Some of you may have noticed an email in your inbox with the subject “Room Draw: Mixed Gender Housing Option for 2015-2016.” Most of you probably skimmed over it or just marked it as “read,” which is understandable if it didn’t apply to your interests. However, I think this is an interesting topic and worth discussion, especially when referring to what it means for housing in the future and other forums of growth on campus.
First of all, what is mixed gender housing? Good question, my intrigued reader. Gustavus Residential Life defines mixed gender housing in apartments as “groups of two males and two females sharing a four-person space. Bedrooms will be single gender within each apartment and each apartment will have two bathrooms.” So it still maintains the idea that genders will not be sleeping in the same room or bed together, but allows for them to share a living space together. The reason they state apartments explicitly is because they have only designated those styles of homes for this housing. This is going to essentially be a “pilot” for the option, and they have a very select amount of spaces available. There will be four apartments in Arbor View, four townhomes in Chapel View and four apartments in College View that will be designated as mixed gender spaces. Unfortunately, available to only those in the classes of ’16 and ’17. It still presents a very interesting opportunity and turning point in the future of campus housing.
Now, there are always some issues and technicalities to be dealt with when it comes to policy changes. The biggest thing here is the use of the term “gender.” Some people identify as transgender, or as the opposite gender, or gender-fluid, and other variants. The school seems to be attempting to make accommodations for people who don’t identify as their biological gender, or are transsexual. In the email sent out, there’s a question example they give that states “If I’m trans*, is this my only option?” (The asterisk appears to be a placeholder to indicate both the words “gender” and “sexual” as these could possibly both change how gender-based housing is assigned.) Now, speaking as the individual author of this article, I think this question was phrased rather poorly. It’s almost as if stating that if you’re trans*, you can only live in mixed gender housing because it is a “mix.” That doesn’t seem to make much sense. If you’re trans*, you still have other options, otherwise you wouldn’t be allowed to live on campus, and that’s an entirely different issue. However, I’m fairly certain they did not mean it this way. In response to this question, they have stated:
“No. As always, those who identify as trans* may work with the Director of Residential Life in order to find the most reasonable and comfortable housing option for that individual.”
So they already have a policy and plan in place and the option is still available to individuals who are trans*, and they will work with you to best identify where you would most comfortably live.
We have to look at the big picture of this. Most campuses don’t offer on-campus mixed gender housing, so this is quite an enormous step for Res Life to be taking. The big differentiation that needs to be made is that this is a living space, not a dormitory. While a dorm is technically a living space, it is also a public area for many people to roam, whereas a room is more of a private living space where someone resides. Colleges nearly everywhere offer mixed gender (also called “coed”) dormitories but very few offer rooms or apartments on campus that allow for genders to mix. If this pilot period goes over well for this option, we could possibly see even more rooms and apartments becoming mixed gender, and if they succeed as well, this could possibly to spread to other schools and campuses. This could be a really big deal in the long run, so here’s to hoping that the pilot goes over well!