Mixed-sex housing still viable

Committee may recommend policy in May

by Madeleine Morgenstern

Plans to implement gender-neutral housing are moving forward and a housing policy recommendation could be made to the University as early as May, Student Association President Julie Bindelglass said.

Bindelglass is part of the Gender Neutral Housing Policy Review Committee, which is comprised of students, faculty and administrators, and was formed after the Student Association Senate passed a resolution in support of a gender-neutral housing option on campus late January.

"We are currently looking at every possible option," Bindelglass said. "We want to make sure that every student has a say."

Gender-neutral housing would give students who live on campus the opportunity to live with someone of the opposite gender. Bindelglass said the committee has looked at voluntary plans that would require a student to request a specific opposite-gender student.

One option that Bindelglass said was not under consideration was a plan to institute gender-neutral housing across the board, or for a student to "go in blind" and request to live with anyone of the opposite gender.

The committee met with about 40 interested students Friday who had signed up for appointments after an InfoMail was sent out soliciting student feedback, Bindelglass said.

"We wanted to give everyone a chance to say whether they're in favor or not in favor," she said, adding that a recommendation from the committee could come as early as the Board of Trustees' meeting in May.

At the request of the Associate Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Student and Academic Support Services Peter Konwerski, the Faculty Senate's Executive Committee will be appointing a faculty member to serve on the review committee, according to Faculty Senate meeting minutes.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said a final decision on whether to implement gender-neutral housing could be made as early as May.

Sen. Michael Komo, U-At Large, has championed the issue all year, and said having students come before the committee allows those in favor of it to speak up in support, and those who oppose it to receive information about the plan's limits.

"For some of them, they simply just need to be assured that this program will not affect those students who do not seek to participate in it," Komo said.

Bindelglass said the committee's opinion would be given to "senior leadership," but there has been some debate as to who would make the final call about gender-neutral housing - whether it would be University President Steven Knapp's decision or if senior administrators would weigh in as well.

Bindelglass added the administration has been open to the gender-neutral housing conversation, but as of yet the members "haven't showed their opinion one way or another."

Jess Yager, president of the Residence Hall Association, said the idea has gotten a lot of positive feedback from the student-led Residence Advisory Councils. She also offered that implementing gender-neural housing could affect future training for house staff, although she said there was no way to say how that might occur.

The senate passed the resolution in January after two meetings drew dozens of students who voiced support and opposition to the plan during public comment.

Bindelglass said the committee has met twice since then, and dispelled the notion that waiting two months to meet with students had interrupted the issue's momentum, citing the 40 students who signed up to meet with the committee.

"I do think this is a subject that we can't run at like a bull in a china shop," Bindelglass said. "Whatever is recommended or decided is going to change the University for years to come."

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