As some of you know, I am currently
the president of LUCC, the rough equivalent of student governance
at Lawrence University. As much as I have enjoyed being on LUCC, the truth is that the council’s power to directly effect campus life is fairly limited. Tuition, meal plans and class requirements, for example, are all outside the purview of LUCC. When it comes to housing policies though, LUCC, through the Residence Life Committee, has the authority to make a significant difference
on campus. Currently, LUCC Residence Life Committee is discussing
whether to implement gender-
neutral housing. In this speech I hope to convince you to support
the change, to address some potential concerns, and to give you some information about how you can influence whether the change happens or not.
Currently, the LUCC Residence Life Committee is discussing whether
to make all, some, or none of Hiett Hall, the Exec Houses and the small houses gender-neutral. The change would not affect formal group houses, such as the fraternities
or co-op, who, with the approval of the Formal Group Housing Board, would continue to be able to set their own housing rules. From my perspective, the committee seems to be leaning towards playing it cautious
and making small portions of campus gender-neutral. I think that would be a mistake. While caution can be a virtue, in this situation – where there is a lot to gain and little to lose – being slow-paced amounts to being cautious solely for the sake of being cautious. Making as much of Hiett Hall, the Exec Houses, and the small houses gender-neutral as possible is a chance to make a low risk, positive change on campus.
When I have brought this up in conversation with my friends, many have responded by saying, “What do I care?” I think there are many compelling
reasons to push for wider adoption on campus. For example, here are six, in no particular order:
1. To provide more housing
options to students at Lawrence without limiting the choices available to others.
2. To be more “real-world” for students looking to ease the transition out of college.
3. To prevent transgender students from having to make the awkward choice between their sex and their gender when applying for housing.
4. To establish Lawrence University as an institution concerned with gender equality
issues, and as an institution at the forefront of addressing them.
5. To allow heterosexual couples the opportunity to live together in the same way that homosexual couples currently can.
6. To simply allow friends who are of opposite genders to live together.
I know many concerns have been raised considering
gender-neutral housing. For example, some students have said that they would be uncomfortable using the bathroom
or showering in the same room as a member of the opposite
gender. Those students do not need to worry. Hiett Hall, the small houses and the Exec-Houses all have single bathrooms, so no student would need to be in a bathroom at the same time as a student of the opposite gender.
Some students have also expressed concern that gender-neutral
housing would substantially change the “feel” of campus life for the worse. I think that would not be the case. In Hiett Hall and the Exec Houses, students already have their own bathrooms and large common spaces. Social life seems to happen primarily inside rooms, not in the common spaces. There is no reason to think that the “feel” of either of those areas would be altered significantly if, alongside rooms of men and men and women and women, there were a handful of rooms where men and women lived together.
Other students have been worried
that creating gender-neutral housing, while benefiting students who want to live with a member of the opposite gender, would displace other students who prefer to live with someone of the same gender. These students also do not need to be worried. In a residence designated
as gender-neutral, no student would be required to live with someone
of the opposite gender. A gender-
neutral room could be occupied by two men, two women, or a man and a woman. In addition, no rooms would be reserved for students of the opposite gender. In short, no one would have his or her choices decreased. The only change would be that when you were choosing a room, you could opt to live with a man or a women, regardless of your sex. No one has to do anything they do not want to.
So, again, I strongly think that Lawrence should adopt gender-neutral
housing in Hiett Hall, the Exec Houses, and the small houses. If you are interested in this issue, in either support or opposition, I urge you to send me an e-mail that I can present on your behalf to the committee. If you would prefer to share you opinions
with the committee directly, please come to the Residence Life Committee Meeting at 11:10 a.m. in Downer F on Tuesday, Feb 21. Also, please consider encouraging friends and others you think would be interested in the subject to do the same. Housing is one area where LUCC and the student body can make a substantial change on campus.
By letting the LUCC Residence Life Committee know this is a subject
students care about, we can encourage the committee to use its authority to make positive changes to campus life.
As some of you know, I am currently