Adam and Eve could make fine roomies

by Beacon Staff • January 28, 2009

ssue:/b Gender-neutral housing in Emerson's dormitories

bOur view:/b Emerson should lead, not lag, on this issue of student comfort and liberty

An overwhelming majority of Emerson students have voiced their support for gender-neutral housing. We join them in urging the Student Government Association and Emerson's administration to approve SGA President Scott Fisher's proposal to allow students to live with the roommates of their choice, regardless of gender.

Fisher is amping up the pressure on fellow SGA members to vote for his proposal. If they heed the will of their constituents, they are likely to go along. Separate unscientific polls, one of 189 students conducted by Fisher and one of 99 readers on berkeleybeacon.com, found support for gender-neutral housing at or close to 90 percent. More than 500 Facebook members have joined a group Fisher created to drum up support for the issue, although not all of them may be Emerson students.

The administration, too, ought to work with Fisher and SGA to make optional gender-neutral housing college policy, for the sake of responding to the will of students, and because it's right for Emerson. The Emerson community, which accepts and celebrates all kinds of undefinable sexual ities, should lead and not lag behind other colleges on this issue. Already, 51 other colleges allow same-sex students to live together, including several Bostonian competitors like Tufts University. Thus far, backlash has been sparse. Further, if Emerson can force students to live on campus during their sophomore year, when many students are at least 20 years old, they should allow them the freedom to live with anyone they like.

The benefits-easing the anxiety of students troubled by same-sex housing and offering more choices to all students-seem to outweigh the risks, which don't amount to much more than puritanical worries about premarital cohabitation and fears of conflict in XX-XY rooms. The common worry is that immature couples will live together, break up and live in unholy acrimony or demand new housing assignments. Again, no such trend has made news at other campuses with gender-neutral housing.

The argument also overlooks an important fact: Same-sex roommates are in conflict all the time. They leave a legacy of conflict that will be tough for coeds to top. And while the notion of two jilted lovers sharing a room seems awful, it will be a relief to occupants of a suite where one roommate's lover has set up camp. And for those Emersonians, God bless 'em, who have found their true loves, who are we to keep them apart?

Meanwhile, the benefit to homosexual, transsexual and even asexual students could be profound. They deserve to feel safe and comfortable in their living arrangements, something those of us used to unisex housing may take for granted. Respect for their preferences and needs should be the overriding factor in any decision about gender-neutral housing made by SGA and the administration.

To get it done, Emerson students must continue to stand up for their GLBT classmates, whether or not they stand up or sit down to pee.,iBeacon/i staff