May 6, 2008

Editorial: Crews control

As everyone learns in Hum, it’s nearly impossible to get a group of U of C students to agree on anything. It was surprising, then, that a plan to introduce gender-neutral housing was met with overwhelming support among the student body. The concept was discussed for several years, a proposal was written and voted on, and the idea had just about made its way through the University bureaucracy. Unfortunately, Vice President and Dean of Students in the University Kim Goff-Crews scuttled this progress last week, effectively delaying the plan’s implementation for at least another year.

Goff-Crews’s rationale for the holdup is unsatisfactory. She has explained that she wants to consult with faculty, but it’s unclear why faculty members should have a say in something that would not affect them. While the proposal was sent to her desk during an admittedly busy week, given Goff-Crews’s involvement in the process for the past several months, its substance should not have been a surprise.

The dean’s hesitation is confusing for two reasons: First, gender-neutral housing has already been discussed extensively, without any significant opposition being raised. After considerable informal discussion, the Inter-House Council (IHC), a body made up of elected representatives from every undergraduate house, voted last spring on a non-binding resolution to introduce gender-neutral housing. By all accounts, the University administration was receptive to the idea, and the IHC convened a working group to craft a specific proposal. The plan, which was completed this winter, was expected to receive the Administration’s approval before today’s housing lottery.

The proposal’s reasonable nature makes Goff-Crews’s reluctance even more perplexing. Introducing gender-neutral housing would allow students of the opposite sex to room together in the housing system—a potentially divisive prospect. The IHC’s plan is admirably nuanced, however, and goes far to address potential concerns: House floors currently designated as single-sex would remain that way, and first-years would have to wait almost a month before they could opt into the system. Most importantly, the specific implementation would be left up to individual houses, meaning the plan’s prevalence would depend entirely on each house’s preference towards gender-neutral housing.

Some students feel uncomfortable living with members of the same sex; many others would simply prefer to live with friends who happen to be a different gender. If done in a regulated, sober fashion, gender-neutral housing would address both of these concerns. Unfortunately, due to the reluctance of one administrator, students will likely have to wait another year before gender-neutral housing becomes reality.

The University has declared retaining upperclassmen in the housing system one of its top priorities. Ultimately, its delay in implementing gender-neutral housing does little to dissuade many students that apartment life is the best available option.

The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.