On Tuesday, April 20, the Student Government Association passed legislation stating that, “The SGA supports the adoption of a gender-neutral housing policy on North Campus Housing (Lewis Quad, Waring Commons, North and South Crescents and the Greens) that students may opt into if they so choose.” The legislation, which was sponsored by Secretary Marlena Weiss and LQ Senator Ken Benjes, only condones the creation of such a housing policy.
There was some debate among the SGA before the legislation was passed. Many of the senators wanted clarification about the different parts of the policy, specifically about what gender-neutral housing would look like. When it was confirmed that the legislation only supported the establishment of gender-neutral housing within the current credit based system, it passed easily, with only two Senators voting no. There was some concern that gender-neutral housing would be available outside of a credit based system, like WISH or SAFE house.
“In no way would this when it’s implemented take spots away from students who would have priority because of their credits,” said Weiss. “Just because you want to live with someone of the opposite gender wouldn’t give you priority to live on North Campus.”
“There seemed to be a lot of discussion at SGA about the potential ‘bad break-up’ situations that could arise from couple who choose to live together,” said Sustainability Fellow Shane Hall, who attended the April 20 meeting. “But as was pointed out in SGA, we need to be real about this.” Gay and lesbian couples have lived together in the past, and roommate or housemate conflicts can arise regardless of the inhabitants’ orientations.
“Residence life already does an admirable job ameliorating or otherwise dealing with roommate/housemate conflicts,” said Hall. “This policy would give greater freedom and acceptance to platonic friends who identify as ‘males’ and ‘females’ who want to live together, and those who do not force themselves into heteronormative distinctions, and yes, heterosexual couples. And you know what? Every one of those scenarios involve “‘love’- and love is always risky.”
As before, Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky said that it is possible a gender-neutral policy could be implemented for the 2011-2012 school year. The SGA’s legislation was the first step in the process: the administration has not yet begun to work on any such policy. For gender-neutral housing to be implemented, the President’s cabinet and Board of Trustees would most likely need to be involved.
Students, in general, have been receptive to the idea for a variety of reasons. Several students remarked on the possibility of friends co-habiting.
“As someone who’s always had girls as best friends, I’m glad that our relationship would no longer be discriminated were we to want to live together,” said first-year Evan Mahone. “This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully we will serve as a models for other schools.”
“I support it,” said sophomore Emily Skeen. “Gender-neutral housing would give friends a chance to bond even further.”
Other students had more to say about the legislation’s potential for changing heteronormative assumptions.
Senior Bethany Wetherill said, “I think it is a necessary step, a step toward accepting students who may not easily identify as simply ‘male’ or ‘female’ and allowing students to live with whomever they feel most comfortable with.”