While gender-neutral dorms gain acceptance, where does CSUN stand?

Ignacio Marquez

In 2009, about 50 schools in the Unites States have allowed coed dorming. Photo Credit: Jackie Holmes/Staff Reporter

Roommates for almost a full semester, college juniors Lindon Pronto and Kayla Eland have, in their opinion, the perfect roommate relationship.

They live together at Pitzer College, a private residential liberal arts college in Claremont, California, a city about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. Pronto, environmental analysis major, and Eland, biology major, have become close friends, mostly as a result of living together in a one-bedroom dorm in Pitzer’s Holden Hall.

Pronto, a 21-year-old male from Weimar, a city northeast of Sacramento, and Eland, a 20-year-old female from Seattle, are not a couple and neither is gay. They have never lived with anyone of the opposite sex before this semester either at school or outside of school.

They decided to become roommates because they both lost their old roommates who left to study abroad. They knew each other and talked, but they were not as close as they are now.

“Last semester year, I picked a guy and when me and Kayla both lost our roommates to study abroad, we just kind of jokingly threw the idea out there and then decided to do it,” Pronto said. “At that point we were not very good friends but only acquainted as we lived across the hall from each other.”

Their relationship has seen no fights. Eland has even gone on to describe the relationship as a brother-sister relationship.

“I think we are pretty good at communicating with each other and we both try to be respectful of each other so we have a great roommate relationship,” Eland said.

Pronto said there is just an abundance of laughter and good times.

Being of different genders is not something that is a main focus point of Pronto and Eland’s housing situation. They said that people should be able to pick whoever they want to live with.

A roommate is a roommate, regardless of gender, Pronto said.

Pronto and Eland are not alone.

In 2009, about 50 schools across the United States have implemented “gender-neutral” housing policies in their dormitories that allow men and women to room together, according to the National Student Genderblind Campaign, which promotes the practice of gender neutral dorms in schools.

Stewart Rosen, a 21-year-old senior music major at CSUN said he thinks it is a good idea to have an option when it comes to choosing a roommate, whether in the dorms or off-campus.

Rosen lived in a house in Canoga Park, about 15 minutes from campus, with three men and two women for about a year as a sophomore at CSUN. He moved in knowing that not every tenant would be of the same sex and he had no objections.

Rosen said he had a good experience when he lived in a gender-neutral home.

“Overall, I wouldn’t say that anything really annoyed me except for the ridiculous shower times that can end up with a long wait before I can use the restroom,” Rosen said.

He added that while housing like this could very possibly work, there are situations where it cannot work.

“I don’t necessarily see why gender-neutral dorms should not be available to people who are comfortable with that,” Rosen said. “I could see it working for some, but I could definitely see it not working in many scenarios.”

He said he would rather see if personalities match than worry about the gender of his next roommate.

“I wouldn’t live with a girl who has a personality clash with me, but then again, I wouldn’t live with a guy who has a personality clash with me,” Rosen said.

Michelle Hy, a 20-year-old sophomore graphic design major at CSUN, has had both the experience of living with a man and a woman.

Hy has lived in a two-bedroom apartment since she started attending CSUN. During her first year, she lived with two women and a man.

This experience turned out to be a very bad one.

Hy said that she did not know the guy before she moved.

“I did not know him very long before I moved in with him (and) I had only agreed to it because my friend knew him,” Hy said. “At first, I tried really hard to talk to him and find some kind of common interest but that led to no good.”

Hy said she was fine with not being all friendly with her roommate, since she still had her other two roommates, which were also her best friends.

“After a few months had gone by my roommates and I started to notice his flaws,” Hy said. “He hardly washed the dishes, took out the trash, work, and what bugged me the most was that he loved to complain about everything especially school. So as you can imagine that was not the best lifestyle for me or anyone for that matter.”

Hy said she would not consider living with another male roommate in the future unless it is a significant other.

“I would rather keep my female roommates that I trust,” Hy said. “I don’t want to run the risk of getting a lazy boy again.”

Elizabeth Sturgeon, 20, a junior graphic design major at CSUN, has so far enjoyed having a roommate of the opposite sex. She said her roommate Jose is a great friend with whom she gets along really well.

Sturgeon said she dormed with three other girls her freshman year and found it was quite an experience.

