One of the biggest reasons I chose to come to EMU three years ago was the community that I found here. I felt warmly welcomed, even as a prospective student, into a community that cared about fostering meaningful relationships with each other. As a student, I have really appreciated finding other students, both men and women, who are committed to building healthy relationships, as well as faculty and staff who encourage building a supportive community here on campus that dis- cusses important topics such as relationships between men and women.
I have seen this lived out particularly in our intentional community houses. I have talked with numerous students who, in the past, have been part of intentional communities in both Martin and Redmond houses. They always spoke highly of their years there, enjoying the benefits of a small group committed to each other in a deliberate way, and the chance to learn from the unique challenges and opportunities of that arrangement. I myself have looked forward to potentially living in such an arrangement, and was excited when a group of my friends and I applied to live in Redmond house together. We had done our research, and Redmond house was advertized on the EMU website as available for a group of “up to six men and women”. This seemed perfect for our group of three men and three women enthusiastic about learning from the experience of living together.
I should note here that EMU has had a long history of mixed-gender groups living on campus in an intentional community together. Though they are no longer available, EMU has offered Gemeinschaft house and Martin house, among others over the years. Additionally, EMU’s program in Washington, D.C. has always been open for both genders to live together in community. What my group was hoping for was nothing new at EMU.
We were surprised to hear, then, that our application for Redmond house was rejected simply because we were a co-ed group, and that mixed gender housing was not an option for next year. I inquired on behalf of our group about the decision, and did not feel like I got a very clear answer. Over the course of the subsequent weeks, I continued to have conversations with various staff about the situation, and did not see any significant forward movement. The objections I heard voiced ultimately felt disconnected from the immediate situation.
We were not even asking for the house to be awarded to us in particular; we were simply asking to be put on the table for consideration. If we were not awarded the house after a fair evaluation of all the groups applying, we would have accepted the result and moved on. What did not feel right was that we never even had a chance for consideration simply because our group was mixed gender.
Consequently, we are looking for housing options off-campus, the only way we see to remain together as a group. I speak for my group when I say we appreciate the community here on campus. We regret that the current lack of options for mixed gender housing will distance us from this community. We lament that EMU is no longer providing students this opportunity for creating intentional community together.
Brandon is a Junior Biblical Studies and Peacebuilding & Development major who believes community is not limited by factors like gender.