Living in a dorm is a rite of passage in college. Yet for many students who do not fit within imposed ‘norms’ of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, dorm life can be plagued by harassment, alienation and even fear for their security.
In the most recent report examining campus climate and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, results clearly demonstrate that harassment is a reality at Carolina.
The report indicates that LGBTQ respondents were 19 times more likely to report having experienced verbal harassment or fearing for their physical safety than heterosexual respondents. Transgender, Intersex or Genderqueer respondents were far more likely to experience verbal harassment or fear for their physical safety than people of other gender identities.
When respondents were asked where harassment occurred, almost 12 percent of cases took place in residence halls, making it the fourth highest location where harassment occurs on campus.
Every UNC student deserves a safe and accommodating place to sleep at night. To ensure that all students have a fair and accessible housing option regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, numerous student and community organizers have called on the University to institute gender non-specific housing on campus. So far, almost 3,000 UNC students have signed petitions in support of establishing such housing.
Offering this option allows individuals of any sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity to room together. It would allow friends, family members and students with disabilities that require a medical attendant to room together, irrespective of gender.
This option would not cost the University any additional funding and it would not be forced on any student who did not want to participate. Gender non-specific housing as a solution is simple and straightforward. But above all, this is an issue of moral urgency — it is the right thing to do, right now.
To push this initiative forward the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition, the UNC Student Power Coalition and the Campus Y are sponsoring a ‘Sleep In’ to raise awareness and bring visibility to the issue. The Sleep In will begin Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 10 p.m. in the Y.
The Sleep In will also precede the Gender Non-Specific Housing Coalition’s presentation to the UNC Board of Trustees on Wednesday at 3:15 p.m. at the Carolina Inn.
If UNC institutes gender non-specific housing on campus, it will be a historic move — we will be the first University in the UNC system to do so. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “To become the instrument of a great idea is a privilege that history gives only occasionally.”
UNC has an incredible opportunity to lead other universities across the state and the nation. We must seize this critical moment to affirm that UNC is a campus that serves the needs of all students, just as they are.
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