The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday March 24th

UNC considers gender-neutral housing option

If implemented, the gender-neutral housing option being considered by UNC administration will likely start small.

Some of the University’s peer institutions have implemented similar gender-neutral housing options that began under circumstances similar to those that produced UNC’s proposal.

Those efforts — including those at the University of Michigan and Duke University — are in their early stages and are operating on a small scale.

But size won’t enter the discussion of whether to approve the effort. The details would be set by the Department of Housing and Residential Education after approval.

The Board of Trustees, which will ultimately make a decision on the proposal, has not considered anything like it in recent years, so the stance it will take is unclear, members said.

But Student Body President Mary Cooper, a member of the board, said she is sure the board will consider the proposal.

“The board is always looking for ways to make an inclusive environment,” she said.

At the University of Michigan, gender-neutral housing was introduced in the spring of 2010, said Peter Logan, director of communications for the school’s housing department.

“The student body is very supportive of the concept,” Logan said.

No students are currently using the gender-neutral housing option, but Logan said multiple students have inquired about future arrangements.

Logan said students have requested gender-neutral housing but have not had roommates in mind. The school will not assign roommates in gender-neutral housing, he said.

Residence hall assignments include single or double rooms in a suite with a private or gender-neutral bath, or apartment-style with a private bath.

Logan said the bathroom is the key issue in traditional housing assignments.

“Someone may say I may look like a guy, but I won’t be comfortable going to the bathroom with other guys,” Logan said.

After identifying a roommate on the housing form, students requesting gender-neutral housing would have a meeting with the housing departments.

The need to self-identify and find a roommate might deter some students from gender-neutral housing, Logan said.

“We are still having a conversation about ways to make gender-neutral housing better or more accessible,” he said.

Duke University also implemented gender-neutral housing last year after more than two years of discussion.

Joe Gonzalez, associate dean of Residence Life and Housing Services, said several student groups supported the initiative.

He said 14 to 20 students now live in gender-neutral housing.

“The majority of students agree that it is a community option that should be at least offered,” he said.

“It should exist for those who would benefit from it.”

Several apartment complexes and buildings were identified as being able to offer some gender-neutral rooms.

These buildings contain either apartments with single or double bedrooms and private bathrooms or two-bedroom suites with a private bathroom.

Students at Duke also must declare a roommate on their housing applications, but Gonzalez said he has not heard of issues.

If approved by UNC administration, the campus proposal will move to the Board of Trustees.

Wade Hargrove, chairman of the board, said the board does not yet have an opinion about gender-neutral housing.

Cooper said it is too soon to tell the board’s stance.

“Even though students have heard about it for a while, discussion so far has been internal to the administration,” she said.

Neither Cooper nor Hargrove has dealt with issues related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community while on the board, they said.

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