The Louisville Cardinal

Rustin concept offsets housing policies and gender reality

By Lara Kinne–

Starting fall 2012, University Tower Apartments will house the University of Louisville’s first LGBT-themed residence hall, The Rustin.

It is intended to be a judgment-free space inhabited by like-minded students interested in social justice and LGBT issues. It will provide an environment for students to be open about sexual orientation, gender identity and self-expression. Bound to be a close-knit community, residents can benefit from choosing Rustin as their home away from home.

The concept is no different than the ways of Greek living. Both target specific social groups and prescribe themselves with vague goals of improving the community. Rustin is more inclusive, but their attention is mostly fixed on social justice in spirit of the gay civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin.

The Rustin will adhere to all housing policies, but regulations meant to segregate the sexes are moot. According to the Illegal Occupancy policy, sleepovers are illegal when “a resident shares a room/suite/apartment with someone of the opposite sex whom he/she is not married to.” A resident can get snatched for violating same policy if a single guest stays more than three nights in one month. However, some folks in Rustin could easily abide by the same-sex exception for sleepovers.

The problem is that Rustin could get too sexy. Two female roommates share the same sexual urge while in close-quarteres. One is notoriously promiscuous while the other has been engaged in a long-term relationship with a jealous girlfriend. Too much sexual tension leads to unnecessary drama and stress, detracting from academic performance, but these women were leased by choice. Poor planning and late housing registration placed them in this nasty junction.

An absolutist would say to simply room every lesbian resident with a gay man. The temptation is gone, but is neutralizing sexual urges the sole reason for the gender divide? This new solution violates housing policies, yet there is less discomfort for both parties if one is replaced by a male. Transgenders get their own room. Surely, it can also be argued that Rustin encourages social segregation.

A solution cannot be proposed without sounding absurd, because there is no real problem. The concept of Rustin exemplifies social objectivity that veers away from traditional sex standards. Most importantly, it’s for students who wouldn’t feel accepted elsewhere. Exclusivity shouldn’t always be sought out in Greek life; it’s about uniting students with similar interests and aspirations for the community, after all.

Research reveals themed housing has improved academic performance and retention, though Center Hall is the only other themed venue on campus, designated for Leadership. As a resident there myself, I never sensed much of a theme.

Sites like Rustin have potential to redefine social norms within the university, but they can’t do it alone. More diverse housing will bring enrichment back to campus life, an essence that eventually seeps into the culture of Louisville.
Photo: Michelle Eigenheer/The Louisville Cardinal