EDITORIAL: Boren's gender-neutral housing decision misses the mark
Our View: Boren's housing compromise is not enough. The university still needs a gender-neutral housing option.
President David Boren was in a position to make history at OU — to be a progressive leader, to be recognized as an institution that isn't bogged down by politics and to be recognizes its constituent's concerns.
Instead, Boren decided to not do any of these things.
The university will not adopt a gender-neutral housing policy, Boren announced Tuesday. Alternatively, housing contracts for freshmen will note that if special housing needs arise, a student can confidentially contact Diane Brittingham, associate director of Housing and Food Services.
Special housing needs have arose, thus the concern for gender-neutral housing. This concern has been as issue beckoned for a response for the last couple years.
Some vague steps will be taken this fall, instead, to "improve the environment for students with gender-housing issues," according to the press release.
A co-educational area will be available with a limited amount of spaces. Though the university has recognized the housing concern, by detailing that the spaces are limited, it has not appropriated enough living spaces for its students who need them.
OU should institute measures to ensure that each student, not a limited number of students, has access to a safe, co-educational area in the same way traditional students have been guaranteed a safe living area in a dormitory in the past.
The press release said that the co-educational living areas "will be evenly balanced between genders." This attempt for balance operates within a dangerous rhetoric that assumes students fall within a binary or an identifiable gender identification.
As stated in a September editorial, the gender-neutral housing proposal was conceptualized by and for those who do not identify within a male-female gender system. Still, even within the new system, individuals are relegated to particular identities in an attempt to create balance.
OU should recognize that the safety and piece of mind of its GLBT students affected by this decision are far more important than creating a balanced atmosphere that appeals to the unaffected students.
Other steps created in lieu of the housing decision include room reassignments by request through Housing and Food Services and special consideration housing options for upperclassmen. These steps are mere speed bumps that delay students from being placed in appropriate living spaces.
Though Boren seeks to "avoid separation by group identity" through a co-educational area and various speed bumps, he inadvertently is creating segregation and mandating separation by denying GLBT students a safe community.
The gender-neutral housing coalition and other GLBT members of the OU community have clearly expressed their concerns and needs for gender-neutral housing options, though you wouldn't know it by Boren's decision and steps that barely and inefficiently address their concerns.
Instead of weak accommodations and an aim at improvement, the administration should change policy and fix housing by appropriately noting concerns. The measures taken thus far are another attempt for OU to institute "nanny" laws that prevent informed students from making their own decisions.
Policy has not changed, and we still support the initial gender-neutral housing initiative. The freedom to choose should be bestowed to all students.