ETSU Housing offers a variety of options to suit students’ needs: traditional dorm rooms, suite style housing, apartments. But it does not offer truly gender-neutral housing.
The University Housing Policies reads, “The Department of Housing and Residence Life will designate selected halls/apartments as co-educational by floor, wing, or alternating room/apartment.”
The division is even greater than this, though. Entire buildings, like Carter Hall and Powell Hall, are designated as single-sex.
This might not be as big of a problem if the halls designated to each sex were equivalent. However, there is no male equivalent to the female-only Luntsford Efficiency Apartments, which feature a kitchen and bathroom in each room for one of the lower rates per semester.
Another, larger, complication to the current sex-based housing policies is the fact that they are separated by sex at all. According to CollegeEqualityIndex.org, many universities have policies in place that allow students to live together with no discrimination based on genitalia.
Commonly called gender-neutral housing, these policies ideally do not include some of the language and policies that are currently present in ETSU’s University Housing Policies, such as visiting hour restrictions on only visitors of the “opposite gender.” Gender-neutral housing policies allow people of all genders to share the same dorm room.
One of the common arguments against gender-neutral housing is the possibility that students would use the policy to live with their significant other. This could lead to more roommate issues that housing staff would have to handle, like requests to change rooms or roommates or arguments between roommates.
While having a gender-neutral policy in place could increase the number of these problems, it is incorrect to think that these situations are not already occurring. Students in same-sex relationships could be living with their significant others under the current housing rules.
Approaches to curtailing some of the problems that may arise in gender-neutral housing include making the gender-neutral system opt-in. The opt-in system means that, unless the student expresses that they are comfortable rooming with someone of a different gender, they will be matched with someone of their same gender.
In truth, gender-neutral dorm rooms should already be in place at ETSU. Our current policies reflect an old-fashioned mindset that only considers gender as a binary and views heterosexuality as the only sexuality. Students should have the option to live with whichever gender with which they are most comfortable sharing a living space.