The chance of USF joining the universities around the country that operate gender-neutral dorms appears slim.
“The parents would not be happy with this, the Legislature would not be happy with this and the community would not be happy with this. We’ve got to remember we’re in the South. It’s a conservative area of the country,” Thomas Kane, dean of housing and residential education, said.
USF, however, may want to reconsider that stance in light of the future stipulations that will require all freshmen students to live on campus. When students are allowed to live wherever they please, they can live with whomever they please as well. However, without a choice, students may be required to live with a gender they are uncomfortable with.
Co-ed housing has benefits and could greatly help many students who find they are required to live on campus.
There are many students who may be more comfortable living with members of the opposite sex because of preferences and privacy.
There are the needs of gay, lesbian and transgender students to consider as well. They are as much a part of the University community as every other student and need to be accommodated, whether or not Florida is “in the South” or “conservative.” Because of homophobia and other forms of harassment, some students may be more comfortable living with members of the opposite sex and should at least have the option of doing so.
There are some at USF who see the benefits of such housing, such as Regina Young Hyatt, associate dean of students.
“I would say that in terms of a student’s sexual identity that there is some evidence to suggest that allowing non-gendered housing is supportive of a student’s identity development,” Young Hyatt said.
With Florida attempting to pass legislation that would provide parents the option of putting their children in gender-segregated classes in secondary schools for learning purposes, convincing them that opposite genders working, learning and living together could be beneficial seems more than a little unlikely.
Regardless of Florida’s “conservatism,” hopefully USF will open up to the idea and consider the benefits students may receive by experiencing real-world conditions and relationships with members of the opposite sex outside of the realm of marriage and sexual relationships.
Ultimately, the environment in which students live should be the choice of the students – not legislators. We are supposed to be adults here, aren’t we?