Southern’s Gender Neutral Housing
Max Bickley – General Assignment Reporter
Gender neutrality has been a point of controversy especially in previous years with many calling for equality for all gender identifications. Whether it is for gender neutral bathrooms, or a gender neutral pronoun to self-identify with, this struggle for neutrality has been constant. On campus though, though it may not seem it, there are gender neutral facilities on campus. However, they are not the aforementioned gender neutral bathrooms, but in the form of gender neutral housing on campus.
This housing may be news to some, suc has the case with freshman Elise Ryan who had no idea about this accommodation.
“We have gender neutral housing? Wow, I never knew that but im glad to hear. I always thought schools should offer this, but like I said I never knew about Southern’s,” said Ryan.
Surprisingly, Southern has actually had gender neutral since 2010 when it was first installed. Robert Demezzo, the director of residence life at Southern, was there during its installation.
“There were maybe four students at the time when we began the gender neutral housing,” Demezzo said, “We certainly weren’t the first university in the nation to start this up, but Southern was especially aware of events at other universities where students were either attacked physically or verbally due to their identification.”
Because of the events at other Universities, Southern took the initiative to prevent any such event on Southern’s campus by offering housing for students who, as DeMezzo said, “do not feel comfortable in their housing situation.”
This is echoed in the statement made by Southern Residence life in their online statement regarding special housing which states: “Southern Connecticut State University offers a gender neutral option to students requesting on-campus housing. Gender neutral housing is available to students identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and who may feel uncomfortable or even unsafe in traditional housing scenarios.”
This was the main idea and concept driving the gender neutral housing program according to DeMezzo.
“What our job is with the gender neutral housing is, is to ensure that students feel safe and comfortable with their housing assignments, roommates, and the like,” DeMezzo said. “We focus on making sure the students feel safe, address their concerns, and move them into one of the dorms with this specialty housing availability; this is namely West Campus, North Campus, and on occasion, Schwartz Hall.”
Now, currently, as stated by DeMezzo there are only 10 or so students at southern currently in the gender neutral housing, but for any student wishing to be placed into the housing there is a system to go through.
“The way a student can get in to gender neutral housing is actually simple enough. They simply need to email either myself or Marvin Wilson and then we ask the student in question to come in to the ResLife office,” DeMezzo said, “then we talk to them and make sure that the specialized housing is necessary, and that everything will be in order for them.”
With so few students in gender neutral housing, the actual housing itself is limited to suites in the available halls, but this is not the finality of the gender neutral housing on campus.
“We expect there to be more students asking for such housing in coming years, and Southern is ready to expand the housing situation for students who would require it or wish it,” DeMezzo said. “We are very open to talking with any student who wishes for this sort of housing, they need only contact us.”
Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai – Photo Editor