For the past couple of years, the Office of Residence Life has been taking steps to create an Open Housing Initiative on campus.
This would allow people of any gender to be roommates in select housing areas. The initiative is primarily geared towards catering to members of the LGBTQ community who have expressed a desire to room with people who are not of the same gender. According to Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater, “the overarching goal of open housing is to provide more comfortable and varied housing options on campus.”
The Open Housing Initiative technically began in 2010 when Kelly Smolinsky was still the director of residence life. She put together a set of proposal documents that outlined the plan for what was then called Gender Neutral Housing. When Kelly Smolinsky moved out of residence life in the spring of 2011, her replacement, Joanne Goldwater, took up the program proposal with the help of Clint Neill, the Assistant Director of Student Activities. Unfortunately, their plans were derailed in the fall of 2011 when dealing with the mold crisis became the chief priority of the residence life office and all other projects, including the Open Housing Initiative, were sidelined.
With the crisis over, attention has been reallocated to the initiative. At present, an advisory board has been assembled to prepare all the necessary documents and protocols that will be needed in order for a formal proposal to be reviewed and accepted. In order to become a reality, the proposal must be submitted and approved by President Urgo’s office. In the meantime, conferences are being held with certain clubs, such as St. Mary’s Triangle and Rainbow Society (STARS), the housing staff, and the college lawyer. The Student Government Association (SGA) is holding a meeting next Tuesday where it is expected to endorse the initiative.
In addition, the board is putting together plans for practical concerns such as new training measures for RAs and staff, systems for determining who will live in open housing, as well as important physical modifications to certain buildings such as the removal and addition of bathroom signs. Another key component of the proposal is a system for assessing the success or failure of the program as well as the creation of clear lines of communication so that issues can be dealt with when and if they arise.
So far as implementation goes, the plan is to create a section of North Campus, similar to Substance and Alcohol-Free Environment (SAFE) house, which will be available as open housing. There is a consideration that, eventually, North Campus may be totally open housing but only by request. In addition, the smallest dorm hallway, Prince George second left, is likely to serve as the dorm-based open housing. For many residents on campus, the effects of these changes will be negligible. Most dorm rooms and halls will remain single sex. If all continues according to plan, the Open Housing Initiative should be completed and included in housing selection this spring for the fall of 2013.