Black Students-Only Housing Set Up at Washington University

A university in the state of Washington has introduced a new program of "Black Affinity Housing" that aims to create "a caring and connected community among residents" and support "wellness centering the Black experience."

Western Washington University will provide space for 40 students to live in the housing program, which is located on the fourth floor of the college's Alma Clark Glass Hall. That building is named for the first Black student who attended the university.

Other colleges have introduced similar Black Affinity Housing programs and there has been criticism of the programs, with some comparing it to the racial segregation of the past.

Western Washington University's website said the housing 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," the page said

"Black Affinity Housing residents, representing all diverse identities, pride themselves on fostering a sense of belonging for all residents by creating a safe environment for open, honest, and sometimes challenging dialogue," the college went on.

"Regular programmatic events and interactions allow students to deepen knowledge and understanding of themselves, peers, and the world.

"Residents in Black Affinity based housing are encouraged to participate in periodic community programming and dialogues intended to build community, promote learning, and support wellness centering the Black experience," the description went on.

"Staff will organize opportunities for residents to attend Black-centered events and general university programs as a group," the college's website said.

Western Washington University said it consulted with "multiple universities" on the process of setting up the housing program.

The university hosted a webinar in April this year on the subject and explained that Black student organizations and Black applicants had asked for a housing program like this one. University Residences also meets "regularly" with a Black Affinity advisory group that includes students from the Black Student Organization, among others.

Western Washington University noted that it was not "breaking ground on something new" by introducing this type of housing program. Several other universities across the U.S. have also implemented similar measures.

American University (AU) in Washington, D.C. announced earlier this year that it would create Black Affinity Housing in a letter following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd.

"Here at AU, we cannot flip a switch and undo the previous racist incidents that have ripped communities apart. But what we can do is take action here at home to build the knowledge and leaders to make a difference in a more inclusive world," AU President Sylvia Burwell said.

Newsweek has asked Western Washington University for comment.

Black Lives Matter Protesters Pictured in California
Activists and supporters of Black Lives Matter, gather in front of Los Angeles Police Department headquarters on the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's death on May 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. A university in Washington State has introduced a Black Affinity Housing program with space for 40 students. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images