Gender-neutral housing approved by Board of Trustees

Nine months after Chancellor Holden Thorp rejected a popular proposal to establish a gender-neutral housing option on campus, it arrived at the Board of Trustees for approval — with his support.

At Thursday’s meeting, there were no discussions, no questions — just one unanimous answer: “Aye.”

Members of the Board of Trustees voted to pass a gender-neutral housing option on campus, which will likely be implemented next year.

Now, administrators and some students are preparing to turn the plans into reality.

The gender-neutral option, which has been amassing broad student support since the spring of 2011, will allow students of the opposite gender to live together in specified residence halls.

Thorp’s February decision — motivated, he said, by a concern that off-campus stakeholders had not been adequately educated — proved only a temporary setback.

A pilot program should be in place by fall of 2013, said Rick Bradley, assistant director of housing.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said much has been done since February to educate stakeholders about the benefits of gender-neutral housing.

“The student coalition has done quite a bit of work outside the campus community with everybody from parents to people at other schools,” he said.

“It was a great deal of work to help people who don’t pay attention to campus every day but would hear about this and want to know what it meant.”

Students interested in the program will be able to fill out an application indicating their interest and if they would prefer a suite-style or apartment-style residence, Bradley said.

They will also have to explain why they would like to participate because there might not be room for everyone, he said.

In a campus-wide petition last year, 716 students said they would like the option of living in gender-neutral housing if it were offered, said Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ center.

But Bradley said the pilot program for the fall will be conducted on a smaller scale.

“Part of the original proposal is that the first year is a pilot program, and there’s a desire to keep it at around 32 students,” he said.

“Then we will really base it on how the pilot goes and base it on the interest and demands of the students.”

Bradley said he expects the program will grow beyond 32 participants.

Crisp said all plans must be finalized by late January, when students begin to apply for on-campus housing for the fall.

“That’s what we have to work toward,” he said. “The devil is always in the details.”

Not the only resolution

Members of the board also approved another round of tuition increases Thursday.

Tuition for in-state graduate students will increase by about 6.5 percent, or $509, while tuition for all out-of-state students will increase by $1,630.

“I think everybody understood the magnitude of the problem, and this was the only available solution,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney.

With this approval, the next step is sending the proposal to the UNC-system Board of Governors, who will vote on it in February.

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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