Time to go gender-blind

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February 15, 2010

11:57 PM

Once an all-male, all-white school and now a place that welcomes all comers, the College of William and Mary has done much in the effort for openness and diversity. Now, by forcing the Student Assembly to water down its gender-blind housing bill, the administration has shirked its responsibility to this legacy. We implore it to reconsider its stance.

For better or for worse, our dorms are designed to protect our students from their own libidos. The idea is that by arranging rooms, halls and units by gender, students should be able to brush their teeth in the morning before being confronted with sexual tension — which is not altogether a bad idea.

But not all of our students are straight, so not everyone is offered this simple, and important, comfort. Call this what it is: inequality, plain and simple. Especially during the awkward transition of freshman year, the negative situations in which new students can find themselves as a result of this policy are simply not acceptable at a school like our own.

Students have attempted to address this discrimination for years by trying to create a space or spaces in which housing assignments are made without consideration of gender. Other schools have had great success in doing the same, but the College has been reticent to do so. Recently, when the SA tried again, the administration pushed back, offering a stopgap instead.

The question is not whether gender blind housing will come to the College, but when. Over 30 campuses across the country have adopted gender-neutral housing policies — with about half doing so in the last two years. The College is still positioned to join the vanguard of a national movement by acting now — or it can tow its current discriminatory line and bring up the rear.

It seems so foreign and unnatural that our administration once balked at allowing black students or women into the College for decades. But the same dynamics are at play right now. We expect better of our administration, and of our College. 

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