EDITORIAL: Alternative housing controversial

Jillian Beaudry

Stacey Barchenger

 

With housing registration looming, continuing students must decide which on-campus housing option most suits their needs.

Linfield offers a variety of same sex living options, and students can choose arrangements as specialized as substance-free buildings, women-only and men-only floors or residence halls.

But something at Linfield is missing.

According to a March 23 story in the Statesman Journal,
Willamette University will offer
gender-neutral housing options to its students next fall.

The change is meant to accommodate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students who may feel uncomfortable living in a same-sex arrangement. Willamette’s Dean of Campus Life Robert Hawkinson told the newspaper the option is a matter of fairness and means to provide all students with a satisfying living environment.

The Review supports Willamette in its action. The program’s goal is innocent: to assist students and give them equal rights.

The gender-neutral program is not unusual; Oregon State University and Lewis & Clark College offer similar programs. Students who participate in the program at Willamette simply need to indicate interest and write the name of the roommate they choose on a separate housing form specific to the new program.

The Statesman story shows this option will undoubtedly create controversy among students. Parents of students will not be notified if their child chooses the new housing option.

Some may argue parents should be informed, but we ask if they really should. Students, most of who are over the age of 18, have the right to their privacy, and if they don’t want to share their sexual orientation and housing choice, so be it. People are always saying we are adults now, right?

Another potential problem of the program addressed by Willamette is whether or not romantic couples, including heterosexual and gay couples, will be allowed to live together. The dean said the program is not designed to allow two romantically linked people to live together, and Residence Life has the right to deny any gender-neutral application.

So far, the general idea at Willamette is if people do not abuse the system, things will work out fine. According to the story, Lewis & Clark has limited demand for this kind of housing option, and OSU, which allows students regardless of relationship status to room together in special housing, will expand the number of gender-mixed rooms available on campus.

Jeff Mackay, associate dean of students and director of residence life at Linfield, is quoted in the story as well. He said Linfield is looking into this option.

But what is happening now? How about we start a collegewide discussion to see what the students, those who would benefit most from the policy change, think?

The majority of the Review staff supports offering the gender-neutral option to students on campus, although we acknowledge there will be issues. Heterosexual couples may abuse the privilege, but overall, giving Residence Life the ultimate power to decide would keep things uncomplicated.

Think about it from a heterosexual perspective: If you are a man or woman and your same-sex roommate is bisexual or gay, you may feel uncomfortable. But, have you ever thought how they might feel? Gender-neutral housing seeks to eliminate uncomfortable and awkward housing arrangements for ALL students, no matter their sexual
orientation.

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