COLUMN: Gender-blind housing must be an option
Male and female students began living in separate suites on a co-ed, upperclassman floor in campus housing this year. It has only been a week, but so far there doesn’t seem to be a rampant orgy problem.
And honestly, did anyone expect there to be? I know a lot of talk about propriety was thrown around in the debate about this last year — after all, “this is Oklahoma,” as our president was so kind as to remind us — but this is so small a baby step that I hesitate to call it progress except in the most literal sense that it’s a step in the right direction.
Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a wonderful addition to campus. Even separate from the discussion about gender-blind housing, students should have the opportunity to live in a mixed-gender environment.
It’s a learning environment that more closely resembles life outside the academic bubble than the gender-segregated environment in the rest of the residence halls.
And from personal experience, a mix of genders can often help avoid some of the common interpersonal problems one might face from an all-female or all-male environment.
But a floor where students can live in suites with students of their same gender and just happen to live next to a suite with students of other genders is not a solution to any of the problems students raised last year.
It’s a common-sense addition to campus living options; it just doesn’t contribute anything to solving the need for gender-blind housing.
There are students on this campus who do not fit easily, or safely, within the gender-based housing assignment system we use.
That might be because they date people of their same gender or because they have alternative forms of gender expression and don’t fit most people’s idea of “male” or “female.”
It might be because they no longer feel connected to their biological gender and choose to represent themselves in another way. It could be that they fall somewhere in between our strictly limiting ideas of gender. Or it may be some other entirely personal factor.
Whatever the case, or even if it’s just because some girls have more guy friends and vice versa, they are the outliers that the administration needs to think about.
Currently their only real option for on-campus housing (which is required for freshman and incredibly convenient for everyone) is private housing, which is prohibitively expensive.
This is unacceptable. Safe, reasonably affordable on-campus housing should be available to every student. That means every student, not just the ones the system was built to accommodate.
And it’s not just about these students who need it. What about the students who simply want to room with their mixed-gender friends?
One of my best friends is a man. We’re both clearly adults, and yet the university wants to tell us that we can’t choose to live together. That’s just ridiculous. Even if we were in a relationship, what right does the university have telling its consenting adult students they can’t shack up?
I know, I know; this is Oklahoma. But it’s also the 21st century. We need to start fighting for our right to choose our own lifestyle.
This co-ed floor is one small victory; it does not mean we can get complacent, because it is simply not enough.
It will not be enough until the university respects its adult students enough to allow them the freedom to make adult decisions.
We need to leave behind ridiculous Puritan fears about men and women cohabiting, and realize there’s a lot more to people’s identities than “male” and “female.”
We cannot be satisfied until every student can be sure of feeling safe in the place they call home for four years of their life.
That is Oklahoma.
— Mary Stanfield, philosophy junior