Gender Neutral Housing Pilot Program Planned To Take Effect Next Spring

According to the President of the Student Government Associate (SGA), senior Marlena Weiss, the option of gender neutral housing will be a reality at the College.

However, not until the room selection process during the spring semester of 2012 will students be able to choose for the following fall semester.

The campaign for the housing option has been a large part of Weiss’s platform during her time in the SGA.

Specifically, the new plan will allow students to choose to room with another student of the opposite gender.

This is one step further than the current situation, in which students have the option of sharing a suite with mixed genders, but still must room with a person of the same gender.

As of yet, Weiss has heard only positive feedback about the proposal. “I have never talked to anyone who’s against it,” she said, including students who do not currently reside in on-campus housing.

Currently, the only concerns she has heard deal with circumstances for first year students.

Though the choice will be primarily restricted to North Campus, the option would be open for first years, according to Weiss, assuming they take the necessary steps in contacting Residence Life, though that seems unlikely given that most students enter knowing very few other students or have access to North Campus.

Additonally, Weiss said there will be no circumstance under which a student would be forced into a gender neutral housing situation, including study abroad cases.

For example, if a female and male live together in the fall and the female travels abroad in the spring, unless the male student otherwise informs Residence Life, another male student would be assigned as his roommate for the spring semester.

Weiss used winter break to finish putting together the proposal, schedule a meeting with the President’s Council, which she said will be the final step, and talk with all departments to “double-check [that] all our bases are covered.”

With the time until the program’s inception next spring, Residence Life should be able to work out most of the kinks, Weiss said.

However, when the option is actually available, Weiss believes that is when any functional issues with the system will arise and be worked out.

Part of the reason the program won’t start for over a year is because Weiss believes it is important to have time for Residence Life staff and the students to prepare for and make the gender neutral transition.

“I hope that students interested in participating in gender neutral housing will start communicating with [Residence Life] as soon as the school year starts,” she said.

Townhouses Under Attack by Slime

Boone 4, a.k.a. “condemned house” or “mold house”  was recently emptied of people and possessions. (Photo by Ryan Gugerty)
Boone 4, a.k.a. “condemned house” or “mold house” was recently emptied of people and possessions. (Photo by Ryan Gugerty)

This year, the residents of Boone 4 were confronted head-on with the “mold menace.”

The problems started when the parents of a resident of the Geneva Boone House 4 put in a complaint to Residence Life and the Physical Plant about a “moldy” smell in Boone 4 and allergy-like symptoms.

According to Assistant Vice President of Campus Operations Derek Thornton, “[my team and I] went to the house because of a phone call received from a parent. I needed to find out for myself about that specific issue.” Thornton added that once he went to Boone 4 he found evidence of extensive “water infiltration” in the mechanical closet.

Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator Polly Miller was also called in to check the house, and said, “when I saw inside the mechanical closet I knew there was a problem.” Miller also took air and swab samples of the affected area, all of which came back positive for multiple species of mold.

Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater, who was first contacted about the mold and made the decision to evacuate students from the townhouse, said “mold is a constant issue everywhere on campus, in everyone’s homes, not just at St. Mary’s.”

Mold is not a new problem on campus either; it was found in the Prince George dorm earlier in the year, and small amounts of mold were also found in three other townhouses on the Boone block. However, Miller said that those problems were small enough to be handled by housekeeping.

Miller stressed the ubiquity and tenacity of mold growth, and said, “all it takes for mold to grow is moisture…if [a leak] is not stopped and [the area] not cleared in 24 to 48 hours mold can grow.” She further added that mold can grow on “pretty much anything if it has the nutrients it needs” and that long-term exposure to some forms of mold, especially the aspergillus genus of mold species, have been linked to pulmonary disease and cancer.

In order to combat the mold, Thornton and his team has been working extensively to eradicate the problem areas and clean out the townhouse. According to Thornton his team has already, among other things, removed the affected drywall and cleaned out the remainder of the mechanical closet.

At the time of this writing, Miller said that the affected room in Boone 4 was also going to be “under containment” over the weekend, while a third-party abatement team came to clean up the remaining affected areas.

Thornton said that, “my team has taken the initiative to go into all the townhouses. We want to be proactive about checking mechanical closets [for mold].”

He added, “because of what we’ve found we’ve stepped up the process.” Thornton also said that if a student suspects their living area is infested with mold that he or she should let maintenance know immediately. Goldwater said, “don’t wait until it [the problem] gets astronomically gross”.