Pomona Considering Gender Neutral Room Draw

The Pomona College Student Affairs Committee (SAC) approved a proposal Feb. 19 that would make room draw gender-neutral for the 2010-2011 school year, pending input from the student body at large.According to current policy, students cannot room with a member of the opposite sex in a double or suite that does not have separate entrances. However, Pomona College Housing Director and Adviser of the Associated Students of Pomona College Residence Hall Committee (RHC) Deanna Bos said student input helped her recognize that Pomona had not adequately addressed potential issues with such a gender-restrictive housing policy. She approached RHC at the beginning of the school year to see if it would be interested in pursuing a gender-neutral housing policy.RHC drafted a proposal at the end of the fall semester and sent it to SAC a few weeks ago for approval. The proposed policy would permit students to live in a one-room double, two-room double, or suite with any other student, regardless of sex or gender, after their first year.

North Campus Representative Stephanie Almeida PO ’11, a RHC co-chair and member of SAC, played a substantial role in drafting and finalizing the proposal. Almeida said the current restrictions do not recognize the different ways that students identify.

“The restriction operates under a number of assumptions: that everyone must fit neatly into the category of male or female, that your gender identity should determine who you live with, and that all people will live best—or at least not romantically—with a person of the same sex,” Almeida said. “The new policy is an important statement against those assumptions.”

The proposal is not specifically targeted at romantically involved couples. Although Bos acknowledged that it is impossible to monitor whether students are choosing to live together romantically, she said she hoped students will take heed of the particular issues that might arise from such living arrangements.

“It’s very tight on campus,” said Pomona Dean of Students and SAC member Miriam Feldblum. “If you have a couple who goes in together because they’re together, and then they break up, they may have a real desire to no longer room together, and we won’t be able to accommodate them. That would create a lot of problems for the Office of Campus Life.”

Although Feldblum said she expects SAC to put the policy into effect before the upcoming room draw, the committee wants to hear student input before making any changes to the Student Handbook. Normally, SAC would open a comment period for 30 days. However, with room draw quickly approaching, Feldblum said the comment period will likely be limited to two weeks.

“I think that the expectation by the SAC is that this will be met with either approval or disinterest by students,” Feldblum said. “This is not a policy that is required. It’s not a random placement. It increases the option for students, but if there are unintended problems or consequences that students living in the dorm can see, then this comment period is a great time for them to send in their feedback.”

Ali Corley PO ’11 said she was confused by the current policy’s subjective distinctions. Corley lived in an Oldenborg quad last year with two male suitemates, but is now living with a female student in a Clark I two-room double.

“It’s an arbitrary rule,” Corley said. “Guys and girls can live together if they both have doors to the outside, but not in a two-room double with one door. It doesn’t make much sense to me.”Corley also said she thinks Pomona could have made this change sooner, because gender-neutral housing would help the college to portray itself as non-discriminating.

However, Feldblum said that in past years gender-neutral housing has generally not been an issue for upperclassmen. Of approximately 1,400 beds, Pomona has 728 single rooms and 19 two-room doubles with separate entrances. Therefore, the proposed policy will only affect about 140 double rooms.

Bos said instituting a gender-neutral housing policy this year was ultimately about equality.

“If you are not allowing the same options for everyone because you have restrictions based on gender, that’s a problem,” Bos said. “We have homosexual students, bisexual students, transgender students. In the past, I haven’t been able to offer a solution to students having gender issues. It’s not fair and it’s a restriction I’d like to see taken away.”

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