Student opinion: Viterbo’s gender-restricted housing policy

Student opinion: Viterbo’s gender-restricted housing policy

Calum Sullivan, Assistant Editor

On Feb. 23, 2022, the Lumen conducted a survey of Viterbo’s student population, polling students on their opinions of the current housing policy. The policy currently states that students must live with roommates who have the same gender identity as them (exceptions are made for non-binary students under this policy).  When asked if they supported Viterbo moving towards a policy that no longer relies on gender restricted housing, students overwhelmingly supported such a change, with 90% supporting the change, and just under 10% of students stating they did not.   

Students were far more evenly split when asked if they would choose to live with roommates who did not share their gender identity, with just over 50% of students voicing they would choose to live with students who did not share their gender identity.   

Sophomore Ainsley Alrutz shared her thoughts on why she thinks the change needs to happen: “I think for many of our students in the LGBTQ+ community this is a vital change that needs to happen. Many do not feel safe rooming with those of the same gender as them.”  

Other students echoed her opinion. Senior Julia Harlos said the change would help students “who, due to their sexuality or other reasons, don’t feel like they fit in or feel safe with roommates of the same gender.” One student, who asked to remain anonymous, added that “This setup would be more similar to actual housing in the real world.”  Perhaps this change would aid in preparing Viterbo students for life once they leave the university.   

In contrast, another student, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said this change might create issues for “people that are not comfortable living with someone with the opposite gender [who] might get put in an uncomfortable situation.”  

Several students mentioned the danger of sexual assault, and another student mentioned, “Couples may break up while living together and need to switch rooms” but added, “This is also a real-world lesson on not breaking a lease if you break up.”  One student added that they could “see no downsides, as long as it is completely up to the students and not randomly assigned.”  This response seemed to resonate in the survey, as multiple students mentioned the need for such a transition to include some attention to how roommates with different gender identities were assigned to living situations.   

One question the Lumen was particularly interested in was how this change might affect students who embrace Viterbo’s status as a Catholic institution.  One student said that “it is not a biblical idea at all. It goes directly against beliefs of not living with opposite sexes until marriage or cohabitating,” and added that it “could create unsafe environments.”  This student, who identifies as Catholic, added that they would not support the decision.  Another student said, “I am not Catholic, but I am Christian and because the Bible is all about love, I believe the best way to love our students is to open those doors and make everyone feel safe.”   

Most of the students polled by the Lumen did not identify as Catholic, and one student replied that they were not Christian anymore but that they thought “this would be a step towards de-stigmatizing the gender boundaries that are associated with the church.”  

According to Logan Jancsurak, president of SGA, “SGA has received numerous student voices regarding housing discrimination. Those concerns have been passed along to the university’s Social Justice and Equity Committee and the Student Social Justice and Equity Committee. Those groups are exploring what changes can be made in policy and practice. We hope a non-discriminatory housing policy can be published in the 2022-23 student handbook.”