The Intent Behind the Proposed LGBTQ Checkbox
Letter to the Editor
Published: Monday, April 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 2, 2012 22:04
To the Editor:
Two viewpoints that appeared in The Hoya last week, (“As Bias Lingers, LGBTQ Students Need Safeguards,” A3, March 30, 2012; “Acceptance Shouldn’t be Optional, but Expected,” A3, March 27, 2012) have initiated a lot of discussion about a possible LGBTQ-friendly checkbox on the Campus Housing Roommate Matching System. This is an initiative that was conceived in the senate about a year ago, with the passing of the resolution on gender-neutral housing in the 2010-2011 session of the Georgetown University Student Association Senate. As one of authors of the initial resolution, I feel a certain obligation to inject myself into this conversation and provide some clarifying comments.
A year and a half ago, GUSA representatives had a meeting with representatives from the Center for Student Programs, ResLife, Housing and Facilities (CHARMS), Student Housing, Health Education Services, the LGBTQ Resource Center, the Women’s Center and the Interhall Council. In this lively discussion, there was a broad consensus that some form of confidential LGBTQ-friendly search option or checkbox on CHARMS represented an opportunity to ensure incoming students have safe first-year housing experiences. In their campaign, GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) picked up where this conversation was left off. Unfortunately, some people have misconstrued the intentions and possible effects of this proposal.
In the proposed system, all students can indicate on their CHARMS questionnaires that they are LGBTQ-friendly. This does not mean they are indicating their sexual orientations, but merely their understanding and acceptance of roommates that may or may not identify as LGBTQ publicly or privately. This binary value would then be searchable in CHARMS just like any other searchable function, but it would be confidential and would not appear on a person’s profile.
In an ideal world, every future Georgetown student would check this box, and I am confident that today the vast majority would. However, the box would be important to students who are perhaps vulnerable or undergoing the coming-out process. It would avoid situations in which such students are placed with roommates who are actively hostile or emotionally abusive, and prevent students from feeling that their first-year experiences are dramatically hindered or fearing for their personal safety.
This is not an abstract concept, as there are established, though confidential cases where this has taken place. This measure is not meant to tolerate or abide homophobia, and it’s not meant to create special gay sanctuaries; rather, the point is to ensure everyone’s safety and emotional well-being. The checkbox could also come with a disclaimer similar to this: Even if you don’t check the box, Georgetown University expects all its students to treat everyone with the respect and dignity with which they would like to be treated, regardless of sexual orientation, race, gender, religion, etc.
This is obviously a work in progress and by no means the key to solving welcoming and acceptance issues at Georgetown. There are still many discussions to be had, and I fully trust the new GUSA executive team to work hard in all areas to articulate a more holistic approach to ensuring that every incoming Georgetown student has the best experience possible. However, students should be sure that they fully comprehend what is being proposed before they judge the matter either way.
Laura Kresse (SFS ’12)