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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Group pushes dorm reform

Students are pushing to shake things up in the same-sex designations for roommates in residence halls.

About 30 UA students from the LGBTQ community attended a forum held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, to discuss the establishment of a themed wing or floor in a residence hall that would be designated for people of their community who often feel victimized, uncomfortable, misunderstood or unsafe.

“”Our goal is to have something in place for next year, recognizing that our returning students have to sign up for housing by February,”” said Hannah Lozon, coordinator of social justice education at Residential Life. “”We need to get as much support as we can,”” she added.

Support is something they have struggled with endlessly, students at the meeting said.

Tyler Diaz, a junior transfer student, took out extra loans to live off campus because he was afraid to live on campus. “”If I would’ve known the community was more inclusive, I would’ve saved a lot of money and lived on campus,”” he said.

Christina Bischoff, a biology and theatre arts sophomore, said her biggest issue in her UA residential experience has always been roommates. Other attendees agreed with her, expressing that it was uncomfortable and problematic to share a room with another woman who treated them differently because of their sexual orientation. “”We need to identify people who are allies of LGBTQ and people comfortable living with us,”” she said.

Some attendees voiced that they preferred to live in rooms or suites with the same sex. Others preferred to live with the opposite sex, for the sole reason that there is no attraction and they can feel more comfortable in the room.  

An option that many students were in favor of was being able to state your rooming preference of gender and sexual orientation when applying for campus housing. That way, the entire rooming process would be optional. “”This isn’t about segregation. It is only about making people feel more inclusive and safe,”” Lozon said.

“”The problem with this sort of option is it could stem to include other modes of segregation,”” said Jim Van Arsdel, director of Residence Life. “”The reason we don’t collect more demographical information (from students) is that race, religion, sexual identity, etc. can also be fought for on the roommate preference issue. Part of the difficulty is that if we become too accommodating, we get to the point where we are expected to be the agents of hatred. Not gathering that sort of demographic information allows us to say ‘We don’t know.’ Asking questions about religion or anything of that sort is going to get the public to think we’re going to act on those answers in some way, which is inappropriate.””

Bryan Ponton, a junior studying art history and journalism, had a white board hanging on the door of his room and a resident wrote the word “”fag”” on it. “”It was my first experience with a hate crime and I just think we need more training for resident assistants in dealing with them, and programs for dealing with them,”” he said.

There are 54 other universities in the country who have established LGBTQ themed wings or areas in their residence halls, according to Lozon. “”Most of those started off initially only open to returning students, then as they are fueled on, became open to incoming freshmen,”” Lozon said. “”We’re looking at many different models, but more importantly want to know what our students think first.””

Northeastern University has gender-neutral housing available for upper-class students during the room selection process, according the Northeastern University Housing and Residence Life website. The themed housing option was established in 2009.

Van Arsdel said he sees why there is aspiration to establish a new wing, but he does not know how it could become reality and ensure its survival after the creators leave.

“”The broader the base of support … the more realistic this idea can be. We want it to work to the effect that the lives of students are changed in a positive way. Often after a new program is initiated strongly, the supportive members who helped launch it leave and it dies out,”” he said. “”We don’t want it to die out in two years. We need people who stick around.””

After parting ways, all LGBTQ attendees were enthused about the possible launch of a themed wing for them. “”What can I do next? I have a lot of friends who would be interested … where do I tell them to sign up?”” Diaz asked.

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