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MattHillNC.com EXCLUSIVE Original Report
The National Student Genderblind Campaign (www.genderblind.org), a student coalition urging colleges and universities to adopt gender-neutral or “genderblind” housing policies for students, is concerned with biased coverage of the issue offered by Boston’s FOX News Channel, Fox News 25 (www.myfoxboston.com).
During its morning news “Let it Rip” commentary segment on December 12, 2006, Fox News 25 anchors discussed the possibility of Harvard University’s addition of gender-neutral housing policies. The anchors declared their opinions against the plans and upheld stereotypes of men and women as to why gender-neutral housing was not an option.
Gender-neutral housing policies allow students of different genders to live together in the same dormitory rooms. Traditional “co-ed” housing does not include gender-neutral housing within individual dormitory rooms.
In an exclusive statement to MattHillNC.com, David Norton, a co-founder of the National Student Genderblind Campaign and a student at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, said that the anchors for Boston’s Fox News 25 inaccurately portrayed the purpose of gender-neutral housing. Norton also states that the anchors distorted the policy, portraying it as an end-all, be-all policy affecting all students.
Norton says that a student would not go into a housing situation “blind,” without knowing who his or her room mate would be or their gender and the college or university’s housing officials would not be making the call.
“Like any roommate agreement, these requests must be made by both parties mutually,” Norton said.
“[Gender-neutral housing policies] provide options for transgender students, students in the process of discovering their gender identity, gay or bisexual students who feel uncomfortable with rooming with members of the same sex, intersex students who do not wish to be identified by any sex, and students who feel that they would cooperate better with a roommate of the opposite sex,” Norton told MattHillNC.com, “The current policies reflect a time of heteronormativity and heterosexism that is not relevant to students today.”
Norton adds that traditional “co-ed” housing without the added options given with gender-neutral housing policies represents a form of “institutionalized heterosexism” against students who do not fit into traditional categories of sexuality or gender.
Norton says that the Campaign has been able to identify at least 20 colleges and universities with gender-neutral housing policies already in place.
“Because it is difficult to identify each and every schools’ specific regulations, this number does not include institutions with very new policies, or schools with policies that have not yet reached the media,” Norton stated.
Opponents say that they have heard no valid reasons for these policies.
One conservative student stated, “The ‘diversity hawks’ of higher education cannot continue to attempt to make every student feel comfortable during every waking moment. This is not realistic and not what students will face after graduation.”
Another conservative student asked, “What if I’m not comfortable living with a person of a different race or religion? Should colleges institute special housing policies for me?”
Norton disagreed with the opponents and stated this is about real life and real choices.
“Show me an apartment building that has gender-based rooming restrictions,” Norton said, “Their argument is illegitimate because it assumes that change should never happen.”
Norton also added that “overwhelmingly, students want these options available.”
The National Student Genderblind Campaign has begun to receive national attention to its efforts to enact gender-neutral housing policies. Spokespersons and members of the groups have given numerous interviews for media companies around the country and have been invited by the national Fox News Channel for a live debate on the issue. Norton said that the Campaign has not made a decision on whether or not they will accept Fox News Channel’s invitation.
The Campaign has contacted or will be contacting numerous organizations including GenderPAC, GLAAD and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association seeking the possibility of issuing a joint statement expressing their disappointment with Fox News 25.
The National Student Genderblind Campaign is a national grassroots organization established and run by students across the country. It was founded by students from Clark University in Worcester, Massachussets and Guilford College. Their website is www.GenderBlind.org.
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