Desegregate Amherst!

(Liya Rechtman)– This past weekend, in a remarkably low-profile trustee meeting during the inauguration celebrations, Amherst College officially added “gender identity” to our policy of nondiscrimination. This means that our new nondiscrimination policy will look something like this:

“Amherst College does not discriminate in its admission or employment policies and practices on the basis of factors such as race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a veteran of the Vietnam War era or as a disabled veteran. The college complies with federal and state legislation and regulations regarding non-discrimination.”

YAY! We are (as usual) so far behind on this stuff in comparison to other small New England liberal arts schools but we FINALLY DID IT! YAY! ☺

Well, you may be thinking, that’s great ConstantLy, I’m glad your in a good mood, but what does this actually mean for my life as a student here? You probably don’t think a lot about your gender identity, and therefore you probably don’t consider yourself discriminated against for it. For example, I am a woman, I have always been a woman, and society has always seen me as a woman. My gender identity is not particularly unique. However, there are certain things I systematically cannot do on this campus because I am a woman.

I cannot casually walk into the men’s bathroom if there’s a line for the women’s room; I cannot live with a man. Every time I wait in line for a bathroom, I am waiting in that line because I am a woman.

We have come so far as a society and three(ish) times a day, whenever I have to use a bathroom on campus, I have to be segregated from my male counterparts. Currently, it is simply out of the question for me to live with a male friend instead of a female friend. I am lucky this year, and I love my roommate dearly, but apparently, because I am a woman, I am supposed to feel more comfortable living with women. It doesn’t seem to matter who I get along with…

Not to mention the furthering of hetero-sexism and the daily institutionalization of the gender binary…

Or the accommodation of gay students who feel uncomfortable in same-sex room groups… or as an attempt tostop, or at least temper, homophobia…

This leads me to my point: DESEGREGATE HOUSING!!!!! At Pride a couple of weeks ago, we discussed the possible impacts the new gender identity nondiscrimination policy. The pragmatic/logical next step would be to create a truly gender-neutral housing scheme. Meaning that there would be the option of both gender neutral rooming and bathrooms.

Of course, there are some caveats, however. Since freshman are assigned roommates, and don’t chose them on their own, they would still be assigned to same-sex roommates. Freshman bathrooms, similarly, would be gender-segregated. “One of the proposals is for there to be at least one gender-neutral bathroom per building. It would be marked clearly on floor plans for Room Draw, so that no one would be caught off guard and could choose to live on another floor if they were really opposed to the gender-neutral option. And, in terms of housing, no one would be required to live with a person of another gender; it would just be an option that anyone could choose through the room group process for Room Draw.” Pamela Stawasz, Pride Alliance advisor, explained to me.

Amherst College! The Great Trailblazer! – Oh wait, except that Brown, Wesleyan, UC Riverside, UPenn, Oberlin, Stanford, Swarthmore, Rutgers, Uchicago, Haverford, UMass, Antioch College in Yellow Springs and many more colleges, have all implemented similar co-ed housing plans in the last couple of years….

Okay, so I realize that there are some concerns about co-ed rooming and bathrooms. Some people seem absolutely appalled by the idea. The things that concern people the most seem to boil down to: roomcest, hygiene, and comfort.

1) Comfort – this, like any other part of dorm living, takes some habituation. You need to get used to any kind of roommate. I now live in one of the few houses on campus with co-ed bathrooms. Yes, the first time I walked in to brush my teeth and one of the boys was at the urinal, it was awkward. By the second time, it wasn’t really a big deal. The end.

2) Hygiene – I maintain, anecdotally that men and women are both pretty messy… or clean… it depends on the person. Duh.

3) Room-cest – roommates who sleep together. A) gay men are allowed to live together, so it seems like if this would be a problem, it already exists in the status quo. B) Some colleges have specifically tried to deter people who are in a relationship from living together, but most people (and remember here that college students are actually adults) are mature enough to come to that conclusion on their own.

Basically, not discriminating and segregating between people of different gender identities is one more step towards universal tolerance in the same way that desegregating water fountains between was in the 1950s.

Constant Theme. <3 ConstantLy