Editorial: Cohabitation: the last frontier of gender-equal housing?

By Laura Hancq
February 22, 2012

Kayla Eland, 20, and Lindon Pronto, 21, pictured March 9, 2010, are not boyfriend and girlfriend, just friends that who happen to share the same room in a dorm at Holden Hall at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif. (credit: MCT)

Colleges and universities across the country are constantly stressing the need for diversity, for the campus to become more diverse and for students to embrace diversity. However, when it comes to on-campus housing, students have no choice but to live with others who self-identify as the same gender. So a student can embrace diversity on campus but just not in their on-campus residence in the regards to gender.

Gender-neutral housing is not a new idea. Nearby Rutgers University adopted it last year and around a dozen schools throughout the country offer it including the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, Oberlin College and Clark University. The Loquitur editorial staff thinks this is an option schools should consider, at least for upperclassmen housing.

This editorial is inspired by the fact that it is housing selection time here at Cabrini and it can be difficult, especially once an upperclassman, to decide whether to stay on campus or leave, especially if many of your friends have already moved off campus. If a student wants to stay and live in an on-campus apartment but most of their friends left on campus are the opposite gender, they are going to have to take the chance with random roommates just because they are the same gender instead of living with established friends. This can be a hassle for the resident as well as the Residence Life offices on campuses when it comes to finding new vacancies and assisting the student in moving. Also, if schools are concerned with building a community environment and keeping students on campus, this idea could help.

Obviously, there are many foreseeable conflicts with gender-neutral housing and it would need to be something that was optional and requested because assignments for incoming students would be problematic. In a really small, traditional residence hall, space is limited and privacy would become a huge issue, which is why it seems unrealistic for underclassmen. Another major issue is that schools do not want to look like they approve and sponsor pre-marital sexual activity, especially religious institutions, which is completely understandable considering they do not want to anger parents. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to students’ sexual activity but to look like you sponsor it is another. Also, a major factor to take into consideration would be if couples chose to live together but then break-up and need to move out.

The thing to consider is that a lot of students who would want gender-neutral housing do not want it for sexual endeavors. Not everyone wants to have relations with their friend of the opposite gender and as far as couples breaking up, well, friends have fallouts too. Whether you are best friends or strangers, many housing assignments do not work out for whatever reason.

In this day and age where gender roles are becoming less and less defined, co-ed living situations could also be seen as an effort to accommodate homosexual and transgender students. While these students are still the minority, gender neutral housing could appeal to students in all walks of life.

The Loquitur editorial staff realizes this would be difficult to implement at Cabrini but suggests it could be something to think about for the future. College is supposed to be training us for life and in our lives outside of campus, such as our home lives or if we live off campus with friends, the genders are constantly cohabiting. Even if students would like this opportunity purely to live with friends, it could also serve as a valuable learning experience. Once we graduate from college, when in life will we be co-existing with only one gender?

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Laura Hancq

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