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Trustees approve a resolution for gender-neutral housing

Students march from the Campus Y to the Board of Trustees at the Carolina Inn in support of Gender Non-Specific Housing on Wednesday afternoon. Terri Phoenix and Kevin Claybren presented the idea that this kind of housing will be safer to students and will decrease discrimination in the dorms. (front row: Matt Hickson, Sr, Business, Kate Davis, Jr, History, Lauren Schofield, Jr, History)
Students march from the Campus Y to the Board of Trustees at the Carolina Inn in support of Gender Non-Specific Housing on Wednesday afternoon. Terri Phoenix and Kevin Claybren presented the idea that this kind of housing will be safer to students and will decrease discrimination in the dorms. (front row: Matt Hickson, Sr, Business, Kate Davis, Jr, History, Lauren Schofield, Jr, History)

Ping Nguyen said he’ll never forget the day he came home to a sign on his door that read, “No homos allowed in this suite.”

“My suitemates had locked me out because of it,” he said.

Nguyen’s story reflects a broader problem of harassment in on-campus housing — a problem that some students said has plagued their academic career for far too long.

But students’ feelings of isolation and discomfort are closer to being over.

The Board of Trustees’ University affairs committee unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday supporting a gender-neutral housing proposal — a small victory on the long road to implementing it.

Gender-neutral housing allows students to live in on-campus housing with students of any gender.

“I’m really proud of Will (Leimenstoll) and the students who made the proposal,” Chancellor Holden Thorp said. “This is an important, positive step that I welcome.”

The committee’s resolution will be presented to all Board of Trustees members today.

If the full board expresses approval, the resolution will be passed to Thorp.

Thorp rejected a proposal gender-neutral housing in February, citing University stakeholders’ lack of education on the issue.

He said Wednesday’s meeting educated a lot of the public, but he said the University still has a long way to go.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp emphasized that the proposal is an arrangement students would opt into, and it would only affect a small number of suites and apartments on campus.

“This conversation gets difficult because people immediately think we’re talking about a free-for-all or we’re talking about having people living willy-nilly together,” Crisp said. “That’s not what we’re talking about.

“We’re talking about the safety and health and well-being of some of our students who live isolated right now.”

Terri Phoenix, director of the University’s LGBTQ center, and Kevin Claybren, student coordinator for the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition, presented Wednesday’s proposal.

Phoenix said students were not expecting the committee to pass a resolution so quickly.

“I was speechless and teary and so moved,” Phoenix said.

“We have spent so many hours on this proposal for the past two and a half years, and we’re honored that they were so supportive.”

If approved by Thorp, UNC would join 99 other universities nationwide — 33 public and 66 private — that offer some form of gender-neutral housing on campus, including eight of UNC’s peer institutions.

And the board’s ready support Wednesday was not limited to gender-neutral housing.

The budget, finance and audit committee approved Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney’s recommendation for another round of tuition increases for the 2013-14 academic year.

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Wednesday’s proposal passed the committee quickly and without contention. It will be presented to the full board today.

Carney’s recommendation would increase tuition for in-state graduate students by 6.5 percent, or $509.

It would also increase tuition for out-of-state undergraduates by 6.1 percent and out-of-state graduates by 6.8 percent. Both increases total $1,630 per student.

A $600 increase for in-state undergraduates has already been approved.

Carney emphasized that UNC’s tuition will remain below that of most of its peer institutions.

“We’ll still be in a pretty comfortable range to make us competitive,” Carney said.

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.