By: Emma Zyriek, VICE PRESIDENT OF EROS
With spring break quickly approaching, Furman has erupted in a frenzy of midterm cramming and paper writing sessions, but students are not the only ones keeping busy. For Furman Admissions and Housing, spring signifies the beginning of the college-decision process, a time in which the Class of 2019 will choose to be Paladins and officially become an integrated part of the Furman community.
For most incoming students, committing to Furman University is not only a big decision, but also an exciting one. From pondering fall semester classes to corresponding with other accepted students on the class Facebook page, the few months before orientation can be full of anticipation and promise. For some students, however, this excitement is muddled with the fear of potentially not being welcome in their own dorms—the very place that they will call home for the next year.
Like many LGBTQ+ incoming freshmen, one of my biggest concerns coming into Furman was whether or not my potential roommate would be tolerant of my sexual orientation. For me, this question was the source of great anxiety before arriving on Furman’s campus and when I discovered that there was nothing on the freshman housing form that kept me from being assigned to an unaccepting roommate, my fears only worsened. While I soon discovered that I was lucky enough to be paired with a roommate who was completely understanding of my identity, some of my good friends were not so lucky. By being forced to live in unwelcome environments, these friends were unable to fully be themselves, and suffered emotionally and academically. As someone who loves Furman, hearing and witnessing such discrimination saddened me; how could such a beautiful and incredible place also be ground zero for such intolerance?
While I truly believe that the majority of Furman students are supportive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, those who are intolerant of such individuals—especially in housing situations—still have a profoundly negative impact on the well being of LGBTQ+ Furmanites. As a result, it is imperative for the accepting majority to take action in order to ensure that all Furman students, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, are welcome.
From the perspective of student housing, there is one simple action that could make a tremendous difference in the welfare of incoming queer and questioning students: updating the freshman housing form. This update would come in the form of a single question that all students, straight and LGBTQ+ alike, would confidentially answer: that is, “would you feel comfortable living with an LGBTQ+ roommate?” This question— which would function in the same way as existing questions dealing with smoking/non-smoking or international students— would guarantee LGBTQ+ students a safe living space, while ensuring that those uncomfortable with the LGBTQ+ community would not have to deal with such situations.
This small addition—a mere check in a box—could have tremendous implications in the lives of countless LGBTQ+ individuals on Furman’s campus, present and future. Along with many Furman students, I call upon Furman Housing to seriously and genuinely consider adding this question to the 2015 freshman housing form. I believe that Student Housing is an institution that seeks to make Furman as inclusive as possible, and, as a result, I hope that they will see the immense benefit and necessity of such a question. Additionally, I encourage Furman students, faculty, and alumni to express support for such a change in housing selection in order to demonstrate that Furman cares about all students, queer and straight alike. By making these changes a reality, the Furman community can provide a truly safe space for its students.