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Mill on Open Housing

November 28, 2010

Recently, the Michigan Student Assembly has turned in a proposal to the head of housing, requesting that open, or gender neutral, housing be an option for the Fall 2010 semester. This means that returning students will be allowed to request a roommate of the opposite or unidentified gender come Fall. As a whole, the goal of the open housing proposal is to create an unbiased, accepting atmosphere on campus. It grants students the freedom to live however and with whomever they choose without being judged. If a student feels as though they need to room with someone of the same gender, they will be granted the right to do so through open housing.


For some students, being forced to live in a traditional housing arrangement – men rooming with men and women rooming with women – is terribly uncomfortable. Right now, however, it is their only option aside from rooming in a single (which are few and far apart). Open housing is all about granting rights to a marginalized demographic of students and creating overall equality – very similar to what Mill discusses in his essay “The Subjection of Women.” So would Mill be in favor of it?


Mill is an advocate for equality between the sexes, and writes about how the suppression of women’s rights is unjust. Women are no less competent then men, so why are they subject to subordination? Why are they constantly in the shadow of men? This concept can be applied to the issue of open housing as well. Mill writes:


“The main foundations of the moral life of modern times must be justice and prudence; the respect of each for the rights of every other, and the ability of each to take care of himself.”


Just as women were granted rights because they are equal, so should members of the LBGT community. Mill says that one of the “main foundations of the moral life of modern times” is “the respect of each for the rights of every other.” Nailed it on the head, Mr. Mill.


  1. November 29, 2010 2:31 AM

    I liked this post because as an RA it definitely would affect how my job and the issues I would need to deal with in my hall. While, I do agree that everyone should have the right to make their own decisions, I can see this action turning horribly wrong. For instance, if men and women were allowed to live in the same rooms, I think the number of sexual violations would increase dramatically and the amount of everyday drama would sky rocket. Right now, co-ed halls experience a high level of drama due to the fact that freshmen come back drunk, live next door to one another, make drunk decisions and wake up upset about the conseuqences. In my opinion, this is already a problem and creating gender-neutral housing would only increase this problem. I do believe we should all have the rights to make our own decisions, make mistakes and live with the consequences, but I just don’t think this is a good idea.

  2. Lorna Malja permalink
    November 29, 2010 10:38 AM

    This post is very interesting and i really enjoyed reading it. I think it would be a good idea to let people live the way they want to. We are all in college and are all mature enough to make our own decisions, and if that means living with the opposite sex, well then i think that this is acceptable. Even if drama occurs, it would still occur if we live with the same sex also. There will always be conflict and differing opinions, but it is the way we handle it is very important. Mill is right, we are all equal and should be allowed to do what we please. It is important for us to all make our own decisions and learn from them. This was a very great post! Definitelly makes you think!

  3. Taylor Fields permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:00 PM

    Your connection between Mill and our campus is true, and your post is interesting (I had no idea this was going on). Your point that living with the same gender can be terribly uncomfortable is a great summary, be it those who are homosexual, don’t get along with those of their same sex, or those who are more comfortable with the opposite sex, the open housing plan is a wonderful opportunity for those who want to live with the other gender to live with the other gender. While, there are inevitably potential problems with the plan, the idea, and if properly executed, is a wonderful example of Mill’s ideology in action.

  4. Valerie Juan permalink
    November 29, 2010 2:58 PM

    I have to agree with jzunamon. While the idea of gender neutral housing is that it can create a more open and safe environment for LGBT students, it is also important to keep in mind that it has a far greater effect than that. The open housing agreement does not merely apply itself to those who identify with LGBT identities– if accepted, it would also be a viable option for all students on campus. While I wish I could say that students wouldn’t abuse this privilege, I honestly believe they absolutely would. Young couples– naive and “in love”– would try to room together, and perhaps reap the consequences of such a rash and poorly made decision if/when faced with a messy breakup and stuck with an ex-beau as their roommate. Of course, they could appeal to housing for a roommate change, but that would just create even more problems. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so wrong for housing to decline the Gender-Neutral/Open Housing option, maybe for the greater good.

  5. dbwein permalink
    November 29, 2010 3:29 PM

    I completely agree with Mill that a “main foundations of the moral life
    of modern times… [is] the respect of each for the rights of every
    other.” We cannot claim that we promote diversity or equality if we
    remain with housing that makes a part of our school community uncomfortable
    and feel unequal. Through enabling the LGBTQ community to feel more
    comfortable in housing we are helping to establish a base for the “moral
    life of modern times.” We are setting a standard for tolerance and acceptance.

  6. cgould4 permalink
    November 30, 2010 6:34 PM

    This post is really interesting because it does a great job of connecting Mill to a true relevant situation (that is creative because it strays from female rights). According to Mill, open housing would be necessary for everyone to feel respected and have the same rights as other citizens.

    I agree with one of the comments regarding the amount of sexual attacks. I think sexual attacks would greatly increase because there may be men or women who have the wrong intentions in selecting open housing. Although I think Mill would be all for open housing, I don’t think, on a practical level, it would be a great decision. Is freedom of choice more or less important than safety?

  7. justinrostker permalink
    November 30, 2010 9:51 PM

    I also found this to be a very interesting post as I also wasn’t aware this was going on. However, I do not feel that this is a matter of equality. While one can assume this would be very popular among students, especially LGBT students, this is impractical. This would cause many problems, and is not a matter of equality. If opposite genders want to live together they have the option to do so after their first year when they aren’t forced to live in the dorms. While it may be uncomfortable for some people to live with the same sex they are given the option of getting a single. No one group of people is given the option to live with either gender. It is the same for everyone across the board. This isn’t a matter of equality or subjection.

  8. Eric Tellem permalink
    December 3, 2010 7:13 PM

    I think the proposal to allow students to request a roommate of the opposite gender is a great idea. The key part in this whole article is that it is optional for the student. If a male student would like to live with a female and vice versa, there should be nothing stopping them. There is no reason why a female and male should not live with each other if they truly want to. We are in a time where females and males can do anything together and the fact that we do not have the option of living with eachother is ridiculous. If a person thinks its a bad idea, just choose to do the traditional dorm way.

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