When sophomores Steven Blum and Will Marsh moved into Madison Hall, they found two female suitemates in the adjoining room. The four students didn’t have a problem with the living situation, but after a random health and safety inspection, the University did.
In an Oct. 12 e-mail to the suitemates, the GW Office of Housing Programs stated that a weekly occupancy report revealed that the Madison Hall residency shared a bathroom with two female students in the adjoining room. The e-mail said this is “not permissible in campus housing.” The University requested a list of halls that the four suitemates would consider moving into so that a move could be expedited as soon as possible.
“Steven and I both had a bond with these girls living with them for a month,” Marsh said.”Steven and I thought [living co-ed] was unorthodox, but they put us here so we adjusted and everything was going fine until we got this e-mail.”
Busy with exams in the middle of the semester, the two males living in the room said they were too busy to move mid-semester.
Seth Weinshel, the Director of GW Housing Programs, said the assignment error made in Blum’s suite was due to an error in the Housing Program’s computer system.
“On the floor plans that my office has for Madison it does not show that the two rooms share a bathroom, so in our computer system, the two rooms were set as two distinctive rooms,” he said.
The University reserves the right to transfer students to another room as stated in Section 13 of the 2006-2007 Housing License Agreement. Weinshel said gender is a determining factor in housing assignments.
“Assignments are made without regard to race, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability. Based on this policy GW does make assignments based on gender,” he said in an e-mail this week.
After exchanging several messages over the course of the week, the female suitemates decided to move out, since Blum and his roommate were tied down with work.
“The best way to resolve this would be for the University to move both of us out, to equally nice rooms in different dorms,” he said. This left the four roommates wondering why GW cannot permit co-ed housing, while several universities across the country, including Brown and American have made, or will soon make this accommodation available.
“Co-ed housing should be implemented because it allows for people to live with whom they feel most comfortable around, hurts no one and recognizes that many students are now growing up in gender diverse households,” said Blum, who is a former Hatchet reporter.
In a phone interview, executive director of Housing and Dining Programs at American University, Julie Weber, said that a new upperclassman residence hall will open next year and will offer students an opportunity to live among both males and females.
The setup, she said, calls for single bedrooms, which share a common kitchen, living room and bathroom, and will only be co-ed by the “mutual agreement of everyone in the suite.” It will likely be offered on a priority-based system, but details have not yet been confirmed, she said.
“Co-ed housing is a request that comes up regularly,” Weber said. “We’ve honestly tried to stay current with the times, and there are a half-dozen or so schools doing this.”
Weber said schools that are offering co-ed housing have yielded a small participation rate, and she waits to see how students will take advantage of it at American.
She said the setup could be advantageous for the gay, lesbian or trans-gender student population, who may feel more comfortable living with the opposite sex.
As for GW’s policies, Weinshel stated that co-ed housing is available in the Scholars Village Townhouses, and that other co-ed accommodations could be possible in the future.
He said: “There are always two points of view to every policy and GW’s has been to assign students with the same gender together … and GW reviews this policy every few years.”