“[Living with males] is my preferred environment. Living with girls can be very dramatic sometimes, and I enjoy how laid-back men are,” Sturgeon said.

She added that living with males was a lot more comfortable.

“The best part about living with boys was the fact that I could be myself,” Sturgeon said. “I’m much more comfortable with males than with girls, and so I was able to just come home, eat the pizza they bought, and not worry about how I looked.”

Sturgeon said she would definitely consider another gender-neutral living situation in the future if her current arrangement does not work out later on.

Pitzer College, which began the policy of gender-neutral housing in its campus in 2008, is one of several schools across the nation to have this type of policy.

The National Student Genderblind Campaign started in 2006 after a college student lost his roommate and needed to find someone else quickly, otherwise the cost of living would have been too expensive.

David Norton, 24, a public communications graduate student currently attending American University, co-founded the campaign after he was not given the option of choosing a roommate he wanted.

Norton was an undergraduate political science major at Guildford College in Greensboro, N.C., when he lost his roommate.

He quickly set out to find someone else, and he found out that his best friend since the six grade, who happened to be a female, also needed a roommate for the same reason as Norton.

Unfortunately, the two friends were not counting on the college’s administration to reject their proposal to live together. The college’s reasoning was simple: it was not possible to accommodate Norton and his friend because they were of different genders.

Norton said he was furious and he believed that the college had rejected them solely on the basis of gender.

“I was angry that my friend and I were denied the opportunity to live together,” Norton said. “We had been platonic friends for over seven years. My choice to live with a woman was simply because we were great friends, not just because I wanted to live with a woman for other reasons.”

Norton started campaigning on campus after the incident. He even created a Facebook group after he started receiving e-mails from students across the country who also shared his view. After receiving many responses, he went on to create a website.

Norton said about 10 schools had gender-neutral housing when he started the campaign. He said he believes his campaign has helped the growing acceptance of gender-neutral dorms.

“We tried word-of-mouth,” Norton said. “After we made the website, we started to get some coverage in newspapers and other forms of media. We’re still trying.”

Norton said his campaign focuses on choosing someone who he feels safe and comfortable to live with. The fact that there is a new era of gender relations in our society today is part of the reason change should come.

“We are all adults and we should be able to make our own decisions without someone telling us what we can and cannot do,” Norton said.

Even in schools that have not yet adopted gender-neutral housing, students are showing that they would welcome such policy.

Certain college officials are open to the idea of gender-neutral dorms.

Chris Brunelle, Pitzer’s director of residential life, welcomed the idea of having gender-neutral dorms when the idea was brought to him.

The students advocating this policy had good arguments that made the decision very easy for the college, he said.

Brunelle said that the students made their case, and after getting approval from several different groups including the student councils of every residence hall, the policy was approved and implemented Fall 2008.

“Based on student interests that were brought to our attention, we worked with the students and were able to finalize the policy,” Brunelle said. “The efforts in favor of the policy had a lot of momentum, and with no roadblocks, we were able to accommodate the students.”

Brunelle said educating the campus on the benefits of the new housing policy was necessary to avoid any opposition.

He added that it was important for the campus to understand that the new policy was “gender-neutral” housing not “gender-blind.” The latter meaning disregarding biological sex when it came to placing students in rooms, as opposed to students having the option to choose any roommate, regardless of gender.

“We want our students to have a choice,” Brunelle said. “We didn’t want to just place our students with anyone, disregarding gender. We wanted to give them the option if they wanted it.”

Some students have mixed feelings about living with someone of the opposite sex. They have come to this after living with both someone of the same sex and someone of the opposite sex.

Indeed, Lindon Pronto and Kayla Eland enjoy living with one another.

Pronto said that living with someone of the opposite sex is no different than living with someone of the same sex.

“It hasn’t been very different, I’m not quite sure why that is,” Pronto said. “I put down the toilet seat. That’s basically the only difference I can think of.”

Eland agreed.

“I really haven’t found that there is much difference living with my previous roommate, Annie, than with Lindon,” she said. “I had a really good relationship with her and I have a really good relationship now.”

Both Lindon and Pronto said they would live together again if their plans for next semester do not fall through. They both plan on studying abroad next year.

“Everyday life with Lindon is great,” Eland said. “I think we have a great roommate relationship. We’re both easy going and get along really well.”

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