A freshman at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin feels unsafe in her dormitory after officials barred her from having visitors due to her sexual orientation.
Freshman Kaj Baker resides in Scottish Rite Dormitory, an off-campus, all-female facility. Baker would study with her girlfriend, who lives elsewhere, in the dorm’s lounge.
However, Baker was called into a meeting with Mary Mazurek, dorm director. It was then that Baker was told other residents were ‘uncomfortable’ with her relationship.
‘We’re trying to make sure that everybody, all 315 residents, are comfortable, and sometimes it takes compromise on both sides to do that,’ Mazurek said, according to Baker’s record of the meeting.
‘Why are people uncomfortable?’ Baker asked.
‘Because some people are not comfortable with your sexual orientation,’ Mazurek replied.
Baker spoke to Texas News Channel in an exclusive interview about the situation.
EXCLUSIVE: TNC reporter @elizwsmith gives us an inside look at a dormitory’s response to one freshman’s relationship. TNC asked Scottish Rite Dormitory for a comment but they did not respond in time. Tune in after the holiday break for more updates. pic.twitter.com/2Oa5KF2Kip
— Texas News Channel (@TexasNewsTSTV) November 20, 2018
‘That’s when I realized that it wasn’t about the rules; we were being targeted for being gay,’ she told Texas News Channel.
Mazurek allegedly informed Baker that the Scottish Rite Dormitory, unlike on-campus dorms at the university, is private and conservative. Residents pay $10,000 [£7,835.75; €8,835.85] to live there.
‘I guess it hurts that they’re saying that other people don’t feel comfortable in the dorm because of us, but honestly it’s the reverse,’ Baker said.
The Daily Texan reports the dorm’s residents complained about Baker and her girlfriend studying together, wearing pajamas in the hallway, and brushing their teeth in the bathroom. According to the resident contract, none of these activities are against the rules.
The dorm currently restricts male visitors to certain times of the day. Men are only allowed in the lobby and common area weekdays from 7pm to midnight. Only on weekends are they allowed in the upstairs residence halls. The dorm does not have similar restrictions on female guests.
‘Scottish Rite Dormitory strives to create an environment which allows our residents to focus on completing their higher education goals while meeting our parent’s expectation of creating an atmosphere that fosters the growth and well-being of their daughters while attending the University,’ Mazurek said in a statement.
‘I think it’s unfair because they told me that (their decision) wasn’t based on a rule at all,’ Baker told The Daily Texan. ‘They backed up their decision with us being gay. That should have never ever been mentioned if it was just about rules.’
‘Every time I’ve gone there, we’ve gotten looks,’ Baker’s girlfriend, Carlee, said. ‘At the beginning, people didn’t really know who I was, but then that all kind of subsided, and people have been really nice to us. So it was just surprising that they were trying to say that now I wasn’t allowed to be there.’
Baker is currently staying at Carlee’s apartment in West Campus. The couple has set up a GoFundMe page to assist Baker in finding safe housing and potentially pursuing legal action.
Mazurek has not contacted Baker since their initial meeting. Baker says that if the dorm changed its rules on female visitors, she would oblige. But at this time, she was not in violation of the dorm’s rules.
‘It makes it sound like I don’t belong there in the dorm,’ Baker said. ‘They’re saying, “Carlee is gay. She doesn’t belong there, so we’re not going to let her in the dorm.” Well I’m gay too. Do I not belong there?’
The city of Austin, Texas is known for being LGBTI friendly, despite this controversy at UT.