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Saturday April 1st

UNC may join 100 colleges nationwide that offer gender-neutral housing

UNC-CH students spent the night in the Campus Y Tuesday in support of gender-neutral housing — a policy that almost 100 colleges nationwide have already implemented.

And the University’s gender-neutral housing coalition and other students will assemble at the Board of Trustees meeting today to urge board members to support the policy.

Attend the board meeting

Time: The coalition is meeting at 2:45 p.m. at the Campus Y. The Board of Trustees meeting starts at 3:15 p.m.
Location: The Carolina Inn

Gender-neutral housing would allow students of the opposite gender to live together in campus residence halls, a move that advocates say would aid the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.

The coalition, Student Power and the Campus Y hosted Tuesday night’s sleep-in.

Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center, and Kevin Claybren, student coordinator of the coalition, will join student supporters in presenting the board with a gender-neutral housing proposal — which was rejected by Chancellor Holden Thorp in February.

The UNC-system Association of Student Governments is one of 53 student organizations that has expressed support for the coalition, Claybren said.

“We are showing them all of our hard work and support in hopes that they will implement the proposal,” he said. “Many students don’t have the same opportunity to be academically successful because they don’t have safe housing opportunities.”

At Saturday’s ASG meeting, delegates passed a resolution in support of UNC-CH’s push for gender-neutral housing.

Delegates from different campuses spoke in favor of the resolution, said Jocelyn Burney, a UNC-CH delegate who wrote the resolution.

UNC-CH would be the first system school to offer a gender-neutral housing option.

Burney said ASG’s support of UNC-CH’s initiative will spur change across the system.

“It will help remind students that this is still an important issue they should be concerned about and fighting for,” she said.

Some form of gender-neutral housing is offered at 32 public universities and 66 private universities nationwide, according to the proposal.

The University of Pennsylvania started offering gender-neutral housing in 2005, said Ron Ozio, the university’s spokesman.

“There really wasn’t any controversy at all,” Ozio said. “For a university, it was approved in really short order.”

Penn extended the option to freshmen this fall, he said.

At first, Penn students interested in gender-neutral housing needed to request a specific roommate. Now, they can have a random roommate in a gender-neutral arrangement.

This fall, 281 Penn students were willing to room with a student of the opposite gender.

And Duke University might allow some of its residence halls to vote on gender-neutral options.

Duke began offering gender-neutral housing in certain on-campus apartments last year and is working to expand options for 2013-14, said Rick Johnson, assistant vice president of student affairs for housing, dining and residence life at Duke, in an email.

Patrick Oathout, Duke student government’s executive vice president, said some residence halls would need renovations to accommodate gender-neutral housing.

Staff Writer Elizabeth Kemp contributed reporting.

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