- GW students want to live together, regardless of gender
This fall, Howard University began allowing visitors to stay overnight in one on-campus dorm, as long as they leave by noon the next day. Meanwhile, the George Washington University is closer than ever to allowing men and women to live together in on-campus housing all year long.
"Students have been lobbying for this in some capacity for at least 5 years," says Michael Komo, a 22-year-old senior who is leading the current push for gender-neutral housing in George Washington campus dorms. The initiative began as a way for LGBT and gender-nonconforming students to "live with the folks they feel most comfortable with," says Komo, who also serves as the president of campus LGBT group Allied in Pride. The switch will also help transgender students navigate the housing process without worrying over the 'male' and 'female' boxes on GW's housing forms.
Detractors of the initiative say it will erode the traditional moral underpinnings of undergraduate college living.
GW's campus currently hosts a very limited number of students who are already testing the waters: Currently, six students live in a student house devoted to LGBT and gender studies on F St., and six more live in the gender-neutral Washington Williams House on 22nd St. "That's been our guinea pig," says Komo, "We're now trying to implement this on a larger scale across the university."
Last January, Komo—then a member of the student senate—helped push through legislation recommending that a pilot program be implemented in the 2011-2012 school year, followed by a permanent program in 2012-2013. Komo has also formed a 300-member campus group to support the initiative, Colonials for Gender Neutral Housing, and culled support from about 20 more student organizations. In response to the student push, the university convened a review committee of administrators, faculty, students, and alumni, who are set to come to a decision on the legislation this fall. "I'm cautiously optimistic," Komo says. "It should be any day or any week now."
The main detractor of the housing initiative has been G.W.'s Young America's Foundation, an on-campus conservative group concerned that the legislation will encourage destructive and immoral romantic pairings on campus. "In terms of morality, gender-neutral housing is nothing more than another attempt by social progressives to hijack an institution of society so that it may be destroyed and resurrected around a notion of enforced equality," the group wrote in an editorial earlier this year. "Such housing situations will also destroy the safe-learning environment of our residence halls and rather actively encourage a culture of promiscuity, and reject traditional moral ideas of pre-marriage living arrangements."
Komo says that concerns over heterosexual romantic destruction are unfounded. "In our research, we found that in campuses that have implemented this, it's only in less than one percent of cases that a boyfriend and girlfriend choose to live together," Komo says. "Right now, same-sex couples have the opportunity to live together on campus, but the vast majority of them wisely choose not to. Opposite-sex couples are just as smart and just as equipped to make the right choice."
And most students won't choose to take the gender-mixed option at all. In the 60-some schools that have implemented gender-neutral housing across the country, most students stick with same-sex arrangements. "It's only about one to two percent of students who are participating in these schools," Komo says. At GW's 10,000-strong undergraduate campus, that's only an estimated 100 to 200 students who would endeavor to "enforce equality" on GW's gender-segregated masses by living with the roommate of their choice.