More Campuses Embrace Gender-neutral Housing for Spring 2011

Large Universities Ohio, Emory, SUNY, Columbia, and GW Lead New Wave

Since the widespread attention following Rutgers first-year student Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide, many campuses are embracing gender-neutral housing as a way to create a safer environment for all students, especially those who identify as LGBT. “We’re seeing college administrators kind of becoming more open the idea (gender-neutral housing),” Associate Director and Rutgers Law Student Jeffrey Chang told The Arizona Republic. “There are students out there like Tyler [Clementi] who don’t feel comfortable in their own campus home. How long are we willing to turn our backs on this need,” Jeffrey told Columbus Dispatch’s education reporter.

“Each school has its own take on how and why to change [its housing] policy,” A lot see it as a social justice campaign—something that affects all students,” Executive Director David Norton told Cincinnati Magazine.

Come this Spring, many more students will have access to gender-neutral housing in time for room selection season. Columbia students in New York celebrated their victory in November after a year and a half of campaigning. The National Student Genderblind Campaign helped students to develop their proposal and served as a resource throughout their efforts. Columbia and Barnard students will have the opportunity to live in co-ed rooms and suites at select residence halls.

Shortly before Winter Break, George Washington University approved gender-neutral housing for all students, including first years. For GW student advocate Michael Komo ’11, who spearheaded his campus campaign, the decision to fight for gender-neutral housing is personal. “My freshman year, I had a transgender friend who had an extremely unpleasant and unsafe roommate situation. His roommates harassed him, and he was forced to transfer to a single.  It was at that moment that I realized we had to establish gender-neutral housing,” Michael says. “The Genderblind Campaign was helpful while we were doing our research.”

“This is about creating as inclusive an environment as we can. We can say to students, ‘You have an option.’ I am proud of us and the fact that as an institution we are willing to take a risk.” – Dr. Kent Smith, Vice President for Student Affairs at Ohio University quoted in Plains Dealer

Colleges and universities like Emory University, Ohio University, Beloit College, SUNY Stony Brook, and Ramapo College also join the ranks of schools implementing gender-neutral housing. Other schools like University of Michigan continue to push to expand their gender-neutral housing policy to greater number of students just as other schools such as Grand Valley State University and the University of Washington work to bring it to their campuses. The University of Arizona is also considering a pilot program. “We want to make sure that everyone feels safe and everyone feels welcomed,” Jim Van Arsdel, UA’s Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and University Housing told The Arizona Republic.

NSGC’s work mentioned in November CNN article: “Gender-identity debated at Same-Sex Colleges”

The National Student Genderblind continues to work with college students and administrators to bring gender-neutral housing to their campus. We also advocate for anti-discrimination policies that include gender-identity and expression, safe restrooms, and other LGBT affirmative policies. Misael DeJesus, a resident advisor at Grand Valley State University told Grand Rapids News, “There are people in the LGBT community who feel they had to move off campus because of problems, and they shouldn’t have to do that. There are studies out there showing that people who live on campus do better academically.”

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