On-campus housing reinforces segregation throughout student body

Segregation has been rampant throughout American history. As much as we have worked to change it, there still remains a divide among races, sexes and social groups.

If you think that Guilford College is immune to it all, think again. Segregation is present right here on campus, specifically where housing is concerned.

The first factor in this split is the cost of housing.

The apartments are significantly more expensive than any other lodging option on campus, starting at $4,325 per semester while other residences start at $1,630.

Every year, there are students who want to live in the apartments but are unable to afford them.

“Bryan Hall seems to be the only option for people with less money to live in,” said sophomore Veronica Zambrano-Coffie.

For many students, affording standard dorms is burden enough, let alone something pricier.

“As far as I know, there is no financial assistance, aside from housing them in traditional housing,” said Residence Life and Coordinator of Housing Operations Maria Hayden.

This lack of aid for struggling students is a direct cause of socioeconomic segregation on campus.

The North and South apartments are home not only to those of higher income but also primarily white students. Bryan Hall, on the other hand, is notorious for its large percentage of students of color.

First-Year Experience and Student Success Mentor and Assistant Faris El-Ali ’14 believes this has little to do with housing placement.

“It’s not segregation; it’s a retention issue,” said El-Ali. “They don’t even have an opportunity to live in nicer housing.”

Many of the students of color at Guilford, specifically black males, are recruited to the school to play sports. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for these athletes to leave Guilford before they graduate or get the opportunity to move out of first-year dorms.

El-Ali thinks that we must support student athletes of color, academically and socially, so that they will be encouraged to remain at Guilford.

Zambrano-Coffie suggests Residence Life should diversify the roommate -matching selection.

“It might bring the different cultures together and break the social division that is very present on campus,” said Zambrano-Coffie.

For upperclassmen, who have control over where they live and with whom, segregation is even more prevalent.

The Pines, an environmental theme house, is unique in that it chooses its own members, all of whom are currently white. It has historically been considered a “white space” and has received a lot of flak because of it.

Junior Noah McDonald confirms this belief, but does not have a definitive stance on whether it is inherently negative.

“Some of us do not want to live with white people,” said McDonald. “As people of color, we want our own space.”

Before coming to Guilford, McDonald had read about an Africana theme house on campus. He was disappointed to find that no such house currently exists.

He would love to see the development of culturally specific theme houses, as well as one focused on interracial dialogue.

“We live in a multiracial society; therefore there has to be discourse,” said McDonald.

Regarding segregation of the sexes, only one residence hall has been accused of a divide. Current residents of Milner Hall state that the building is distinctly separated between males and females.

While the first floor is officially divided by gender, the division on other floors could be attributed to the placement of the bathrooms, which lie on either side of the building and are each gender-specific.

El-Ali is a proponent of the installation of gender-neutral restrooms all over campus, including in residence halls. Not only would this lessen the gender divide, but also promote inclusion for LGBTQ individuals.

“It would mean that Guilford walks the walk,” said El-Ali. “We talk about these things, but do we make them happen?”

We must take a look at current societal standards regarding race, gender and class in order to reverse polarization of the school. Then we must begin to defy these criteria, as individuals and an institution.

When it comes to decreasing segregation at Guilford, conversation is the first step, but action is essential.