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Gender-neutral housing support campaign kicks off

The fight for gender-neutral housing has been revived in a 10-week campaign to rejuvenate student support.

The campaign, which kicked off last Wednesday, aims to get at least 1,000 students to write postcards or create videos that will be sent to the Board of Trustees.

“The purpose of this 10-week program is to get freshmen and other people that weren’t involved with it last year to understand how important this is to our university,” said junior Kevin Claybren, who first proposed the initiative.

The provost’s committee on LGBTQ life will meet today, and gender-neutral housing is on the agenda, said Christopher Putney, chairman of the committee.

In February, Chancellor Holden Thorp rejected the initial proposal, which gained support from hundreds of students and a variety of campus groups, including Young Democrats and the Black Student Movement.

The proposal would have allowed students of the opposite gender to live together in campus residence halls.

Advocates argue a gender-neutral option would help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students feel safer in their residence halls.

Even though it wasn’t passed last semester, many advocates are dedicated to continue pushing forward.

There is also a petition for gender-neutral housing on Change.org, and students can vote for the gender-neutral campaign on the Carolina Creates website.

Claybren said organizers hope to gain enough support that Thorp won’t reject it again, and the Board of Trustees will realize that this is something that students want.

Claybren said he hopes Thorp’s plans to step down won’t cause him to pass the decision to the new chancellor.

“We got lots of voices involved last year from different areas, and we realized that this issue impacts everyone no matter what orientation they are,” Claybren said.

“Just because he said no, it is not over yet,” he said.

Sophomore Christopher Phompraseut, who is helping with the campaign, said misconceptions played a large role in the initiative’s rejection.

In Thorp’s memo last year, he cited the lack of communication with off-campus stakeholders as a main factor in his decision to reject the initiative.

“(Gender-neutral housing) struggles with awareness and a misconception with the awareness with what (gender-neutral housing) actually does,” Phompraseut said.

Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center, also wants the campaign to grow.

“We’re trying to create a statewide coalition of students with other UNC-system schools,” Phoenix said.

UNC-Greensboro currently has a housing program that allows students of the opposite sex to share a bathroom. Phoenix said the program has been successful.

Phoenix said organizers are currently working to help schools including UNC-Charlotte, Appalachian State University and UNC-Wilmington to get started with their own campaigns.

Sophomore Taylor Jackson supports the campaign.

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“I support this cause because approving of gender-neutral housing will bring us one step closer to making a school that is truly inclusive and accepting toward every person.”

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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