Washington University slammed for Black-only housing floor: 'We just went backwards'

Western Washington University becomes latest to adopt a Black Affinity Housing program, leaving the Internet furious at the return to segregation


                            Washington University slammed for Black-only housing floor: 'We just went backwards'
A screenshot of Western Washington University's dedicated page for its Black Affinity Housing program (Western Washington University)

In a rather controversial move, Western Washington University has become the latest school to adopt what is being dubbed as segregated housing. Under the 'Black Affinity Housing' program, 40 students of color will be allowed to opt for separate housing on campus in Bellingham, Washington. Predictably, the internet isn't too happy and has slammed the university for its decision since it was reported on by Fox News on September 27.

Many educational institutions have adopted segregationist policies in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement, such as Columbia which added graduation ceremonies based on race and sexuality. In August 2021, a federal complaint was filed against a Black Atlanta principal for segregating students at Mary Lin Elementary School. In 2020, the University of Chicago's English department came under fire for admitting students interested only in Black studies.

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Many universities who have adopted such policies have defended them vigorously, arguing they positively enhance a student's experience. That's the same claim Western Washington attempts to make. In a website dedicated to the Black Affinity Housing program, the university says it will "help foster a warm and vibrant community supporting social, personal and academic success."

Western Washington's Affinity Housing program

The university isn't the first to adopt affinity housing, similar programs have been enacted at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Stanford University, and Cornell University. Under the program, Black students are given a separate wing or residential facility, along with other events and facilities to enhance the student experience. Affinity housing isn't limited to race, it can also be enacted for religion and sexual identity. 

Under Western Washington's program, 40 students will be housed separately on the fourth floor of Alma Clark Glass Hall. The hall is named after the first Black student to attend Western Washington University in 1906. "Regular programmatic events and interactions allow students to deepen knowledge and understanding of themselves, peers, and the world," says the dedicated website at Western Washington. 

The university held a webinar in April to talk about the program, and announce it would adopt it in the fall semester. As part of the program, "staff will organize opportunities for residents to attend Black-centered events and general university programs as a group." The university has also defended the program, noting that it would create "a safe environment for open, honest, and sometimes challenging dialogue." Whether or not it enhances a student's experience is to be seen, but many on social media argue it is a negative decision, harking back to the pre-Civil Rights movement era. 

'KKK campaign made some progress'

After Fox News broke the story, social media was quick to condemn the university. "Is Lyndon B. Johnson president again?" one user asked. Another commented, "Well we just went backwards about a 100 years huh." One person replied, "Nothing like bringing a “marginalized” group of students, into their fellow student’s world by segregating them."



 



 



 

 

"Looks like that KKK campaign finally made some progress," one user joked. Another tweeted, "Becoming more and more apparent every day that "diversity and inclusion" is doublespeak for "segregation and exclusion"." Another user commented, "Regression marches on."



 



 



 

 

"Lib universities want to claim the anti-racism high horse, but it doesn't mean they want to live together. Segregation with a pretty bow on it is still segregation," said one Twitter user. Another noted, "I believe white people tried this once upon a time..it was called racist at the time..think it still is no matter the color."



 



 

 

Affinity housing is in a legal grey area, which is why so many universities are able to offer it without being sued. Such programs are optional, and open to all students of the university, and therefore do not violate the Fair Housing Act. While many dub it a form of segregation, the key difference is affinity programs are optional and have in the past been known to create positive experiences for students on campus. 

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