Many colleges and universities across the country have implemented a gender-neutral housing program or trial period.
Last November, Kevin Claybren celebrated a victory he’d been fighting for since his freshman year.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill board of trustees approved a pilot program for gender non-specific housing, allowing students to live together in dorm suites and apartments regardless of gender.
However, The UNC board of governors reversed the decision in August, less than a month before Claybren was scheduled to move in.
“The students affected had to stay on campus in housing that didn’t make them feel safe. When someone doesn’t feel safe, it impacts their educational experience and academic success,” says the 21-year-old senior and student coordinator for the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition.
“These campuses are claiming diversity, but that’s not what’s happening.”
Many colleges and universities across the country have implemented a gender-neutral housing program or trial period — including Brown University, the University of Michigan Ann-Arbor and Stanford University.
This option allows LGBTQ students and those who would prefer to live with people of other genders to feel comfortable on campus, says Claybren.
A report from UNC-Chapel Hill found that residence halls were the fourth-highest on-campus harassment site for LGBTQ students.
The first semester of open housing at St. Mary’s College of Maryland — a liberal arts college of about 1,800 students — is coming to a close.
All students – including freshmen and transfers – were allowed to opt-in to the policy and choose rooms in the college’s apartments, suites and townhouses. Administrators also devoted one wing of a traditional residence hall to the program to accommodate students who cannot afford nontraditional housing, says Joanne Goldwater, associate dean of students and director of residence life.
Implementation of the policy has gone smoothly, with no backlash from students, faculty or parents, she says.
Assistant director of student activities Clint Neill says students are recognizing that different people need different living situations on the mainly residential campus.
“Students are not identifying with the gender binary,” Neill says. “We’re starting to see more and more students who come to campus and challenge these norms.”
Alex Conrad, a 19-year-old freshman, says as a gay male, the inclusive housing option factored heavily into his college decision.
“I knew I’d be welcome on campus and accepted for who I am, so I chose to attend this school,” he says. “Our school has a motto, which is ‘Keep St. Mary’s weird.’ Everyone at this school is so unique and so ready to accept people for who they are and who they identify as.”
Jacob Tobia felt welcome at Duke University (“As a genderqueer dude on campus, I wear high heels all of the time, and people love it”), but having to spend a year in an all-male hall wasn’t ideal.
Through Tobia’s work in Duke Students for Gender Neutrality, inclusive housing was introduced last year and expanded this semester.
“It’s like coed housing was in the ‘60s and ‘70s. What started as a radical idea becomes a part of daily life,” the 22-year-old senior says. “One day, we’ll look back and think, ‘Why was gender-neutral housing such a big deal in the first place? Of course we should have it.’”
At the University of Michigan, inclusive housing has been part of the conversation since 2005, when the administration began working individually with transgender students to provide supportive accommodations.
The school now offers a variety of open housing options, including the Gender Inclusive Housing Experience, a community that started this semester in one of the university’s halls.
“It is important because students tell us it is important,” says Josh Peipock, Associate Director of Residence Education. “Students want us to provide even more options, which I think is a great sign.”
But Ulysses Smith, president of Cornell University’s Student Assembly, knows there’s room for improvement.
A gender-inclusive housing pilot program returned to the university after a hiatus due to the small number of participants and administrative claims of more roommate disputes than in traditional housing, the 23-year-old fifth-year student says.
However, there a long way to go toward building a community devoted to diversity and inclusion, he says.
“There’s two places you should have the most peace on earth — that’s the home and the grave,” Smith says. “If you don’t have peace at home, there’s a problem.”
Powered by Facebook Comments