University to offer gender-neutral housing

The University will offer gender-neutral housing options in almost every residence hall next fall, ending a year-long push by students for the living option.

The new housing choice, which is open to all students, will allow male and female students to share either the same room or an adjacent room within a suite. Students can live in any residence hall except Strong Hall, Merriweather Hall and 2109 F Street, which are designated as female-only living options.

“I credit our students with identifying the need and urging our administration to take an in-depth look at these issues,” Peter Konwerski, the senior associate vice president and dean of students, said in a news release.

Students will have to request gender-neutral housing by selecting specific roommates, and no one will be placed in a mixed-sex room with out consenting, Univeristy spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

Michael Komo, a former Student Association senator and president of Allied in Pride, led a highly publicized effort last year, urging the University to implement gender-neutral housing.

“To see my hard work and the hard work of all the students involved with this process come to fruition is very meaningful,” Komo said. “GNH is extremely important to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, many of whom feel more comfortable living with someone of a different gender. However, this decision is a monumental victory for everyone – LGBT students and their straight counterparts.”

The Student Association also pushed for the housing choice last year, passing a non-biding resolution asking the University to support mixed-sex housing.  Since then, the University commissioned a committee to conduct an “extensive analysis of national best practices and solicited student, alumni and parent input on the issue,” according to a news release.

More than 50 colleges nationwide allow students to live in gender-neutral rooms. The LA Times reported that the program is gaining acceptance but participation is still low at many schools.

“While we will continue to monitor this pilot program over the next few years, I think all of our administration was pleased with the thoughtful, inclusive manner in which these discussions were conducted,” Konwerski said . “The results are hard to dispute based on what we heard from our students.”

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