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UNC Board of Governors bans gender-neutral housing

In a meeting this morning, the UNC Board of Governors unanimously voted to ban gender-neutral housing across the UNC school system.

The policy, which will take effect in the fall 2013 semester, bans UNC system schools from assigning students of the opposite sex to campus housing unless those students are siblings, parent and child or legally married.

UNC-Chapel Hill had planned on instituting a gender-neutral housing pilot program in the fall. The program, which would have included 32 spaces in Carmichael Residence Hall, Craige North and Ram Village, was approved by the UNC Board of Trustees in November.

BOG Chairman Peter Hans said he thinks there are other ways to ensure student safety in on-campus housing than gender-neutral accommodations.

“Our board wants every student to be safe and comfortable and included,” Hans said. “The board believes there are more practical ways to achieve that goal than assigning young men and women to the same campus suite.”

David Powers, BOG member and chair of the University Governance Committee, said the gender-neutral housing issue had previously generated attention in the North Carolina General Assembly, something he said he thought distracted legislators from budget and policy issues.

“The constituent institutions will now have a clear and consistent policy,” Powers said. “It appears that many public institutions have considered similar policies to the one the UNC-CH trustees approved, but decided not to act.”

But supporters of gender-neutral housing say the ban will hurt the LGBT community, especially transgender students — the group the housing plan was largely aimed at protecting.

Gonsalo Agudelo, a recent UNC-Charlotte graduate and a member of LGBT activism group Campus Pride, was in attendance at the BOG meeting to protest the move. He said he thought the BOG planned the timing of the vote so that no one from the LGBT community could be represented.

“This directly shows that there is no support for our (transgender) students,” Agudelo said. “There is no student input.”

Shane Windmeyer, the executive director and founder of Campus Pride, said the ban was passed by consent because the board wanted to avoid discussion. Windmeyer also noted that the issue was taken up at a time when students were not yet on campus.

“My hope was it would’ve been discussed today,” he said. “There was no research or info about the health and safety.”

Kevin Claybren, a UNC senior who led the campaign for gender-neutral housing on campus, said discussion of the issue will not go away.

“We’re only going to go bigger, we’re only going to go harder,” Claybren said. “We’ll take it to the state level at this point.”

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