Opinion, please: segregated housing

Old Dominion University announced last week that it will become the third university in Virginia to offer dedicated housing to LBGT students and their supporters. From the article:

Lowman said having special living quarters doesn’t mean gay and lesbian students are seeking to close themselves off from the rest of campus. Rather, he said, it will convey the message that the ODU community is open, welcoming and diverse.

I never lived in on-campus housing during my college career, having lived at home during my freshman year at Hampton, and, like most students back then, off-campus during my undergraduate years at  ODU. About the closest I can come to the experience is when I first came to ODU and moved in with two roommates that I had never met before.

I learned a lot from those two women about things with which I had no experience – and not just how to shoot a beer 🙂  The college experience is about education – and that includes widening your horizons, right? So my gut reaction is that even self-selected segregation is a bad idea.

But I also know that not everyone is as comfortable with themselves as I was then. (If I had kept company with only those who were triple minorities like myself, I’d been a pretty lonely student.) And there is something to be said for the ease of being around those with whom you have something in common.

So what say you, dear reader? Do you agree with this separate space?

By the way – I think the article writer is off-base in mentioning that Duke is the only university in the Southeast – outside of those in Virginia – to offer such space. Um, the Southeast is the Bible Belt, after all.


15 thoughts on “Opinion, please: segregated housing

  1. Solution in search of a problem…and it may well find one. Granted, my understanding is that the housing is voluntary, but the worst case is that the house gets attacked in some way.

  2. The answer is clear that it is wrong if ODU were to force all LGBT students to be in one dorm regardless of the reason.

    I also would condemn a university that created a heterosexual only dorm even though living at the dorm would be voluntary.

    The danger in having these types of single characteristic living quarters is that those who share the common experience, but choose not to live in the special LGBT dorm, will be an even smaller minority within the “mixed” dorms. Most of these folks are likely concerned about embracing their developing beliefs in the public arena (coming out), will not live in the LGBT dorm, and will feel forced further underground. The creation of these living quarters may create de facto segregation, and additional difficulties for the minority within the LGBT community who stay in the regular dorms. – Bad idea.

  3. If the ODU community is open, welcoming and diverse then housing should be open, welcoming and diverse. What’s next housing because of religion, race, Republican or housing for natural blondes. If there are other problems on campus that we are not being told about and people are being discriminated against for any reason, solve that problem. Is Rick Santorum behind this?
    Peggy Scott

  4. I agree with Mr Dillard’s comment.

    While the Administration may be attempting to pursue a policy of both diversity and exceptance they may be unintentionally isolating the students by allowing them to segregate themselves. At some level I think the College is doing a disservice to all students by creating a sub-set of the student population. “These students are different and therefore are to be treated differently.” It justs sounds wrong.

    Segregation, especially that imposed, allowed, encouraged or tolerated by government doesn’t have a very good track record. It could easily happen that at a later less tolerant administration might conclude that Gays would be “required” to live together, off and away from the “other” students. Don’t think it can’t happen. It’s happened to other segments of our society and in the not to distant past…

  5. If we will not require that a woman share a dorm room with a man, will we require a man to share a room with a homosexual man? Will we require a woman to share a room with a homosexual woman?

    In the homosexual dorm, will men share rooms with women?

  6. I think it is a mistake for the exact reason you mentioned, Vivian. The experience is supposed to be about broadening horizons, yet this would close off exactly that sort of experience.

    Going out into the world after college, will there be a gay portion of the office, or the gay construction crew? Of course not. It seems to fly in the face of what LGBT people profess to want; to be treated no differently that anyone else. (Or at least the way I understand it)

    If they (ODU) think there is a safety concern with a homogenous population, then address the security concern, don’t make a situation where part of the students are “separate but equal”.

  7. Is there something wrong with the desire to be among people who are like you? I don’t know what value I got living with a roommate who was an annoyance generally and who also did not use deodorant.

    Allowing people to choose to live in an environment that provides them comfort or support is not a bad thing considering there is a whole lot of stress going on when you start college.

    To the points above, there are certainly options at the university level to self-segregate based on race and religion. Even within universities, you are afforded the option to join social clubs and again self-segregate.

    And to the point about in real life, well in real life you are not choosing to live in an apartment or home with a stranger you have nothing in common with.

  8. It’s optional for LGBT students and straight students are allowed to live there, so I think it’s okay. I don’t see anything wrong with an LGBT student being able to get an education without worrying that a homophobic roommate is going to try to get them kicked out of the room/dorm/school or kill them in their sleep or broadcast their romantic exploits on the internet. This is southeastern Virginia, not San Francisco. Maybe if Rutgers had an LGBT dorm, Tyler Clementi would still be around.

  9. Why should it be OK for LGBT or homosexual students to ask for dedicated housing and not OK for Hetersexual to ask for the same. Sounds like reverse discrimination to me.

  10. I talked to students and ODU officials who are involved and my views, as they say, have evolved. I now see this as an option primarily for freshmen who are experiencing a lot of change in leaving home and rooming with strangers. Some won’t need it but others may have one less stress to cope with. Think about a freshman you care about getting Tyler Clemente’s roommate.
    Also, as I understand it, any group of students with a common interest can ask for a section of housing. Women in science & engineering, for example, or ROTC. And it is just a floor within a larger residence so it is not all that separate. Classes are not separate either – that would worry me more than housing.

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