Sex and gender at work, in bed, and on the street

Gender-neutral housing hits the George Washington University

December 3, 2010 - 10:00 AM
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For half a decade, students have lobbied the George Washington University to allow men and women to live together in on-campus student housing. Next fall, the university will finally allow the mixed-gender arrangement in nearly every dorm on campus, the school announced yesterday. (Three dorms—Strong Hall, Merriweather Hall and 2109 F Street—will be reserved for women).

Senior Michael Komo, leader of the school's Allied in Pride group, spearheaded the campaign in 2008 to accommodate LGBT and gender-nonconforming students, "many of whom feel more comfortable living with someone of a different gender," Komo said in a statement yesterday. The arrangement will also help transgender students side-step the limitations of the "male" and "female" boxes on GW's housing forms. Komo called the decision a "monumental victory for everyone—LGBT students and their straight counterparts."

In mounting the gender-mixed movement, Komo culled support from hundreds of students and over 20 campus organizations. G.W.'s Young America's Foundation, the sole vocal opponent of the campus measure, worried that the initiative would "encourage a culture of promiscuity, and reject traditional moral ideas of pre-marriage living arrangements." At the 60-plus institutions around the country already offering mixed-gender housing on campus, "it's only in less than one percent of [mixed-gender] cases that a boyfriend and girlfriend choose to live together," Komo says. The vast majority of students choose to forgo the mixed-gender option entirely.

Last January, the student senate recommended that the university implement the program; in March, a policy review committee convened to consider the initiative. GW announced its acceptance of the program yesterday.

As the Washington Post notes, nearby American University already allows for a limited number of gender-neutral rooms. Georgetown University is just starting talks on a similar initiative. The culture war on that campus has already begun.

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