Student Association Senator and President of Allied in Pride Michael Komo has announced plans to introduce an SA bill in support of gender-neutral housing at GW. Having the ability to choose roommates regardless of gender – allowing men and women to live together in campus housing – is not a new idea, as it has been implemented or experimented with at a number of universities across the nation.
GW is known for its progressive nature, and gender-related issues are well represented by active groups such as Allied in Pride. Gender-neutral housing would be a natural development for such a progressive university. To that end, GW should establish a trial-basis gender-neutral residence hall to understand all of the issues and challenges that gender-neutral housing would present.
Any system can be abused, and the most obvious abuse of this type of program would be couples applying to live together. With such a program, GW Housing Programs would need to explicitly state that romantically involved individuals should not choose to live together in campus housing. Although there may be no way to enforce such a policy, students need to be strongly discouraged from selecting significant others as roommates. Given that it is currently possible for homosexual couples to live together and this has not created significant problems, we believe that most students will be mature enough to make such housing decisions carefully.
At the same time, GW has not had to deal with the issues that gender-neutral housing might present. For this reason, the University should experiment with the idea on a trial basis. This would allow GW to adjust the training of housing staff according to the challenges that may arise when members of the opposite sex decide to live together.
GW already offers one form of gender-neutral housing. The living and learning community known as “Escaping Gender” is now in its second year of fully gender-neutral housing. This has been a solid student-led effort to prove that gender-neutral housing can be successfully put into practice. Now it is time to extend such options to at least a midsize residence hall on campus. Madison, Crawford, Munson, or any residence halls of their approximate size are prime candidates for this trial program. Expanding the size and setting of the program to a more typical GW residence hall, rather than the current, small LLC townhouse, will prove valuable to understanding the benefits and challenges of providing such an option.
This University is ready to move toward gender-neutral housing options. This will expand students’ choices regarding who they live with, a personal decision college students should be allowed to make without the University dictating with whom they are most comfortable living. Recognizing that it will be a major policy adjustment, the University should attempt such a program on a test basis before expanding the option to housing in general. College is supposed to offer more freedom and responsibility to students, and gender-neutral housing is a freedom and responsibility we are more than ready for at GW.
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