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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: Oct. 22

Why are many college students — most of them legal adults — who choose to live on campus required to live with same-sex roommates?

That’s one of the questions being asked at the UA and on college campuses across the nation by advocates of gender-inclusive housing. On Wednesday night, about 30 students from the LGBTQ community met with representatives from Residence Life to discuss the possibility of establishing a gender-inclusive or LGBTQ-themed portion of a residence hall, possibly starting as early as next year.

This proposition feels like a no-brainer. The UA and many other universities currently employ an archaic policy when it comes to on-campus housing. The assumption that men “”should”” live with men, and women with women, stems from a set of anachronistic stigmas about gender relations that universities should have left behind decades ago.

Only relatively recently have women and men been allowed to live in the same building, let alone the same floor. An article in the Daily Wildcat archives reveals that UA residence halls began to go coed as recently as 1984. But male-female dorms seem innocuous to all but the most conservative students and parents today. The next decade will almost inevitably see gender-inclusive housing, like coed housing, become the rule rather than the exception on college campuses.

Today, the main argument for same-sex roommates has more to do with comfort and safety than morality. This makes sense; some men and women might feel uneasy or even at risk living with someone of the opposite sex. Of course, residence halls should feel secure for all students, and no one should ever be asked to live with someone who makes him or her feel unsafe.

But gender-inclusive housing wouldn’t place men and women together as roommates at random. Instead, it would allow people to choose to live in a part of a residence hall that was specifically designated as gender inclusive.

The availability of such a living situation is especially vital for students who identify with the LGBTQ community. Many students who are gay or transgender feel unsafe in traditional residence hall arrangements. They face everything from gossip and stigmatization to hate crimes.

This was made tragically evident when Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, committed suicide after his roommate broadcast via the Internet an intimate moment between Clementi and another man. Clementi’s death is an extreme example, but gay and transgender students in the dorms face harassment on a daily basis. Many fear being placed with a roommate who will not understand or accept their sexual orientation and will be cruel to them as a result. This fear is not unfounded, and Residence Life should take it seriously.  

At least 35 colleges and universities across the nation, including several large state schools, have some form of gender-inclusive housing. While such housing opportunities on those campuses have by no means eliminated bigotry toward the LGBTQ community, they have gone a long way in making students feel more secure in their living situations.  

The opportunity to live in a community that is guaranteed to be safe, accepting and inclusive is one every student should be afforded. Currently, and unfortunately, that is not the case at the UA. While there are certainly still kinks to work out in the process of establishing gender-inclusive housing, Residence Life must take every step possible toward making such housing a reality. No one should ever feel persecuted, or even mildly uneasy, because they’ve been placed with a roommate who doesn’t accept who they are. The UA must leave behind outdated assumptions and practices and make gender-inclusive housing a reality.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Heather Price-Wright, Luke Money, Colin Darland and Steven Kwan. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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