College needs to expand gender-inclusive housing



The majority of Occidental’s on-campus housing options restrict students to same-sex roommates, regardless of their gender identifications. Out of Occidental’s 11 residence halls and six themed living communities, gender inclusivity is relegated to Queer House and a single corridor in Berkus Hall. For a school that prides itself on diversity and inclusion, gender-neutral living spaces are not accessible or abundant enough for students who are restricted to on-campus housing.

Currently, if students wish to live in a gender-inclusive environment, they must apply for these spaces outside the room draw process. Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) then evaluates the applications and determines which students should be granted housing. As a result of this process and the spatial limitation of gender-neutral housing, some applicants are rejected.

In denying students the option to live in a gender-inclusive environment, the college only further enforces notions of gender normativity. Gender-inclusive housing should not be an external or isolated space, but rather available to any and all students who identify outside the gender binary, wish to live with a student of the opposite sex or simply do not believe that gender should factor into their housing placement.

In amending the option of gender-inclusive housing, the college must eliminate or at least dramatically reevaluate the application process and remove the cap on the number of gender-inclusive rooms available.

For students who wished to live in gender-inclusive housing for the 2015–16 year, the application asked for basic information, the applicant’s requested roommate and if the applicant and their listed roommate had discussed how conflict would be resolved. Only one additional question specific to gender inclusivity was included, asking whether the applicant required a gender-inclusive living space based on their gender identity. The question was accompanied by checkboxes marked “yes” and “no.”

Gender, however, is not always explicable in such limited terms. If Occidental is going to require an application for students to request gender-inclusive housing, it should be expanded to allow applicants to supply context on their reasons for wishing to live in a gender-neutral environment.

Still, a revised application would not be sufficient. There is no excuse for the college to be denying students access to a gender-inclusive environment. If more rooms need to be allotted to gender-neutral housing in order to house all applicants, the option should be expanded beyond one section of Berkus Hall. Establishing additional gender-neutral rooms and hallways across campus is the first step to dismantling acceptance and encouragement of gender normativity.

This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly editorial board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.

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