Western Washington University (WWU) has created separate on-campus housing for students of color.
Starting this fall, 40 Black students can opt for discrete housing on the university’s Bellingham campus. WWU has reserved the fourth floor of Alma Clark Glass Hall — named after the university’s first Black student — as housing for its “Black Affinity Housing program.”
According to the school website, “The program will explore and celebrate the diversity of Black and African American people and culture, with historical and contemporary context. All Western students residing in the program help foster a warm and vibrant community supporting social, personal and academic success.”
Earlier this year, the university hosted a webinar to explain that Black applicants had called for a housing program that offered them “a shared space… with others who have a shared identity, specifically a marginalized identity.”
Students enrolled in the program will “attend Black-centered events and general university programs as a group.”
Not ‘Breaking Ground’
Social media was quick to condemn the controversial move. “Really such a shame. So many fought so long for desegregation. Many gave their lives during that era. We’re going backwards and everybody seems to be okay with it,” one Charlie Hustle tweeted.
WWU has, however, defended its new housing policy, saying that it is not “breaking ground on something new” with the program. The school said it had “consulted multiple universities…to learn more about their affinity-based housing, challenges, and how to grow and support the program.”
Separate housing for BIPOC students is an emerging trend at American universities — especially in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests. Some, such as New York University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Berkeley have vigorously defended separate housing and dorm policies, arguing they foster a sense of belonging.