Student Association to vote on gender-neutral housing

The Student Association will convene Tuesday night to vote on the 2010 Equal Housing Opportunity Act – a nonbinding resolution that would pledge support for a gender-neutral housing option for students living on campus.

If the resolution passes Tuesday night, it would be the catalyst for student leaders to bring the idea of gender-neutral housing to University administrators.

“For years on campus people have been talking about this and people have been asking for it,” said Michael Komo, chairman of the SA’s Student Life Committee and president of Allied in Pride. “Many schools which are ranked above GW have it, and none of them have revoked the option.”

Because the SA has not yet passed the resolution, it is too early to speculate on whether or not GW Housing Programs would be in support of the act, said University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard.

“It is not under consideration for fall 2010 because housing plans for fall are already underway,” Sherrard said in an e-mail.

Even if the SA’s resolution passes, the idea must then pass through various levels of administrative offices and University officials – including the Board of Trustees – before the change is implemented – a process which could take months.

The idea of gender-neutral housing – which would allow students to live with the gender they feel more comfortable with – has caused a stir among members of the GW community this year.

GW’s Young America’s Foundation has been vocal in its disapproval of gender-neutral housing, which the group said will cause “obvious practical and moral concerns.”

“This program is likely to be abused, regardless of the sexual preference of its participants,” said Joe Naron, a spokesperson for YAF, in a press release. “The inevitable need for housing assignment changes as a result of this program will create an administrative nightmare for the University and a distraction for students.”

Komo said he disagrees with YAF’s beliefs, pointing to the “Escaping Gender” Living and Learning Cohort, which was started in 2008. The LLC allowed a small number of transgender students to live in a Scholars’ Village townhouse.

“That was kind of our test run at GW to see if that was successful, and we’ve been absolutely delighted ever since.” Komo said of the LLC. “So we believe now is the time to take it and implement it across the University.”

Rather than constructing new residence halls to facilitate this initiative, Komo suggested to his committee that specific floors or areas of already-existing residence halls could be designated as gender-neutral.

“We want at least one residence hall per class that would at least offer gender-neutral housing,” Komo said.

Komo said that, after speaking with officials from housing, a major concern is assuring there is support for the housing initiative across the student body, not just within the smaller transgender community.

In response, Komo created the Facebook group Colonials for Gender-Neutral Housing, which currently has over 300 members.

Sophomore Giovanni Tomasi, the only member of the Student Life Committee who voted against the gender-neutral housing proposal, expressed similar concerns, questioning the validity and depth of student support and need.

“This sounds like a problem that could be solved with just more LLCs,” Tomasi said.

With iHousing, the University’s housing application program, starting next month, Komo suggested a more realistic timeline for the approval of gender-neutral housing.

“I think it will be approved within the 2010 calendar year, but I don’t think we’ll see it begin until fall 2011 if it is successful,” he said.

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