Discrimination Drives Lesbian UT Austin Student to Seek New Housing
A student at the University of Texas at Austin has recently had to find new housing after her dorm mates complained about her girlfriend visiting.
Kaj Baker said she was called into a meeting by management of the Scottish Rite Dormitory, a private all-girls dorm off campus. She was told that several of her dorm mates raised concerns over her girlfriend visiting. Residents said Baker’s sexuality made them uncomfortable, which resulted in Baker not being allowed visitors.
“As a result of the harassing messages from girls at my dorm and the meeting with SRD staff, I do not feel safe at SRD,” Baker told OUT. “I tried to spend the night once at the dorm, however I have only been back to get my belongings since then. My girlfriend has started a GoFundMe to help me.”
After her girlfriend, Carlee, set up the GoFundMe, Kaj gave a couple of interviews to local press. As a result, she said she’s received harassing messages from her dorm mates, including things like “I hope you feel happy with yourself and that video” and “Why don’t you go to her place instead of bringing her here if you don’t feel welcome?”
SRD, as it is off campus, is outside of the school’s jurisdiction. The university otherwise protects LGBTQ+ students. Baker said she hadn’t received any harassment based on her sexuality until this experience.
“The University of Texas at Austin does not have oversight or jurisdiction on incidents at private, off-campus dorms,” said Shilpa Bakre, communication strategist at UT Austin. “In areas under its jurisdiction, UT Austin is committed to providing an environment for students, faculty, and staff that is free from discrimination...including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”
While Baker is considering taking legal action, SRD is also opening an investigation into this incident. They’re taking a proactive approach to properly handle situations like this in the future.
“Since we opened in 1922 we have housed thousands of women, and we pride ourselves on providing a safe and nurturing environment for each person who lives here,” said Mary Mazurek, director of SRD. “That did not happen in this instance...Pending the outcome of our investigation, we are taking the steps needed to ensure our residents are safe, welcomed and supported — including sensitivity training for all staff and residents assistants, and are in the process of clarifying SRD's visitor policies.”
As Baker searches for a safer housing arrangement, she’s staying with her girlfriend. Supporters can donate to her GoFundMe to help her raise money for a new place and potential legal fees.
“I have absolutely received a lot of support from many people since the incident occurred,” Baker adds. “Many girls at my dorm and even more people outside of SRD have reached out to me, offering their condolences and letting me know that what SRD did is not okay and that people are on my side.”