Gender Inclusive Housing at Northwestern University sign now

Background

As of July 3, 2008, fifty-six college campuses offered gender-inclusive housing options1. These are defined to be programs where men and women can live together in the same dorm room.

Mandatory same-sex housing can inhibit personal and academic growth, and housing policy and practice should empower students to choose safe and supportive living spaces.

Gender-variant students often feel misplaced in their dorms. The students living with or around gender-variant students, even when they respect the gender-variant students, often also feel uncomfortable. This discomfort can be highly disruptive to both the personal and academic growth of all students, gender-variant or not.

Under the current system, people who want to live in single-gender housing may be assigned to live with a transgender person. Having gender-inclusive housing would actually help keep single-gender housing single-gender.

Additionally, gender-inclusive housing would benefit more students than just gender-variant students and their hallmates. Gay students, for example, frequently face discrimination from or feel uncomfortable around same-sex roommates. Occasionally, roommates of gay students, even those who are generally accepting of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, feel awkward having been placed without their consent in living situations with roommates who could possibly be attracted to them.

Students who want to live with opposite-gender best friends would also benefit from having the option to room together. As adults, students should have the option to choose living situations for them, whatever the reasons.

We define gender-inclusive housing as housing available to people of all genders. Multiple-occupant rooms are not necessarily single-gender; roommates are otherwise assigned based on standard procedure.

Proposal

We request that one wing, floor, or suite of an on-campus dormitory be gender-inclusive. No student would live in this space without giving consent. A prospective resident would apply by checking a box on the housing form and writing a brief statement of interest, similar to those required for Residential Colleges. The bathroom(s) in that wing, floor, or suite would be open to people of all genders. Trash cans would be available in all stalls. Urinals would not be required, but preexisting ones need not be removed. Students of all years would be welcome.

Benefits of Gender-Inclusive Housing

* Gender-variant residents would have a safe haven in which gender would not be a source of contention, and they would therefore be able to focus more fully on other aspects of their lives.
* All residents would develop deeper understanding of all genders.
* Gender-variant sophomores, juniors, and seniors would be more likely to live on campus, and as a result they would have greater opportunity to participate in campus activities.
* The existence of gender-inclusive housing options would demonstrate Northwestern University's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
* Highly qualified gender-variant prospective students would be more likely to choose Northwestern University.

References

1. http://www.gpac.org/genius

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