After your first year at Wesleyan, you can live with whomever you want. However, before Fall 2003, if you were living in Clark, 200 Church, Hewitt, WestCo, the Nics, or the Butterfield dorms, and you wanted a roomate, your roomate had to be listed in the Res Life files as being of the same sex as you. Incoming first-year students were also places with roomates on the basis of sex. Many singles are available, especially in Hewitt and the Butts, but having a roommate is both cheaper and is also a traditional part of the college experience for many people.
Residential Life, the Queer Task Force, and the 2002-2003 gender group worked together to craft a plan that would be acceptable to all. We developed a “gender-blind hall” for the ground floor of Nic 6 for students who requested that gender not be a factor in roommate assignment. The first year of the hall has been mixed: some students who requested the hall were not placed there, while most of the students on the hall had not requested to be there. Also, Res Life did not provide an RA for the floor, despite the provision of an RA being part of the original proposal. The RA assigned to the floor above refused the offer of assistance from the trans/gender group in creating programming for the hall; the gender-blind hall end up with zero programming for the 2003-2004 academic year.
The future of gender-blind in the future is uncertain. This year Res Life again refused to provide an RA for the hall, and some members of the administration voiced proposals to eliminate the hall. The University Residential Life Committee, however, is instead working to eliminate the hall as a physical space but instead make gender-blind the default housing option on campus. Tell Dean Mike why you support gender-blind, whether in Nic 6 or across campus, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is not a finished summary, and I am not the expert on gender-blind. If someone would like to write up a history of gender-blind, please do and send me what you write, email@example.com
Why I personally support gender-blind housing, by Zach
Gender-Blind Housing must exist next year, period.
- Cancelling it because of a lack of applications is a bad idea in general. Gender-blind housing needs to be there in case students do need it or want it, even if in a certain year it looks as though it might not be urgent for anyone. Having a gender-blind hall shows trans and other queer students that they are welcome at Wesleyan.
- It’s not just for trans students. Having trans students be able to email Reslife with requests for a single gender-blind housing situation is not gender blind, for starters; it’s just gender-respectful. Gender-blind is allowing all students—straight, queer, trans, non-trans—to live with anyone of any gender, for whatever reason.
- Trans students would not benefit from the new set-up of having to expressly request a gender-blind room. The option Dean Mike described in the email would isolate trans students and force them to out themselves to Reslife, and would force a gender-blind room into being a special situation that would make everyone else on the hall confused/curious. It’s important that in gender-blind now, students do not need to come out as trans, nor do they have to specifically ask Reslife for special accommodations. Trans students should not have to email back and forth with Reslife, trying to figure out a possible rooming situation, trying to be their own advocated. Sure, that’s what I did. I didn’t do it just so other trans students could go through the same bullshit year after year.
- Reslife has still not fully implemented Gender-Blind housing. They didn’t give us an RA for this past year, and there is none for this coming year. This is despite, both years, students who were selected as RAs for other dorms requesting gender-blind as their location of choice. Only one of the incoming frosh last year who requested gender-blind last year was placed on the hall—that’s not a good way to create a hall dynamic. Creating a sustainable gender-blind hall must be as important to res life as maintaining gender or racial diversity in other parts of campus (the stated reason for not placing at least one of the students who requested the hall in it). Two students who currently live on the hall recognized the problems from this year and applied to be the RA for it next year, but one was selected as an RA for a different dorm and the other was not selected at all. Without an RA specifically for the hall, there were no programs. The trans/gender group contacted the Nicolson RAs several times to offer our assistance in planning programs for the hall, but were refused each time. When most current students want singles and want to know if they can get singles before thinking about roommates and possible two-room double situations, it’s difficult. To ask current students to apply to a hall that has had no programs, that has no kitchen, lounge, or even balconies, it’s even harder. I want to see Res Life give Gender-Blind an RA, for starters. To cancel the hall at this point would just be ridiculous. I for one am unwilling to let Reslife’s failure count as gender-blind’s failure.
This is from an email written after hearing about the proposal to end the hall, but without the part about making the whole school gender-blind. Making all of Wes gender-blind has pros and cons, besides just being very difficult to get passed.
Wesleyan Argus articles:
- 2/28/03 Wesleyan Argus
- 4/18/03 Wesleyan Argus
- 3/26/04 Wesleyan Argus
- 9/10/04 Wesleyan Argus—Frosh upset by administration's last-minute housing decision
- 10/5/2004 Argus—WSA passes new gender neutral housing resolution
- 10/22/04 Argus—Gender-neutral housing poll results
- 12/10/04 Argus—Gender-neutral housing update
Articles from larger media sources:
- New York Times You have to pay to see the version at the NYTimes site, but here's it reposted.
- Hartford Courant This is a reprint from another source. The AP picked up the article and it ran in many outlets across the country.
- Chronicle of Higher Education Again, a reprint from another source. Many college administrators read the Chricle, though, and so this was a big deal.
- Bay Windows Bay Windows also reprinted the AP story earlier in the summer.
- Free encyclopedia Did we invent the term "gender-blind"? Maybe...the free encyclopedia uses us as their example.
Although I don’t have documentation to back it up, I’ve been told that these schools will or have already some form of “gender-blind” or “gender-neutral” housing, with roomates, available to all undergraduates:
- University of Southern Maine (USM), both Portland and Gorham campuses
- Sarah Lawrence
- and of course Wesleyan.
- University of Binghamton A nice overview of what's going on around the country.
- Macalester — 11/14/03
- Macalester, part two — 12/05/03
- University of Iowa, see here and here
- Macalester College (see here and here) are also considering adding gender-blind dorms or floors to their housing options.
- Discussions are also underway at the University of Southern Maine and Ithaca College among others.