Update on Southern’s gender inclusive housing
Taylor Nicole Richards – News Writer
Next fall students will see quite a few new updates to housing and the room selection process for those planning to live on campus. Residence Life recently sent out an email broadly covering some of the new changes, like new credit requirements for various halls and dates for room tours. However, one of the biggest changes is Residence Life’s updates and on gender inclusive housing.
The email stated that the option will allow students “in mutual agreement to share a multiple occupancy room or suite/apartment, regardless of the student’s biological sex or gender identity. Students may select this option through the online housing deposit application.” Gender inclusive housing is actually not new to Southern’s campus. It has been available in the North Campus Midrise and West Campus suites for about six years.
“Gender inclusive housing is for our residents who are transgender, intersex, or otherwise do not identify within the gender binary,” said Marvin Wilson, Associate Director of Housing Operations. “Our hope is that this gives residents the opportunity to live in an environment in which they feel comfortable. Gender inclusive housing is not for couples seeking to live together.”
This option has always been available, but now there will be new rooms opening up for it in Chase Hall, an underclassman dorm. There will be about 25 spaces or more between the three residence halls starting next year. Students who wish to join gender inclusive housing who meet the criteria can select the option through their housing application in the “My Housing” portal.
However, to join gender inclusive housing, the student must identify as transgender or non-conforming. Lauren Todd, Graduate Intern in the Sexuality and Gender Equality (S.A.G.E.) Center worked with students in the past who had issues with housing based on their sexual orientation.
“Last semester, a girl who identified as a lesbian was verbally harassed by eight or nine other girls in her underclassman dorm. When she applied for gender inclusive housing, she was initially denied because she identified as a woman and not trans,” said Todd. “She fought until she was finally able to switch, but at the time the housing option was only in the more expensive dorms and she didn’t think it was fair that she had to pay more.”
Brianna Alfaro, junior, said that she applied for gender inclusive housing in the past because she did not feel comfortable living with girls on campus for various personal reasons. She said that the application process was “lengthy” and she ended up not getting accepted.
The process is still the same, but Wilson said that Dr. Tracy Tyree, Vice President of Student Affairs and Robert DeMezzo, Director of Residence Life, are working to expand the option and make it more transparent to students.
“Dr. Tyree pulled a gender fluid group of students together to get a better idea as to what they experience. It’s important that we take a holistic approach,” said Wilson. “Dr. Tyree is doing that by looking into gender neutral restrooms on the academic side of campus and hopefully working with our facilities department to identify locations and signage currently being used.”
Todd said the fact that Southern’s administrators are speaking openly about this housing option is a step in the right direction for the university’s image.
“I’m excited and I think this is attractive to LGBTQ students who are considering coming to Southern,” said Todd. “It would be even better, for all students, if there were less restrictions.”
Photo Credit: Tyler Korponai – Photo Editor