Following student complaints and lengthy meetings about the inaccessibility of seeking accommodations in the housing process on the grounds of gender or religion, the Georgetown University Office of Residential Living met Oct. 25 to discuss potential improvements to the process. One change that emerged from the meeting was the promise of a form that will allow students to request accommodations for the spring 2022 housing selection. While this form is a step in the right direction, it fails to address the larger problems with the accommodation process: a lack of transparency.
Georgetown should commit to ensuring LGBTQ students have access to housing that affirms their gender identity and guarantees accepting and inclusive roommates, but the university has fallen short in providing a clear, standardized and consistent process that offers such accommodations. Students who need these accommodations fill out CHARMS, Georgetown’s roommate-matching form, like the rest of the student body but often have to jump through a series of extra hoops to secure safe and inclusive housing.
Students are currently instructed to email Residential Living to request accommodations — and that’s it. To learn about securing accommodations, students must email Residential Living and wait for a response. This practice causes undue stress and anxiety for students whose ability to live with accepting roommates remains unclear throughout the requesting process.
The current procedure is incredibly frustrating, according to one nonbinary student who has tried to navigate the housing accomodations process.
“Seeking accommodations is less a process and more a ‘please email us so we can send you to someone else who will send you back to us and nothing gets done.’ It’s all very roundabout,” the student said in an interview with The Hoya.
A university spokesperson reiterated that if students wish to pursue housing accommodations, they should reach out to the Office of Residential Living so the office can work out a solution on a case-by-case basis.
“Georgetown University is committed to creating an inclusive, safe, and welcoming campus for all members of our community across all gender and sexual identities,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
While Georgetown’s commitment to an inclusive, safe and welcoming campus is admirable, I am far more interested in specifically how Georgetown intends to fulfill its commitments than in a reiteration of taglines. The process is, as one student described to me, “unnecessarily convoluted.”
While the LGBTQ Resource Center offers support to students navigating the housing process, the Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming Resource Guide on the Center’s website only instructs students to email Residential Living if they need accommodations, leaving students where they originally started. The resource pages currently available are confusing and send mixed messaging to students already navigating a stressful time. Further, the lack of public communication about gender-inclusive housing could make prospective students reluctant to commit or apply to a university in which their right to gender affirmation remains murky.
Perhaps Residential Living has a reason for providing minimal information on the process and for directing every student seeking nongendered housing exclusively to email. Or perhaps they don’t, and the flaws in the system are an artifact of antiquated attitudes surrounding gender. Regardless, Georgetown needs to make the standards for receiving accommodations more clear and standardize the process for requesting accommodations. Taking these steps will ease students’ real and serious fears that they will have to live in an unsafe situation or space that does not suit their identity.
There is a clear need for improvement in the current housing accommodations process. However, simply releasing a form for students to fill out is not enough.
There must be more transparency on the part of the university about possible accommodations for students and the process of obtaining them. Those who need accommodations need to know how their identity will be used to inform decisions made about their housing and when they can expect results. Until resources for students seeking accommodations are more than just an email, a Google form and a copy-and-pasted statement of diversity and inclusion, Georgetown students will continue to demand change, and the Georgetown community will be shaped by the absence of students who never applied or committed because of a lack of information necessary for their safety.
Gabi Cunningham is a first-year in the School of Foreign Service. Queera Personalis is published every other week.
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