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Mixed-Gender Dorm Suites Denounced at UNC-Chapel Hill

Not everyone agrees with the decision to let male and female students live in the same suite together at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, as one student leader calls it segregation, and statewide conservative groups decry it as pandering to special interests.

Lucas Mavromatis, council president of the university’s LDS Institute of Religion, a Mormon student group, said in an interview that gender-neutral housing is akin to segregation. He argues it basically allows the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer student community to ostracize themselves, because it’s a safe presumption they will choose to live together.

It was the campus’ LGBTQ community that lobbied hard to get the program approved. The program is application-based, meant only for those who opt-in.

“There is a growing population of students who have not interacted with LGBTQ students, and by segregating part of the population, UNC is keeping those students from interacting,” Mavromatis said. “UNC is so excited by its diversity, but I don’t think it realizes it’s segregating its diversity instead of encouraging interaction.”

To further prove his point, Mavromatis noted UNC already offers living-learning communities specifically for Hispanics, Chinese, Transfer Students and Women.

“When you segregate people, you’re keeping them from being able to interact with one another,” he said. “I believe that interaction is what most helps do away with stereotypes and (helps us) love one another.”

Mavromatis speaks from experience. He was born in Brazil, and said he has enjoyed connecting with students at UNC who do not share his background.

“We need to do something that will promote more social interaction,” he said.

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill’s board of trustees’ unanimously approved gender-neutral housing on Nov. 15. Starting next fall, male and female students may live in the same dorm suite.

Chancellor Holden Thorp initially vetoed the proposal in February, calling it unnecessary. However, after a student lobbying campaign sponsored in part by the LGBTQ Center, Thorp had a different message in November, saying instead gender-neutral housing is an issue of safety.

Not all students on campus agreed with Thorp’s decision, based on anecdotal stories and informal discussions among some groups of students. Several members of Christian groups on campus declined to comment to The College Fix about their thoughts on the matter, however.

Mavromatis said he thinks he knows why.

“At UNC, there’s a lot of liberal ideas, and they’re the ones published by (the student-run newspaper The Daily Tar Heel),” he said. “And so I think a lot of groups are hesitant to voice their opinions because they don’t want to be looked down upon. So they quiet down and accept whatever the new status quo is going to be.”

Mavromatis said he knew the measure was going to pass at the November board meeting because trustees faced “a lot of pressure.”

“Gay rights are such a hot topic right now,” he said. “They already rejected the plan the first time, and so it’s coming a second time around and I feel like they’re thinking – if we let this go again, the students are just going to go crazy on us, so let’s just pass it and it will keep them happy for now.”

But it’s a slippery slope, he said.

“Who’s to say that in the future other groups, maybe a Hispanic group, maybe a group of color, maybe an international student group, (is) going to start saying they’re not safe, and because you made an exception for this group of people now you’re going to have to make a neutral housing for this group and that group, and before you know it – everybody’s segregated,” he said.

Meanwhile, several other conservative groups off-campus have also voiced concern over UNC’s gender-neutral housing decision.

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said it sets up “a special privilege primarily based on sexual orientation” in a recent Christian Action League article.

He said while the university has the responsibility to ensure students are safe, this is a far-reaching effort that insists that alternative lifestyles are totally embraced and accommodated, the article stated.

“If a person is harassed and threatened by his or her roommate for whatever reason, then the problem should be reported and dealt with,” Creech stated. “But to elevate sexual orientation above other considerations is giving those who choose an alternative lifestyle special protections that are uncalled for and at the cost of society at large.”

The article also quoted Tami Fitzgerald, director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, who called the move “another misplaced ‘diversity’ policy.”

The group is lobbying for the decision to be reversed.

“The UNC Board of Trustees is bending over backward to please the homosexual lobby – a group that represents only about 3 percent of the population – without regard for the consequences…,” Fitzgerald said in the article. “To make matters worse, our tax dollars subsidize the University of North Carolina system.”

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

IMAGE: Eric Mills/Flickr

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