long have they all known each other and in what capacity; what did they discuss when deciding to live in Gender Inclusive housing; and how did they decide to resolve any lifestyle or living arrangement disagreements. Once the applications have been filed, the group must attend an interview before getting approval. These steps are used to weed out anyone in a relationship who wishes to live together. Also, individuals can only share a bedroom with someone of the same gender. However, by doing this UCSD must also take into account sexual orientation of applicants. This housing is intended to create “safe zones” for people who believe they have been mistreated or do not fit in because of their sexual orientation.
However, by highlighting sexual orientation, UCSD is actually hindering the growth of understanding and tolerance, much like how they have handled race related issues on campus. In normal situations, you may have a room, suite, or floor of guys and girls and some of them could be a part of the LGBT community. Although this could make some of the residents uncomfortable, tthis gender-neutral housing program appears to be an attempt to take them almost out of the equation. This gender neutral or inclusive housing, as the University is calling it, is seeking to promote “self-segregation” of members of the LGBT community. While our university constantly seeks to reiterate its anti-discrimination policies, this program calls out specifically to transgender students on the UCSD website for transgender information. By grouping together all the members of the LGBT community, the university is hindering diversity growth on campus by reducing the interaction between the LGBT community and the rest of the students in the housing facilities. A large part of diversity, which UCSD strives for, is building relationships between people of all backgrounds, orientations, and beliefs, and to challenge our preconceived notions through intellectual diversity. How can students build relationships with people of varying backgrounds if some students are segregated?
I know there are some people who are not comfortable being around people of different sexual orientations; I had a suitemate my Freshman year who could not stand being near another girl in my suite because she was a lesbian, but how can someone learn tolerance and understanding if they are segregated? But no new mandated diversity course could solve this problem or help build campus community. Self-imposed segregation does not foster understanding or build good relationships. So, although this new housing policy may claim to be a “safe zone,” all this really does is create a more hostile and inauthentic campus climate.
Rachel is a junior in Muir College majoring in literature.